Computer games have now become an important aspect of people’s daily dose of entertainment. Acting as stress-busters, they help in escaping the harsh realism and dive into the world of imagination with no limits. With the modern scene of e-sports coming into play, computer games have derived a new role of providing livelihood apart from the traditional role of entertainment.

The First Computer Game

These days, we see games loaded with tons and tons of graphics and gameplays; games that are huge in sizes, but have you ever wondered where it all started? Which was the game that opened the world to the arena of computer game? Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you.


The First Computer Game

A computer game usually transmits huge amount of data and thus requires a device that is capable of handling it. Thus, that being said, the history of computer games usually implies the history of computing technology itself. The first ever computer game developed is considered to be Spacewar!, a game developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Steve Russell in 1962. The game was originally designed to run to on PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1) computer, which reached almost to the size of a car.

Spacewar running on PDP-1 | Image By Joi Ito from Inbamura, Japan

Spacewar! was a very simple shooter multiplayer game. Two players had to each control a spaceship around a planet, accelerate across their way, shoot at the other player and avoid getting shot. Whoever shot the other player first was coined the winner. The graphics of the game were even below average by today’s standards but considering it was the first ever game, that was a huge leap as it was very difficult for commercial creators in the 80s to even reciprocate what Steve Russell had done in the 60s.

Computers were not very popular then and the PDP-1 was marked at around $120,000 at that time. It was a struggle for the developers to get more and more people attracted towards computing devices. They wanted regular daily life users and thus the idea behind Spacewar! was simple, to get people involved with computers.

While the initial version of the game projected just two players against each other, with time there popped up different mods for the game by the developers as well as individual programmers. In the later half of 1962, Peter Samson, another developer, unveiled a newer version of the game that had explosion graphics and also allowed the players to keep track of their scores. Individual programmers started adding their own details to the game by making their own mods. There was a version of the game that had space mines, other provided a view into the cockpit of the ship, then there was one that had invisible ships. Soon the game caught attention of programmers all round the world and people started taking notice of it. The growing popularity of the game even saw it being mod into a VR version by Harvard University’s Ivan Sutherland.

The tech gurus are divided over which game to consider the first ever computer game. Some argue that British Professor A.S. Douglas’ 1952 OXO, commonly known as the tic-tac-toe, which he designed as his doctoral dissertation project at the University of Cambridge, was the first ever computer.

Others argue that it was William Higinbotham’s Tennis for Two displayed on a large analog computer. But majority have agreed that Spacewar! was the first ever game to run on an official computer system. The game is one of the 21 games that are displayed at The Museum of the Moving Image in New York. The version that is at display is the Peter Samson unveiled version with scoring and explosion graphics.


What is the future of Computer Games?

When the first game Spacewar! was released in 1962, even the developers had not thought that computer games would evolve to this extent. Even in the 90s and early 2000s, people were more into the arena of console-based gaming; but in the last 15-17 years, computer games have taken a new turn. People have started taking notice of the new trends in computer games. The graphics have been upped a notch to match the gaming experience of the consoles. As of now, computers come with support to almost all the accessories that any console supports. Be it a controller, a steering wheel, a VR headset, or any other accessory, a computer supports them all.

The introduction of the eSports scene into the world of computer gaming has seen it gaining enormous amounts of popularity. eSports are tournaments pertaining to computer games wherein players from all around the world compete with each other, just like any other sport. Due to this, there are special computers being designed to handle people’s gaming needs only. The future holds great deals for the computer gaming scenario in terms of graphics as well as gameplay. The graphics have almost touched life-like level but in the coming time, they’ll be enhanced even more. Whatever the future holds might be uncertain but one thing is sure, it is going to be fun and entertaining.


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1. Supercomputers in India 

2. Driverless Trains & IOT (Internet Of Things)

3. The First Computer Game: Spacewar


About Author

Aayush Pathak is pursuing B.A. in Journalism. His interests include writing short stories and poems, watching cricket, gaming and sitcoms. Currently he’s involved in researching about latest trends in technology.

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