Children’s questions: “How were video games created? », Asks Nolan (10 years old)

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You are probably one of those millions of gamers around the world having fun playing games like Fortnite,
Mario Where
Fifa, on media as varied as consoles, PCs or smartphones. But long before it became one of the very first cultural industries in the world, and a gigantic market, the video game was a most confidential innovation (very few people played).

Indeed, you must understand that the first computers were very expensive, very bulky and had ridiculous power compared to the machines you operate today. This is why it will hardly surprise you that the first video games were created in big universities, not for fun, but to advance scientific research and train students.

VIDEO : The evolution of video games from 1952 to 2018.

It is on the basis of these scientific research objectives and this rudimentary technological context that the first video games appeared. For example, the oldest recorded electronic game is Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device (which means: game device to
cathode ray tube) and was invented by physicists Thomas Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Mann in 1947, over 70 years ago!

Drawing inspiration from military technology, it simulated artillery fire against virtual air fleets represented by dots on a screen.

Expensive technology

It was not until the early 1970s that the first video game devices were really distributed on a large scale, whether through the first living room consoles, from
arcade machines, or portable electronic games to
liquid crystal. Why ? Because before that date, the technology was too expensive and had not yet been miniaturized enough to be accessible.

VIDEO : This is what it looked like Pong, one of the first video games, does that make you want?

The birth of the consumer video game industry is probably to be positioned in 1972, when the American manufacturer Magnavox launched the first odyssey game console, and that the Atari company was created with the ambition to produce and market arcade machines to be used in gaming rooms or bars. The particularity of these two companies was to offer
a game of ping-pong in which each player, equipped with a joystick, directs a bar, symbolizing a racket, being able to move on a vertical axis on the screen, and must prevent a ball (represented by a pixel) from crossing his screen. The game, innovative and fun for the time, was a great commercial success.

First confidential success

But beware ! We are far from the figures of the great successes of today. Pong, in its arcade version, has sold 10,000 copies, when Home Pong, its version on a living room console was sold in a few hundred thousand copies. We are far from the 150 million copies of
Minecraft elapsed, or the 200 million players of Fortnite !

A landscape from the game MineCraft © Mojang AB via (Creative Commons Zero – CC0)

But what you must remember is that these great planetary successes that are the Mario, Sonic,
tomb Raider, Halo, Call of Duty, Apex Legend
and others
Zelda would never have seen the light of day without these pioneers, scientists and industrialists, who developed the technologies necessary for the programming and then the democratization of video games.

These pioneers were the first to understand that there was a significant market behind video game entertainment. And it is because they made this somewhat crazy bet that they showed the way and inspired a whole generation of young developers who were going to give their golden letters to video games in the 1980s. But there is already another story.

This analysis was written by Julien Pillot, professor and researcher in Economics and Strategy at Inseec – professor and associate researcher at the University of Paris Saclay.
The original article was published on the website of The Conversation.

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