Games History

A Video Game

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The word video in video game traditionally referred to a raster display device. However, with the popular use of the term “video game,” it now implies any type of display device. The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms; examples of these are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms range from large mainframe computers to small handheld devices. Specialized video games such as arcade games, while previously common, have gradually declined in use.

The input device used to manipulate video games is called a game controller, and varies across platforms. For example, a dedicated console controller might consist of only a button and a joystick. Another may feature a dozen buttons and one or more joysticks. Early personal computer games often needed a keyboard for gameplay, or more commonly, required the user to buy a separate joystick with at least one button. Many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously.

Video games typically also use other ways of providing interaction and information to the player. Audio is almost universal, using sound reproduction devices, such as speakers and headphones. Other feedback may come via haptic peripherals, such as vibration or force feedback, with vibration sometimes used to simulate force feedback


Early games used interactive electronic devices with various display formats. The earliest example is from 1947—a “Cathode ray tube Amusement Device” was filed for a patent on January 25, 1947 by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann, and issued on December 14, 1948 as U.S. Patent 2455992.

Inspired by radar display tech, it consisted of an analog device that allowed a user to control a vector-drawn dot on the screen to simulate a missile being fired at targets, which were drawings fixed to the screen.

Other early examples include:

  • The NIMROD computer at the 1951 Festival of Britain
  • OXO a tic-tac-toe Computer game by Alexander S. Douglas for the EDSAC in 1952
  • Tennis for Two, an interactive game engineered by William Higinbotham in 1958
  • Spacewar!, written by MIT students Martin Graetz, Steve Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen’s on a DEC PDP-1 computer in 1961.

Each game used different means of display: NIMROD used a panel of lights to play the game of Nim, OXO used a graphical display to play tic-tac-toe Tennis for Two used an oscilloscope to display a side view of a tennis court, and Spacewar! used the DEC PDP-1′s vector display to have two spaceships battle each other.

In 1971, Computer Space, created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was the first commercially sold, coin-operated video game. It used a black-and-white television for its display, and the computer system was made of 74 series TTL chips. The game was featured in the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green. Computer Space was followed in 1972 by the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home console. Modeled after a late 1960s prototype console developed by Ralph H. Baer called the “Brown Box”, it also used a standard television. These were followed by two versions of Atari’s Pong; an arcade version in 1972 and a home version in 1975. The commercial success of Pong led numerous other companies to develop Pong clones and their own systems, spawning the video game industry.


The term “platform” refers to the specific combination of electronic or computer hardware which, in conjunction with low-level software, allows a video game to operate. The term “system” is also commonly used.

In common use a “PC game” refers to a form of media that involves a player interacting with a personal computer connected to a high-resolution video monitor. A “console game” is played on a specialized electronic device that connects to a common television set or composite video monitor. A “handheld” gaming device is a self contained electronic device that is portable and can be held in a user’s hands. “Arcade game” generally refers to a game played on an even more specialized type of electronic device that is typically designed to play only one game and is encased in a special cabinet. These distinctions are not always clear and there may be games that bridge one or more platforms. Beyond this there are platforms that have non-video game variations such as in the case of electro-mechanically based arcade machines. There are also devices with screens which have the ability to play games but are not dedicated video game machines (examples are mobile phones, PDAs and graphing calculators).


A video game, like most other forms of media, may be categorized into genres based on many factors such as method of game play, types of goals, art style and more. Because genres are dependent on content for definition, genres have changed and evolved as newer styles of video games have come into existence. Ever advancing technology and production values related to video game development have fostered more life-like and complex games which have in turn introduced or enhanced genre possibilities (e.g., virtual pets), pushed the boundaries of existing video gaming or in some cases add new possibilities in play (such as that seen with titles specifically designed for devices like Sony’s EyeToy). Some genres represent combinations of others, such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or, more commonly, MMORPGs. It is also common to see higher level genre terms that are collective in nature across all other genres such as with action, music/rhythm or horror-themed video games.


Core games

In general, discussion about video gaming in both the press and politics revolves around titles found in the core games classification; historically, consisting of video games developed for play on personal computers, dedicated video game consoles or handheld game consoles.

Core games are generally defined by their intensity, depth of play or scale of production involved in their creation and can include games across a wide spectrum of genres. For example the Bit.Trip series for WiiWare, the Fallout series for PC and console or LittleBigPlanet for the PS3, all fall within the core games classification. Core games are sometimes considered demanding in their gameplay and typically do not appeal to the casual gamer, but this is more a guideline than a rule.


Casual games


Casual games derive their name from their ease of accessibility, simple to understand gameplay and quick to grasp rule sets. Additionally, casual games frequently support the ability to jump in and out of play on demand. Casual games as a format existed long before the term was coined and include video games such as Solitaire or Minesweeper which can commonly be found pre-installed with many versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Examples of genres within this category are hidden object, match three, time management, tetris or many of the tower defense style games. Casual games are generally sold through online retailers such as PopCap, Zylom and GameHouse or provided for free play through web portals such as Newgrounds or AddictingGames.

While casual games are most commonly played on personal computers, cellphones or PDAs, they can also be found on many of the on-line console system download services (e.g., Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, or WiiWare).

 Serious games

Serious games are games that are designed primarily to convey information or a learning experience of some sort to the player. Some serious games may even fail to qualify as a video game in the traditional sense of the term. Also, educational software does not typically fall under this category (e.g., touch typing tutors, language learning, etc…) and the primary distinction would appear to be based on the title’s primary goal as well as target age demographics. As with the other categories, this description is more of a guideline than a rule.

Serious games are games generally made for reasons beyond simple entertainment and as with the core and casual games may include works from any given genre, although some such as exergames, educational games, or propaganda games (e.g. militainment) may have a higher representation in this group due to their subject matter. These games are typically designed to be played by professionals as part of a specific job or for skill set improvement. They can also be created to convey social-political awareness on a specific subject.

One of the longest running serious games franchises would be Microsoft Flight Simulator first published in 1982 under that name. The United States military uses virtual reality based simulations for training exercises, as do a growing number of first responder roles (e.g., police, fire fighter, EMT). One example of a non-game environment utilized as a platform for serious game development would be the virtual world of Second Life, which is currently used by several United States governmental departments (e.g., NOAA, NASA, JPL), Universities (e.g., Ohio University, MIT) for educational and remote learning programs and businesses (e.g., IBM, Cisco Systems) for meetings and training.

TAKE ACTION games is a game studio collective that was co-founded by Susana Ruiz and has made very successful and powerful serious games. Some of these games include Darfur is Dying, Finding Zoe, and In The Balance. All of these games bring awareness to important issues and events in an intelligent and well thought out manner. Educational games

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