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The origin of video games lies in early cathode ray tube (CRT) based missile defense systems in the late 1940s. These programs were later adapted into other simple games during the 1950s. By the late 1950s and through the 1960s, more computer games were developed (mostly on mainframe computers), gradually increasing in sophistication and complexity.[n 1] In the 1960s, electro-mechanical games emerged in arcades that looked and played like video games.

In 1971, the video game industry was founded. It was followed by the video game crash of 1977, after which the golden age of arcade video games began in 1978. After the Video Game Crash of 1983, the video game industry was revived with the third generation of video game hardware in the mid-1980s. The 1980s and 1990s are regarded as the golden age of video games.

Video games diverged into different platforms: arcade, mainframe, console, personal computer, and handhelds.[1]

Prior to video game industry (pre-1971)[]

Prior to producing video games, Japanese companies like SEGA, Taito, Namco and Nintendo were producers of electro-mechanical arcade games. Soon after the video game industry began in the early 1970s, many of these companies turned their attention to producing arcade video games. Japan eventually became a major exporter of video games during the golden age of arcade video games, an era that began with the release of Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 and ended around the mid-1980s.[2][3][4]

In 1966, SEGA introduced an early electro-mechanical arcade game called Periscope.[5] It was an early submarine simulator and light gun shooter,[6] which used lights and plastic waves to simulate sinking ships from a submarine.[7] It became a worldwide success in Japan, Europe, and North America,[8] where it was the first arcade game to cost a quarter per play,[5] which would remain the standard price for arcade games for many years to come.[8]

In 1967, Taito released an early electro-mechanical arcade game, Crown Soccer Special, a two-player sports game that simulated association football, using various electronic components, including electronic versions of pinball flippers.[9]

In 1969, SEGA produced gun games which resemble first-person shooter video games, but were, in fact, electro-mechanical games that used rear-image projection in a manner similar to a zoetrope to produce moving animations on a screen.[10] The first of these was the light gun game Duck Hunt,[11][12] which featured animated moving targets on a screen, printed out the player's score on a ticket, and had sound effects that were volume controllable.[11] SEGA also released an early electro-mechanical arcade racing game Grand Prix, which had a first-person view, electronic sound, a dashboard with a racing wheel and accelerator,[13] and a forward-scrolling road projected on a screen.[14] SEGA's Missile was an electro-mechanical shooter and vehicle combat simulation that featured electronic sound and a moving film strip to represent the targets on a projector screen. It was also the earliest known arcade game to feature a joystick with a fire button, which was used as part of an early dual-control scheme, where two directional buttons are used to move the player's tank and a two-way joystick is used to shoot and steer the missile into oncoming planes displayed on the screen; when a plane is hit, an explosion is animated on screen along with an explosion sound.[15]

In 1970, SEGA released Jet Rocket, an electro-mechanical combat flight simulator featuring cockpit controls that could move the player's aircraft around a landscape displayed on a screen and shoot missiles onto targets that explode when hit.[16] The same year, SEGA's electro-mechanical Missile game was released in North America as S.A.M.I. by Midway.[15][17]

Early video game industry (1971–1976)[]

Main article: 1970s in video gaming

The first commercially viable video game was Computer Space in 1971, which laid the foundation for a new entertainment industry in the late 1970s within the United States, Japan, and Europe.

In 1971, Nintendo entered the video game industry, working with Magnavox on developing the Shooting Gallery light gun accessory for the Odyssey game console.[18]

Japan's involvement in video games dates back to as early as 1971. According to video game historian Martin Picard, "in 1971, Nintendo had – even before the marketing of the first home console in the United States – an alliance with the American pioneer Magnavox to develop and produce optoelectronic guns for the Odyssey (released in 1972), since it was similar to what Nintendo was able to offer in the Japanese toy market in the 1970s." The first Japanese arcade video games were released in 1973, Pong clones produced by Taito and SEGA, soon followed by original titles, such as Speed Race (1974) and Gun Fight (1975) from Taito's Tomohiro Nishikado; these games were localized by Midway for the North American market. Japan's first home video game console was Epoch's TV Tennis Electrotennis, a wireless home console version of Pong released in September 1975, several months before Atari's own Home Pong. It was followed by the first successful Japanese console, Nintendo's Color TV Game, in 1977. Japan's first personal computers for gaming soon appeared, the Sord M200 in 1977 and Sharp MZ-80K in 1978. Eventually, the 1978 arcade release of Space Invaders would mark the first major mainstream breakthrough for video games, both in Japan and North America.[19]

