ICHEG’s website now features a new timeline charting the development of video games from the experiments of a few early computer pioneers to the products of a multibillion dollar industry. Some years on the timeline present an important or groundbreaking game or system; other entries symbolize a trend, such as the development of social and mobile gaming.
Some years presented easy and obvious selections. The home version of Pong, for example, stood out in 1975. Nintendo’s Game Boy was a sure selection for 1989. The Xbox seemed logical for 2001. But for other years, picking one entry proved more difficult, for example, finding key developments in the early years of computer gaming. The tremendously important years of mainframe gaming up through the 1970s have been too little studied. I enjoyed uncovering information about innovations like the Nim game that Edward Condon developed for the World’s Fair in 1940 and the demonstration of a computer checkers program on television in 1956.
Other times, an abundance of possibilities made the choice difficult. Is Tron the right selection for 1982? After all, other great arcade games hit the market that year like Joust, Q-bert, Robotron 2084, and Ms. Pac-Man. And in terms of video game adaptations of movies, Wargames, which came out the following year, was perhaps just as important as Tron in capturing the excitement and fears about the impact of the computer on our lives. And who can forget E.T., the 1982 game for the Atari VCS that some blamed as the cause of a video game crash?
So take a look at the list. What entries do you disagree with? What would you add or subtract? And nominate an entry for 2012!
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits