Gaming has seen a dramatic evolution since its conception.
In 1958, the first video game was created.
Tennis for Two, developed by American physicist William Higinbotham, designed the tennis simulation after learning that the Donner Model 30 analog computer could simulate trajectories with wind resistance.
“Players could turn a knob to adjust the angle of the ball, and push a button to hit the ball towards the other player. As long as they pressed the button when the ball was in their court, players couldn’t actually miss the ball, but if they hit it at the wrong time or hit it at the wrong angle, the ball wouldn’t make it over the net,” described APS Physics. “Balls that hit the ground would bounce like a real tennis ball. When the ball went off the court or into the net, players hit a reset button to start the next round.”
Whether for research or recreation, video games created a new challenge. When gaming began reaching mainstream popularity in the 70’s and 80’s, competitors of all kinds emerged. The first recorded video game competition occurred at Stanford University in 1972 for a game called Spacewar. The evolution of gaming and esports have created an experience that has become more than an after-school hobby. It’s a lifestyle, and our culture has started to reflect that.
In the beginning, video games offered a new type of entertaining challenge, somewhat like a board game, but ultimately your biggest enemy was yourself. A new form of choice and consequence, video games offered players the ability to put their own skills and reflexes to the test. It also offered a direct dose of instant gratification.
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“The interesting thing about interactive media is that it allows the players to engage with a problem, conjure a solution, try out that solution, and then experience the results,” said legendary Japanese video game designer, producer and game director at Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto. “Then they can go back to the thinking stage and start to plan out their next move. This process of trial and error builds the interactive world in their minds. This is the true canvas on which we design—not the screen. That’s something I always keep in mind when designing games.”
This express delivery of gratification is something that creates that feeling of satisfaction in games: getting a headshot in Call of Duty, drifting perfectly around a tight corner in Forza, for example. However, games have also created the ability to warp into new worlds and roles, and tell stories that have rivaled, or in The Witcher’s case, accompanied books.
Fitting into a role and shaping your own destiny has been the highlight of RPGs since they were produced. The earliest RPG on a console was Dragonstomper on the Atari 2600 in 1982, and since then, modern games like Dragon Age and Skyrim have opened portals into worlds of magic, adventure, and romance. Combine these experiences with a heavy consequence-based system, and you suddenly have a formula of escapism like no other.
We’ve fallen in love with worlds offered by games like Legend of Zelda, with characters from titles like Mass Effect (I love you, Liara), and we’ve become the heroes and the shapers of many storylines. So much so that our experiences have become the shapers of our own personal lives.
While games have begun to fully absorb our attention, our culture has absorbed their influence. Our interests, our talents, our careers, our health, our clothing, and even the way we build and interact with our technology have all been shifted and encouraged by the evolution of gaming.
What games have significantly changed your life?