The first handheld electronic game was Electro Tic-Tac-Toe, released by Japanese manufacturer Waco in 1972.[20][21][22][23][24][25] The first color video game was the 1973 arcade game Playtron, developed by Japanese company Kasco, which only manufactured two cabinets of the game.[26] The first video game to represent player characters as human sprite images was Taito's Basketball, which was licensed in February 1974 to Midway, releasing it as TV Basketball in North America.[27][28] Tomohiro Nishikado's arcade racing video game Speed Race, released by Taito in 1974, introduced scrolling graphics, where the sprites move along a vertical scrolling overhead track.[29]

Full motion video (FMV) games originated in Japanese arcades. The first FMV game was Nintendo's Wild Gunman, a 1974 electro-mechanical arcade game that used film reel projection to present live-action FMV footage.[30] The quick-time event mechanic also has origins in Wild Gunman, which used film projection to display live-action footage of cowboys. Alternate film footage was played depending on the player's quick draw reaction. It paved the way for later QTE laserdisc video games.[31]

SEGA's black and white boxing game Heavyweight Champ was released in 1976 as the first video game to feature fist fighting.[32]

Video game crash of 1977[]

Main articles: Video game crash of 1977, 1970s

The first major crash in 1977 occurred when companies were forced to sell their older obsolete systems flooding the market.

In 1977, manufacturers of older, obsolete consoles and Pong clones sold their systems at a loss to clear stock, creating a glut in the market.[33] Atari and Magnavox remained in the home console market, despite suffering losses in 1977 and 1978.[34] Many manufacturers were negatively affected by the market collapse, with Allied Leisure going bankrupt, Fairchild Semiconductor and National Semiconductor leaving console development, and Magnavox cancelling their next console. Coleco remained after making a $30 million loss in 1977, while Atari remained with the help of funding from Warner Communications.[35]

The crash was largely caused by the significant number of Pong clones that flooded both the arcade and home markets. The crash eventually came to an end with the success of Taito's Space Invaders, released in 1978, sparking a renaissance for the video game industry and paving the way for the golden age of arcade video games.[33] Soon after, Space Invaders was licensed for the Atari VCS (later known as Atari 2600), becoming the first big hit and quadrupling the console's sales.[36] This helped Atari recover from their earlier losses.[34] The success of the Atari 2600 in turn revived the home video game market, up until the North American video game crash of 1983.[37]

Golden age of arcade video games (1978–1983)[]

In 1978, the video game industry was revived with the golden age of arcade video games, which established video gaming as a mainstream entertainment industry.

The arcade game industry entered its golden age in 1978 with the release of Space Invaders by Taito, a success that inspired dozens of manufacturers to enter the market.[33][38]

The first microprocessor-driven video game was the arcade game Gun Fight, from Taito and Midway Games in 1975. The first tile-based video game was Namco's arcade game Galaxian (1979).[39] The Namco Galaxian arcade system board also introduced multi-colored animated sprites. Hardware sprite graphics was introduced by Namco's Pac-Man (1980), with the Namco Pac-Man hardware.[40]

The first stealth games were Hiroshi Suzuki's Manbiki Shounen (1979)[41][42][43] and Manbiki Shoujo (1980), Taito's Lupin III (1980),[44] and SEGA's 005 (1981).[45][46][47]

The first FMV video game was SEGA's laserdisc game Astron Belt, released in early 1983.

Video game crash of 1983–1984[]

Main articles: Video Game Crash of 1983, 1980s

Later in 1983, a second, greater crash occurred. This crash—brought on largely by a flood of poor quality video games coming to the market—resulted in a total collapse of the console gaming industry in the United States, ultimately shifting dominance of the market from North America to Japan. While the crash killed the console gaming market, the arcade and computer gaming markets managed to survive the crash.

Golden age of video games (1984–1999)[]

Main articles: Golden age of video games, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s

Japan went on to become the most dominant country within the global video game industry, since the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the third generation of video game hardware. Japan's dominance within the industry would continue for the next two decades, until Microsoft's Xbox consoles began challenging Sony and Nintendo in the 2000s.[48][49][50]

Subsequent generations of console video games would be dominated by Japanese corporations. Though several attempts would be made by North American and European companies, during the fourth generation of video game hardware, their ventures would ultimately fail.

