The History of Video Games

By: EsportsOnly.Com
Mar 14, 2018

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The history of video games has come a long way to what it has become today. It is considered a leisure activity like that is actually a way of spending free time just to have fun. “Games make us happy because they are hard work that we choose for ourselves and it turns out that almost nothing makes us happier than good, hard work,” written by Games Researcher, Jane McGinigal in her book, Reality is Broken. A look through the Esports History timeline will give you an idea how video games has evolved over 60 years.

What was once a hobby, is now an opportunity for those who dream to be professional players. As video games have become a popular trend, competition has increased. In fact, esports event planners like ESL, DreamHack, and PGL have organized tournaments where top teams participate to compete for huge cash prizes that reach in the thousands and even millions.

Computer Games began in the 1950s

Traces of competitive gaming goes all the way back in time to the 50s, where coin-operated games like pinball, slot machines, and arcade games were the norm in those days. Chess was also a big part of the gaming change, becoming the first interactive game to be programmed into a computer. IT scientists, Alan Turing and Claude Shannon thought that a computer beating a human at a chess game would be a big breakthrough which has led to the development of Artificial Intelligence.

The gaming equipment used was a machine called Nim or Nimrod which was also called ‘the electric brain”, made by Ferranti in 1951. These games were programmed to be played between player vs the computer, however, they were not so popular for they were only found at Universities and laboratories. One of the games highlighted was OXO or otherwise known as tic-tac-toe which was created by Alexandre S. Douglas in 1952.

2OXO first video game

William Higinbotham, an American Physicist developed a two-player game, Tennis for Two in 1958. This game was run only twice to entertain visitors who would visit Brookhaven National Laboratory. On the two consecutive days, hundreds lined up for a chance to see the digital tennis ball hit back and forth.

The Swinging 60s

The PDP-1 computers in the 1960s became smaller in size, more efficient and powerful with the ability to store more data, on top of this the picture was displayed much clearer.   

3Space War video game

The first shooter game, Space War was created by a team led by Steve Russell from Tech Model Railroad Club. It was the first shooter game that was created with a theme about space, where two spaceships are at war, fighting each other. The game was first seen in a College coffee shop, a coin-operated video game that cost 25cents for every time you played. 

That 70s Gaming Show

Ralph Baer also was known as “the Father of Video Games” designed a console from an idea he had back in 1951 while working with televisions. In May 1972, the first video game console was The Magnavox Odyssey, released with user interactivity.

4aPong coin operated video game

Based on Ping Pong was the release of Pong that same year. making quite a success. After a week, the first machine was installed, it malfunctioned because of an overflow of coins. Pong was the game that introduced America to the world of video games, spreading all over the country as a coin-operated machine. 

4Odyssey video game

Home Pong was the console version manufactured and distributed in 1975, that sold 150K units in one season than the Magnavox Odyssey which took years to sell 100K units.

On 19th October 1972 marked the first video game event of Space War at Stanford University. The competitions were also known as Spacewar Olympics offering a grand prize of a year’s subscription for Rolling Stone.    

1978 marked the era of a rise in arcade games such as Space Invaders which began in Japan. In 1979 Asteroids and Galaxian while in 1980 saw Pac-Man, Defender and Rally X turn into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The Golden Era of Arcade Games in the 1980s

Arcade games like ‘Pac-Man Fever’ became even more popular, as the competitors liked the atmosphere of playing in front of a cheering crowd. Competition has always existed, with players trying to beat each other for higher scores, and due to this more gaming events were organized. 

Game creation had increased as soon as personal computers were available to have at home. At the time, many young people would play in the comfort of their living room or the basement. Internet was already being developed paving the way to a modern-day use.

Walter Day had set up a Twin Galaxies, which was a Hall of Fame database in 1981. The race to be on top of the high scores of different games, captured the attention of the game developers. With this in mind, Walter Day led the US National gaming team, where they toured all over the country to challenge others in arcade games. This tour was the inspiration for the Video Game Masters Tournament that was held in 1983 which also held records in the Guinness Book of Records in 1984. 

5PC is the Machine of the year

To commemorate the growth of personal computers, Time Magazine named the PC the ‘Machine of the Year’ in 1984. The 1980s also marks the first appearance of Nintendo games that featured Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Duck Hunt and Punch-Out was launched in America, dominating the world of video games.

6Donkey Kong video game

In 1988, an internet game called Netrek involved the participation of up to 16 players. By this time, it was the third video game using the online network, using meta servers to locate open game servers.

Back to the Past 90s

The 1990s, due to the increasing use of Internet connections, PC games have improved. The most popular included Doom, Quake and Neverwinter Nights.

7Nintendo World Championships event

Through the 90s, there were huge esports tournaments, one of which was the Nintendo World Championships and the Nintendo Powerfest ‘94. The featured video games at the gaming events were Super Mario Brothers, Red Racer, and Tetris. The rewards offered ranged from $250 to a top prize of $10K or either a savings bond, a convertible car and a 40-inch TV.  

The first official esports tournament was Red Annihilation that featured Quake, a first-person shooter game. There were over 2,000 gamers who battled their way to the top winning the grand prize, a Ferrari that was owned by Quake developer, John Carmack.

A few weeks after the Red Annihilation, the gaming tournament, Cyberathlete Professional League or CPL, featured the esports game, Counter-Strike that offered a prize of $15K.

Another great game that came out was Starcraft: Brood War in 1998, which was a real-time strategy game. It offers endless tactical thinking while playing which has led to further development for the future game Starcraft II.

The Millennium Gaming Bug of the 2000s

The history of video games has shown the potential of virtual gaming going in the future. The 2000s saw prestigious matches held such as World Cyber Games (WCG) and Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) attracting spectators from all over the world. Some of these events featured esports games like Dota 2, Call of Duty and Halo, where the prize pools offered reached $170K and have risen higher over the years.

FIFA multiplayer gaming

The promotion of esports through Internet has reached an all-time new height, streaming on Twitch, social media and on several esports betting platforms, one of which is The evolution of video games and the turn into esports has definitely seen the growth and potential it had, has and will have in the future.