Video Games Through the Years
Video games have gone through many evolutions over the years. From a small, specialty hobby for a specialized group of people to a widely-used, worldwide phenomenon, video games have grown and changed, and they continue to evolve today.
Gaming in the 1970s and before
Even before Pong and Atari, scientists and engineers made video games to both entertain themselves and explore new ways to use emerging technology. Although there is still debate as to what constituted the 'first' video game, many things were invented which behaved similarly to the video games known and loved today. Way back in 1947, Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann used a cathode ray tube to create a missile simulator which used a CRT screen overlay to simulate radar detectors from World War II. From those and other humble beginnings, games evolved until coin-operated arcade cabinets using mainframe computers were introduced during the early 1970s. 1972 saw the introduction of possibly the best-known early home console game: Atari, Inc's 'Pong' - a table-tennis simulator. Pong gave rise to a great many imitators, and by the mid-1970s, the home market was saturated with copycats and new hopefuls, both good and bad. This lead to a crash in the gaming market in 1977 (and again, worse, in 1983), and some speculated that video gaming could not survive beyond it. Of course, this was incorrect, and arcade games in particular rose in popularity at this time.
Gaming in the 1980s
The early 1980s were a golden age for arcade gaming, with games such as Asteroids, Pac-Man and Galaxian selling millions of dollars' worth of arcade cabinets around the U.S. and the world. Arcades saw innovation in gaming genres, giving rise to the multitude of game genres available today. The rise of the home PC also gave way to PC gaming with genres such as text-adventures and 'point-and-click adventures' becoming very popular among computer aficionados. Many of the PC games of this period were 'dungeon-crawler' games, where a player navigates a simple dungeon map in a first-person perspective. However, even while arcade gaming was popular with every walk of life, home gaming was still looked upon as something only 'nerds' and engineers were interested in. This began to change, slowly, with the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System (known as the Famicom outside the U.S.) in 1985. The home console was created by a Japanese game company which had previously worked exclusively in the non-electronic, board game market. By the end of the 1980s, every child in America wanted a Nintendo, whether he was 'nerdy' or not.
Gaming in the 1990s
The 1990s were another golden time for games, this time for the home console. Competitors to Nintendo began to emerge, the most popular and long-lasting of which were Sega and, in the late 1990s, Sony. Innovations in graphic and storage capabilities enabled games to grow in size and scope, with systems going from 8-bit, to 16-bit, to 32-bit and then to 64-bit, all within fewer than 10 years. Games became more complex, and some began exploring complicated dramatic themes earlier games were not willing or able to approach. The 90s saw the shift of gaming from an external activity to a home activity, and gaming gained much wider popularity among the general populace. Arcades became a thing of the past, and by the end of the decade, the arcade phenomenon was close to death.
Gaming in the 2000s and beyond
By the turn of the century, gaming had established itself as a typical hobby for your average child, teenager and adult. The three major home consoles -- Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox -- currently dominate the market and continue to innovate every day. Arcades are not entirely dead, and in fact some entrepreneurs have shown interest in creating 'adult' arcades, somewhat akin to casinos, to cater to those gamers who were children during the first and second golden age of gaming. Casual gaming is a growing market, and games such as 'Angry Birds' and 'Farmville' introduce new players to the world of gaming every day.
Today, video games continue to grow strong. Some even believe video games are a valid entertainment art form like film and television. The future is sure to bring many new innovations in video games and in the people who enjoy them.