Video games have become a dominant force in the global industry, with a market worth $100 billion. Almost two-thirds of American households have regular video game players. This popularity is no surprise considering the long-standing presence of video games across various platforms, including arcade and home consoles, handheld devices, and mobiles. Furthermore, video games frequently lead to advancements in computer technology. When talking about game development, few people understand how it all began. Are you wondering what innovations were in the 1980s?
How did video game development begin?
Video games have become a global phenomenon, but they had humble beginnings in the research labs of scientists. One noteworthy example is the creation of OXO, or noughts and crosses, by British professor A.S. Douglas in 1952. This game, which later became known as tic-tac-toe, was part of Douglas’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. Another pioneering game was Tennis for Two developed by William Higinbotham in 1958. Higinbotham connected a large analog computer to an oscilloscope screen for the annual visitor’s day at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.
In 1962, Steve Russell took game development to new heights by inventing Spacewar! at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This computer-based space combat game was designed for the cutting-edge PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1), a computer commonly found in universities. Notably, Spacewar! was the first video game that allowed multiplayer gameplay across multiple computer installations.
Progress in the early ’80s
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the video game industry achieved significant milestones that are worth mentioning:
In 1978, the Space Invaders arcade game shook the gaming world with its release.
Activision, the pioneer third-party game developer, emerged in 1979, introducing a new approach to game development by focusing on software rather than consoles or arcade cabinets.
The immensely popular Pac-Man from Japan made a grand entrance into the United States, captivating gamers everywhere.
Nintendo’s creation of Donkey Kong introduced the iconic character Mario to the world.
Microsoft unveiled its first Flight Simulator game, marking a significant step forward in realistic gaming experiences.
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Period of stagnation and collapse
The North American video game industry faced a significant “crash” in 1983 due to various factors. These included an oversaturated market for game consoles, competition from computer gaming, and the abundance of overhyped, low-quality games like the infamous E.T. from Atari, which is often regarded as the worst game ever made. This crash resulted in the bankruptcy of several home computer and video game console companies.
The industry began to recover in 1985 with the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the United States. The NES offered improved graphics, colors, sound, and gameplay compared to previous consoles. Nintendo, a Japanese company that originated as a playing card manufacturer in 1889, released several iconic video game franchises that continue to thrive today, such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid.
Furthermore, Nintendo implemented various regulations for third-party games developed for its system to combat rushed and low-quality software. This led to the creation of long-lasting franchises by third-party developers, including Capcom’s Mega Man, Konami’s Castlevania, Square’s Final Fantasy, and Enix’s Dragon Quest (which later merged with Square to form Square Enix in 2003).
In 1989, Nintendo once again made a significant impact by popularizing handheld gaming with the release of the 8-bit Game Boy and the bundled game Tetris. Over the next 25 years, Nintendo continued to release successful successors to the Game Boy, including the Game Boy Color in 1998, Nintendo DS in 2004, and Nintendo 3DS in 2011.
It is useful to look into the past and see the current progress in a different way. Yes, we have come very far in the last few decades. But there is a feeling that the games of those distant years have remained with us forever. Those unrealistic complexities and unique plots can only be appreciated by people like us, the children of the 80s.
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