How did we end up here? : The History of Video Games

At Totem Learning Ltd, we are passionate about all things ‘gaming’ and since it was National Video Games Day just yesterday, why not look back at where it all began and how we have managed to progress so rapidly in the space of just under 80 years? Technological developments, computer programming advancements and pop culture movements have all contributed to the popularity of video games, making the industry worth more than the film industry! Video games have been the subject of controversy since mental health and video game violence has become more of an issue in recent years, there are also many benefits of introducing kids to gaming at a young age (read more).

The 40’s: The First Stages of Computer Programming and Basic Games.

1940 - Edward U. Condon designs ‘Nim’ that is a computer that people play against when trying to avoid picking up a matchstick.

1947 - “Cathode ray tube amusement device” invented whereby a player tries to fire gun at a target.

The 50’s: Getting A Little More Sophisticated In Design…

1950 - Computer programmed to play chess with the help of Alan Turing.

1959 - students at MIT create ‘Mouse in the Maze’ on TX-0 computer which was a mouse in a labyrinth searching for cheese.

The 60’s: I Think The Space Race May Have Had Something To Do With It

1962 - Steve Russell invents ‘Spacewar!’ the first computer-based video game, it spreads across the country.

1964 - John Kemeny creates computer time-share system and now it’s easy for students to write games and soon everyone is doing it.

1967 - Ralph Baer develops his “brown box”, a prototype that lets you play video games.

The 70’s: Time to Play A Role

1972 - Magnavox releases ‘Odyssey’ the first home video game and ‘Pong’, the arcade legendary game is created.

1974 - Maze Wars introduces first person shooter game.

1976 - ‘Adventure’, inspired by Dungeons and Dragons is first role-player game.  

1977- Atari releases video game console, Atari 2600 featuring a joystick.

1978 - ‘Space Invaders’ is introduced in Japanese and USA arcades.

The 80’s: Aracade-mania

1980 - ‘Pacman’ introduced in arcades and becomes fastest-selling game.

1981 - Nintendo release ‘Donkey Kong’ which features Jumperman, later to be known as Mario.

1984 - Russian mathematician, Alexey Pajitnov creates ‘Tetris’ which leaks through to Nintendo game developers.  

1986 - ‘Reader Rabbit’ introduced to help people with reading skills.

1987 - ‘Legend of Zelda’ created, it’s a good year for RPG.

1988 - ‘John Madden Football’ is released and it’s a hit as it introduced gridiron realism to computer games.

1989 - Gameboy console is released.

The 90’s: All About The Console

1990 - Microsoft puts ‘solitaire’ game into computer system Windows 3.0.

1991 - Sega find success in ‘Sonic’ game in Japan and USA.

1993 - Due to bloody games such as ‘Mortal Kombat’, USA senate holds hearing on video game violence. Rating system is created as a result.

1994 - Blizzard releases ‘Warcraft’, a time strategy game that introduces players to the world of Azeroth.

1995 - Sony releases the PlayStation.  

The 00’s: Are We All Just Simulations?

2000 - ‘The Sims’ game is the first simulation game that models real life. Instant success and it becomes the best-selling video game ever and popular amongst female audience.

2001 - Microsoft introduces Xbox.

2004 - Nintendo DS is released and ‘Super Mario Kart’ is very popular on it.

2005 - Xbox 360 is released which brings HD realism to the market.

2006 - Nintendo Wii is competition as it gets people interacting in an active way using the remotes and sensors.

2008 - ‘World of Warcraft’ becomes most popular Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game ever which redefines how we learn and relate to one another.

2009 - Mobile games and apps become popular such as ‘Angry Birds’.

Recent times: Gaming Has Taken Over The World!

2010- Swedish developer, Markus Persson, comes up with addictive game ‘Minecraft’.

2014 - Free to Play games become a the new business model and prove to generate profit through in-game products and ads.

2015 - massive growth of eSports and online gaming championships.

2016 - games like ‘Pokemon Go’ mix augmented reality with apps and gaming. It becomes a viral trend.

2017 - Nintendo Switch means players can have a hybrid mobile and home console they can take anywhere they go.

2018 - it’ll be interesting to see where we go in the future… with the increasing popularity of VR/AR/MR and XR, the market is ever expanding. ‘Serious Games’ like those developed by Totem Learning are just an example of how gaming is taking steps to be accessible and useful in all industries.

The future of gaming is very interesting and new things are being created as we speak. It is an exciting time for gamers and game developers alike as the industry is being taken far more seriously now. Almost any idea you think of an be made into a game (find out how)!

Source of timeline information: