The 'Shroom:Issue LVI/A History of Video Games

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A History of Video Games

by Toad85 (talk)

Hello there, 'Shroomies. As an avid retro gamer, I feel obliged to recreate this article. In this section, I will discuss events in the past that made the video gaming world what it is today. As this is the first issue, I feel that I should discuss the event that created the video game industry as we know it: the founding of Atari and the release of Pong.

Pong, to set the records straight, was NOT the first video game. That honour goes to Tennis For Two, developed and published by William Higinbotham to cure boredom at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Pong was not even the first video game released to a wide audience, that will be told of later in the article. It did, however, was the first game to mesmerise the public, and create a niche for gaming in the popular eye. Without Pong, there would be no video game industry, or not much of one.

Pong was the brainchild of Nolan Bushnell. After viewing Spacewar!, an early experiment in gaming, at the University of Utah in 1966, he had a vision. He figured that if he could produce a commercial version of Spacewar!, he could make a killing. With this in mind, he and Ted Dabney concocted a hand-wired computer able to play a game similar to Spacewar! on a black-and-white television. The game, now dubbed Computer Space, was released in 1971 by publisher Nutting Associates.

Unfortunately, Computer Space was an utter failure. Bushnell figured that the game was just far too complex for its target audience: bar patrons. Coupled with the customers' unfamiliarity with the new technology, the learning curve took a huge bite out of Computer Space. Bushnell forsook Computer Space, co-created a new engineering company, Syzygy Engineering, and started looking for new ideas.

At Syzygy, Bushnell and Ted Dabney (remember him?) hired Al Alcorn as their first design game. Bushnell wanted to start off Syzygy with a driving game, but axed the idea, fearing it would be too hard for the young Alcorn to produce.

At last, in May 1972, Bushnell attended a demonstration of the Magnavox Oddysey, the first home console. One of the games demonstrated was a simple tennis game, in which two players would hit a ball back and forth, and try to not let it fall on your side of the screen. Bushnell thought that a game like this would be perfect for Alcorn's skills. This game would go on to be called Pong. Unfortunately, Syzygy was caught in a copyright issue with a company in California. Bushnell renamed the company "atari", after a condition in the chinese board game "Go".

By the November of that year, the first Pong cabinet was completed, and was shipped to a Sunnyvale, CA tavern by the name of Andy Capp's to test. It took only one day to realize how much of a success Atari had become.

The video game cabinet would be played countless times by the patrons of the tavern, until the machine mysteriously broke. When the repair crew arrived next morning, there was literally a line of people around the block waiting to play the new game. The cause of the cabinet's breakdown was simple: it had simply run out of room for quarters. When it was realized that Pong would be a hit, Bushnell and Dabney decided to release Pong to the world, and Atari, Inc. was established as the world's top video game producer. The rest, as they say, is history.