The handheld gaming market has followed a similar path with several unsuccessful attempts made by American companies all of which failed outside some limited successes in the handheld electronic games early on.

While the Japanese video game industry has long been viewed as console-centric in the Western world, due to the worldwide success of Japanese consoles beginning with the NES, the country had in fact produced thousands of commercial personal computer games from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, in addition to dōjin soft indie games.[51]

The first platform video games to use scrolling graphics was Jump Bug (1981), a simple platform-shooter game developed by Alpha Denshi.[52] Data East's Karate Champ from 1984 is credited with establishing and popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre, and went on to influence Konami's Yie Ar Kung-Fu from 1985.[53] Capcom's Street Fighter (1987) introduced the use of special moves that could only be discovered by experimenting with the game controls. Street Fighter II (1991) established the conventions of the fighting game genre and allowed players to play against each other.[54]

The survival horror game genre began with Capcom's Resident Evil (1996), which coined the term "survival horror" and defined the genre.[55][56] The game was inspired by Capcom's Sweet Home (1989), retroactively described as survival horror.[57] The earliest game to be retroactively described as survival horror was Nostromo, developed by Tokyo University student Akira Takiguchi for the PET 2001, with a PC-6001 port published in 1981.[58]

One of the earliest Japanese RPGs, Koei's The Dragon & Princess] (1982),[59] featured a tactical turn-based combat system.[60][61] Koji Sumii's Bokosuka Wars (1983) is credited for laying the foundations for the tactical RPG genre, or "simulation RPG" genre as it is known in Japan, with its blend of basic RPG and strategy game elements.[62] The genre became with the game that set the template for tactical RPGs, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi (1990).[63]

Japanese developers created the action RPG subgenre in the early 1980s, combining RPG elements with arcade-style action and action-adventure elements.[64][65] In 1983, Nihon Falcom released Panorama Toh, coming close to the action RPG formula that they later became known for.[66] The trend of combining RPG elements with arcade-style action mechanics was popularized by The Tower of Druaga,[65] an arcade game released by Namco in 1984.[67] Its success inspired the development of three early action RPGs, combining Druaga's real-time hack-and-slash gameplay with stronger RPG mechanics, all released in late 1984: Dragon Slayer, Courageous Perseus, and Hydlide.[68]

The 1983 first-person adventure game, The Portopia Serial Murder Case, features a non-linear open world,[69][70] which is considered ahead of its time.[70] The action role-playing game Hydlide (1984) was an early open world game,[71][67] rewarding exploration in an open world environment.[72] Hylide influenced The Legend of Zelda (1986),[68] an influential open world game.[73][74] Zelda had an expansive, coherent open world design, inspiring many games to adopt a similar open world design.[75]

Bokosuka Wars (1983) is considered an early prototype real-time strategy game.[76] Technosoft's Herzog (1988) is regarded as a precursor to the real-time strategy genre, being the predecessor to Herzog Zwei and somewhat similar in nature.[77] Herzog Zwei, released for the Mega Drive/Genesis home consoles in 1989, is the earliest example of a game with a feature set that falls under the contemporary definition of modern real-time strategy.[78][79]

Modern video games (2000–present)[]

Main articles: 2000s, 2010s

Not until the sixth generation of video game hardware would a non-Japanese company release a commercially successful console system, the Xbox.

Currently, only Japanese companies have any major successful handheld gaming consoles, although in recent years handheld games have come to devices like smartphones and tablets as technology continues to converge.

See also[]


  1. Many early video games were lost and no record of their existence remains.

US Patent 3,659,284 "Television Gaming Apparatus," Awarded to Bill Rusch on April 25, 1972 /> US Patent 3,659,285 "Television Gaming Apparatus and Method," Awarded to Bill Harrison, Bill Rusch and Ralph Baer on April 25, 1972 US Patent 3,737,566 "Television Coder and Decoder," Awarded to Bill Rusch on June 5, 1973 US Patent 3,778,058 "Employing Television Receiver for Active Participation," Awarded to Bill Rusch on December 11, 1973


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Further reading[]

• Goldberg, Harold. All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture. New York: Three Rivers, 2011. Print.

External Links[]