Maybe right now they are hooked on Fortnite or Among Us . Others maybe do Fifa tournaments with friends. Others may remember as children the novelty of the Super Nintendo or going to the ” maquinitas ” on the corner. Or are we wrong?
Video games are part of our daily life, at least those born from the seventies to date, and many times we do not think about all their evolution, from those ultra-pixelated screens of decades ago to the enormous graphics and narratives of current titles.
But then we ask ourselves, what was the first video game in history? The question is not as simple as it seems, since there is no consensus between technology historians and gamers. The first question would have to be: how do we define video game?
From gears to computers
From the automatons of the early 20th century (so revered by subcultures for streampunk) we find examples of machines dedicated to gaming. An example is El Ajedrecista built in 1912 by Leonardo Torres Quevedo . Also experiments with sets of cathode ray tubes in the forties. However, we have to wait for the development of electronics and computers to start talking about a video game itself.
According to the RAE, a video game is an “electronic device that allows, through appropriate controls, to simulate games on the screens of a television, a computer or other electronic device.” Another less traditional definition could be an “electronic game that is displayed on a screen.”
The Viu blog, from the International University of Valencia mentions that the use of the screen is a key aspect, since currently all video games make use of it, but more than half a century ago, the development of computers was not so advanced how to include them.
Great computers, great games
What is certain is that the fifties are the years in which the first games were developed through computers. Any of them could dispute the throne of the “first video game in history”, although not all agree.
In 1951 the Nimrod computer, designed by the Ferranti company, was introduced with a version for playing the mathematical game “Nim” in which two players take turns removing objects from different piles. The game used buttons and lights. Although there was no screen, the visual element was there.
Only a year later the first game with a graphic screen would appear. OXO is a game developed by Alexander Douglas to play tic tac toe (also known as ‘gato’ and ‘tatetí’ in different parts of Latin America). The machine used a rotating telephone dial for game control, and it took up the whole room!
Finally, in 1958, William Higinbotham of the US Department of Energy created Tennis for Two , a video game very similar to Atari’s famous “Pong”, using an analog computer and an oscilloscope vector graphics system. So it had a screen, interaction, and it was lively.
The great era of video games
These pioneers belonged to the scientific or military world and were just the first technical approaches to this field. We would have to wait until the seventies for video games to reach the home. In 1972 both the first console, Odyssey, and the first coin-operated game, Computer Space, appeared. The era of video games had begun.
The eighties and nineties brought enormous development to the video game industry, with brands like Nintendo and Sega , which with their characters Mario and Sonic are now part of the popular culture of millions of people throughout the world.
Video games are always in constant evolution: we currently have video games in the palm of our hands on mobile, and also great titles for consoles that provide us with complex narrative experiences and technical challenges. Not to mention the explosion of Twitch and the streaming of video games over the internet. And if we now know a little about his first examples, we can only ask ourselves: what will his next transformation be?