history of games essay

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Video Game History

By: History.com Editors

Updated: October 17, 2022 | Original: September 1, 2017

Nintendo game consoles In Japan circa 1992

Today, video games make up a $100 billion global industry, and nearly two-thirds of American homes have household members who play video games regularly. And it’s really no wonder: Video games have been around for decades and span the gamut of platforms, from arcade systems, to home consoles, to handheld consoles and mobile devices. They’re also often at the forefront of computer technology.

The Early Days

Though video games are found today in homes worldwide, they actually got their start in the research labs of scientists.

In 1952, for instance, British professor A.S. Douglas created OXO , also known as noughts and crosses or a tic-tac-toe, as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. And in 1958, William Higinbotham created Tennis for Two  on a large analog computer and connected oscilloscope screen for the annual visitor’s day at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York .

In 1962, Steve Russell at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invented Spacewar! , a computer-based space combat video game for the PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1), then a cutting-edge computer mostly found at universities. It was the first video game that could be played on multiple computer installations.

history of games essay

HISTORY Vault: Game Changers: Inside the Video Game Wars

Brought to life by Academy Award-winning director Daniel Junge, this is the untold story of the personal battles that gave rise to the multibillion-dollar video game industry.

Dawn of the Home Console

In 1967, developers at Sanders Associates, Inc., led by Ralph Baer, invented a prototype multiplayer, multi-program video game system that could be played on a television. It was known as “The Brown Box.”

Baer, who’s sometimes referred to as Father of Video Games, licensed his device to Magnavox, which sold the system to consumers as the Odyssey, the first video game home console, in 1972. Over the next few years, the primitive Odyssey console would commercially fizzle and die out.

Yet, one of the Odyssey’s 28 games was the inspiration for Atari’s Pong , the first arcade video game, which the company released in 1972. In 1975, Atari released a home version of Pong , which was as successful as its arcade counterpart.

Magnavox, along with Sanders Associates, would eventually sue Atari for copyright infringement. Atari settled and became an Odyssey licensee; over the next 20 years, Magnavox went on to win more than $100 million in copyright lawsuits related to the Odyssey and its video game patents.

In 1977, Atari released the Atari 2600 (also known as the Video Computer System), a home console that featured joysticks and interchangeable game cartridges that played multi-colored games, effectively kicking off the second generation of the video game consoles.

The video game industry had a few notable milestones in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including:

  • The release of the Space Invaders arcade game in 1978
  • The launch of Activision, the first third-party game developer (which develops software without making consoles or arcade cabinets), in 1979
  • The introduction to the United States of Japan’s hugely popular Pac-Man
  • Nintendo’s creation of Donkey Kong , which introduced the world to the character Mario
  • Microsoft’s release of its first Flight Simulator game

The Video Game Crash

In 1983, the North American video game industry experienced a major “crash” due to a number of factors, including an oversaturated game console market, competition from computer gaming, and a surplus of over-hyped, low-quality games, such as the infamous E.T. , an Atari game based on the eponymous movie and often considered the worst game ever created.

Lasting a couple of years, the crash led to the bankruptcy of several home computer and video game console companies.

The video game home industry began to recover in 1985 when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), called Famicom in Japan, came to the United States. The NES had improved 8-bit graphics, colors, sound and gameplay over previous consoles.

Nintendo, a Japanese company that began as a playing card manufacturer in 1889, released a number of important video game franchises still around today, such as Super Mario Bros. , The Legend of Zelda , and Metroid .

Additionally, Nintendo imposed various regulations on third-party games developed for its system, helping to combat rushed, low-quality software. Third-party developers released many other long-lasting franchises, such as Capcom’s Mega Man , Konami’s Castlevania , Square’s Final Fantasy, and Enix’s Dragon Quest (Square and Enix would later merge to form Square Enix in 2003).

In 1989, Nintendo made waves again by popularizing handheld gaming with the release of its 8-bit Game Boy video game device and the often-bundled game Tetris . Over the next 25 years, Nintendo would release a number of successful successors to the Game Boy, including the Game Boy color in 1998, Nintendo DS in 2004, and Nintendo 3DS in 2011.

The First Console War

Also in 1989, Sega released its 16-bit Genesis console in North America as a successor to its 1986 Sega Master System, which failed to adequately compete against the NES.

With its technological superiority to the NES, clever marketing, and the 1991 release of the Sonic the Hedgehog game, the Genesis made significant headway against its older rival. In 1991, Nintendo released its 16-bit Super NES console in North America, launching the first real “console war.”

The early- to mid-1990s saw the release of a wealth of popular games on both consoles, including new franchises such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat , a fighting game that depicted blood and gore on the Genesis version of the game.

In response to the violent game (as well as congressional hearings about violent video games), Sega created the Videogame Rating Council in 1993 to provide descriptive labeling for every game sold on a Sega home console. The council later gives rise to the industry-wide Entertainment Software Rating Board, which is still used today to rate video games based on content.

In the mid-1990s, video games leaped to the Big Screen with the release of the Super Mario Bros. live-action movie in 1993, followed by Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat over the next two years. Numerous movies based on video games have been released since.

With a much larger library of games, lower price point, and successful marketing, the Genesis had leapfrogged ahead of the SNES in North America by this time. But Sega was unable to find similar success in Japan.

The Rise of 3D Gaming

With a leap in computer technology, the fifth generation of video games ushered in the three-dimensional era of gaming.

In 1995, Sega released in North America its Saturn system, the first 32-bit console that played games on CDs rather than cartridges, five months ahead of schedule. This move was to beat Sony’s first foray into video games, the Playstation, which sold for $100 less than the Saturn when it launched later that year. The following year, Nintendo released its cartridge-based 64-bit system, the Nintendo 64.

Though Sega and Nintendo each released their fair share of highly-rated, on-brand 3D titles, such as Virtua Fighter on the Saturn and Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, the established video game companies couldn’t compete with Sony’s strong third-party support, which helped the Playstation secure numerous exclusive titles.

Simply put: Sony dominated the video game market and would continue to do so into the next generation. In fact, the Playstation 2, released in 2000 and able to play original Playstation games, would become the best-selling game console of all time.

The Playstation 2, which was the first console that used DVDs, went up against the Sega Dreamcast (released in 1999), the Nintendo Gamecube (2001), and Microsoft’s Xbox (2001).

The Dreamcast—considered by many to be ahead of its time and one of the greatest consoles ever made for several reasons, including its capability for online gaming—was a commercial flop that ended Sega’s console efforts. Sega pulled the plug on the system in 2001, becoming a third-party software company henceforth.

Modern Age of Gaming

In 2005 and 2006, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii kicked off the modern age of high-definition gaming. Though the Playstation 3—the only system at the time to play Blu-rays—was successful in its own right, Sony, for the first time, faced stiff competition from its rivals.

The Xbox 360, which had similar graphics capabilities to the Playstation 3, was lauded for its online gaming ecosystem and won far more Game Critics Awards than the other platforms in 2007; it also featured the Microsoft Kinect, a state-of-the-art motion capture system that offered a different way to play video games (though the Kinect never caught on with core gamers or game developers).

And despite being technologically inferior to the other two systems, the Wii trounced its competition in sales. Its motion-sensitive remotes made gaming more active than ever before, helping it appeal to a much larger slice of the general public, including people in retirement homes.

Towards the end of the decade and beginning of the next, video games spread to social media platforms like Facebook and mobile devices like the iPhone, reaching a more casual gaming audience. Rovio, the company behind the Angry Birds mobile device game (and, later Angry Birds animated movie), reportedly made a whopping $200 million in 2012.

In 2011, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure brought video games into the physical world. The game required players to place plastic toy figures (sold separately) onto an accessory, which reads the toys’ NFC tags to bring the characters into the game. The next few years would see several sequels and other toy-video game hybrids, such as Disney Infinity , which features Disney characters.

The 8th generation of video games began with the release of Nintendo’s Wii U in 2012, followed by the Playstation 4 and Xbox One in 2013. Despite featuring a touch screen remote control that allowed off-TV gaming and being able to play Wii games, the Wii U was a commercial failure—the opposite of its competition—and was discontinued in 2017.

In early 2017, Nintendo released its Wii U successor, the Nintendo Switch, the only system to allow both television-based and handheld gaming. Microsoft released its 4K-ready console, the Xbox One X, in late 2017, and followed up in 2020 with the Xbox Series X and Series S. In 2020, Sony released the Playstation 5, a successor to Playstation 4. 

With their new revamped consoles, both Sony and Microsoft currently have their sights set on virtual reality gaming, a technology that has the potential to change the way players experience video games.

‘Spacewar!’ The story of the world’s first digital video game. The Verge . The First Video Game? BNL . The Brown Box, 1967–68. Smithsonian . Inventor Ralph Baer, The ‘Father Of Video Games,’ Dies At 92. NPR . The Video Game Revolution. PBS . Video Game History Timeline. Museum of Play . The Surprisingly Long History of Nintendo. Gizmodo . How Tetris Helped Game Boy Take Over the World. Gizmodo . How Sonic Helped Sega Win the Early 90s Console Wars. Kotaku . Sega and Nintendo Console War: Greatest Moments. Prima Games . Angry Birds Maker Rovio Reports $200 Million In Revenue, $71 Million In Profit For 2012. Business Insider . Here’s who won each console war. Venturebeat . The History Of Gaming: An Evolving Community. TechCrunch . The History of Video Game Consoles. TIME .

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The father of the video game: the ralph baer prototypes and electronic games video game history.

From the earliest days of computers, people have found ways to play games on them. These early computer programmers weren’t just wasting time or looking for new ways to goof off. They had practical reasons to create games.

During the 1940s and 1950s, computers took up entire rooms and were so expensive that only universities and large companies could afford them. Most people had both a limited understanding of what these electronic behemoths were able to do and an unfamiliarity with the types of mathematical equations these machines were regularly programmed to compute. Games like tic-tac-toe or William Higinbotham’s 1958 Tennis for Two were excellent ways to attract public interest and support. As an added bonus, computer programmers were able to learn from the creation of games as well because it allowed them to break away from the usual subroutines and challenge the computer’s capabilities.

It was this mindset that led a group of MIT students during the 1960s to create one of the first and most groundbreaking computer games. Students Steve Russell and his friends were granted access to the school’s new PDP-1 computer providing they used it to create a demonstration program that (1) utilized as many of the computer’s resources as possible and “taxed those resources to the limit,” (2) remained interesting even after repeated viewings, which meant that each run needed to be slightly different and (3) was interactive.

Inspired by the science fiction novels Russell and his friends enjoyed, these computers “hackers” decided to create a dueling game between two spaceships. The result, called “Spacewar,” caused a sensation on campus and variations on the game soon spread to other universities that had computer engineering programs.

Although Spacewar was fun to play, it was never destined for released to the general public, since computers were still too expensive for personal use. To play Spacewar one needed access to a research facility’s computer, which kept the game’s influence limited to the small computer technology sphere.

In fact, video games did not get their true start from computer programmers, but from an engineer skilled in another major invention of the 20th century: the television set. By the 1960s, millions of Americans had invested in televisions for their homes, but these television sets were only used for the viewing of entertainment. Engineer Ralph Baer was certain this technology could be used to play games.

In 1966, while working for Sanders Associates, Inc., Baer began to explore this idea. In 1967, assisted by Sanders technician Bob Tremblay, Baer created the first of several video game test units. Called TVG#1 or TV Game Unit #1, the device, when used with an alignment generator, produced a dot on the television screen that could be manually controlled by the user. Once Baer had established how it was possible to interact with the television set, he and his team were able to design and build increasingly sophisticated prototypes.

Sanders senior management were impressed with Baer’s progress and assigned him the task of turning this technology into a commercially viable product. After a few years and numerous test and advancements, Baer and his colleagues developed a prototype for the first multiplayer, multiprogram video game system, nicknamed the “Brown Box.” Sanders licensed the Brown Box to Magnavox, which released the device as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972.

With fewer than 200,000 units sold, Magnavox Odyssey was not considered a commercial success. Among the contributing factors, poor marketing played a large role. Many potential consumers were under the impression—sometimes encouraged by Magnavox salesmen—that Odyssey would only work on Magnavox televisions. Ultimately, the problem was that Magnavox saw Odyssey as a gimmick to sell more television sets. Executives at Magnavox lacked the vision to see that television games had the potential to become an independent industry, and did not give the product the support it needed.

Meanwhile, a creative young entrepreneur named Nolan Bushnell remembered playing Spacewar during his years as a student at the University of Utah. He began to think of ways that the game could be retailed. Bushnell had past experience with amusement park arcades and had witnessed firsthand the popularity of pinball machines. He believed that Spacewar would make a successful coin-operated machine.

In 1971, Nutting Associates, a coin-op device manufacturer, released Bushnell’s idea as “ Computer Space .” However, while Spacewar had been an enjoyable game, Computer Space proved too complex for the casual game player to understand quickly. The changes that were required to convert the two-player Spacewar to a one-player game made Computer Space frustratingly difficult for those who did learn how to play.

Though Computer Space was a flop, Bushnell still believed that coin-operated video games could be successful. After seeing a demonstration of Magnavox Odyssey’s table tennis game in May 1972, Bushnell set about trying to create an arcade version of the same game. He and his business partner, Ted Dabney, formed Atari, Inc., in June 1972, and released Pong, an arcade ping-pong game, that same year. The first Pong machine was installed in Andy Capp’s Tavern, a bar located in Sunnyvale, California. A few days later, the tavern owner called Atari to send someone out to fix the machine. The problem turned out to be that the cashbox was filled with too many quarters. The coins had overflowed and jammed the machine. Atari clearly had a sensation on its hands.

Emboldened by Pong ’s success, Atari partnered with Sears, Roebuck & Company to produce a home version of the game in 1975. Magnavox sued for patent rights infringement. The case was heavily in Magnavox’s favor. Ralph Baer had carefully documented his work. Magnavox could prove that they demonstrated Odyssey to the public in 1972 and that Bushnell had attended the demonstration. (It was even confirmed later that Bushnell had played Odyssey’s tennis game.) Rather than face a lengthy and undoubtedly unsuccessful court case, Atari settled with Magnavox.

The home version of Pong was just as successful as the arcade version. Atari sold 150,000 units in 1975 alone (compared to the 200,000 Odysseys that took Magnavox three years to sell.) Other companies soon began to produce their own home versions of Pong. Even Magnavox began to market a series of modified Odyssey units that played only their tennis and hockey games. Of these first-generation video game consoles, the most successful was Coleco Telstar, due in part to some luck and the help of Ralph Baer.

Coleco, a toy company that later became known for the wildly popular Cabbage Patch Doll in the early 1980s, was just beginning to branch out into video games. Acting on a recommendation from Ralph Baer, Coleco was the first company to place a major order for General Instruments’ AY-3-8500 chip, on which most Pong console clones were based. When General Instruments, which had underestimated the interest in the chip, had trouble meeting production demands, Coleco was at the top of the priority list. While Coleco’s competitors waited for months until General Instruments could complete their orders, Coleco cornered the market.

At a crucial moment, Coleco Telstar did not pass the interference tests needed for Federal Communications Commission approval. Coleco had a week to fix the problem or the unit would need to be totally redesigned before it could be resubmitted for FCC approval. The process could potentially take months, putting the company well behind its competitors. Without FCC approval, Coleco would be stuck with warehouses full of units that they could not sell.

The company turned to Sanders and Ralph Baer in hopes that Baer’s experience would be able to help them. Baer found their solution within the week and Coleco received its FCC approval. Telstar sold over one million units in 1976, before being overshadowed by the next generation of video game consoles.

Produced between 1976 and 1983, these second-generation consoles, such as the Atari VCS (also known as the Atari 2600), Mattel’s Intellivision, and ColecoVision, featured interchangeable game cartridges that were retailed separately, rather than games that came preloaded in the unit. This advance allowed users to build a library of games. There was soon a wide variety of games to choose from, but, ironically, this surplus proved to be the one of the key reasons that the industry faced a serious crash during the early 1980s.

In a classic case of supply outpacing demand, too many games hit the market, and many were of inferior quality. Further complicating matters, there were too many video game consoles from which to choose. Beyond the flooded market, video games consoles now faced growing competition from computers.

The bulky, room-sized expensive computer behemoths were a thing of the past. The age of the home computer had arrived. For many, purchasing a versatile computer, like the Apple II, Radio Shack’s TRS-80, or the Commodore 64, which could play games in addition to running a multitude of other programs, seemed a more logical investment than buying a system devoted solely to gaming.

Sales of video game consoles and cartridges plunged in 1983 and 1984. Many companies like Mattel and Magnavox discontinued their video game lines completely, while Atari, the leader in the field, struggled to remain afloat. Video games remained popular arcade features, but it seemed that the era of home video game systems had ended.

But in 1985, a small Japanese company proved just the opposite. That year, Nintendo released its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), whose popularity and commercial success surpassed any previous game console. No longer a novelty, video games found a firm foothold mainstream American life, just as Ralph Baer had predicted they would.

  • The Father of the Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games
  • Video Game History

history of games essay

A Brief History of Games

Human history and games are inextricably intertwined. Irrefutable evidence resounds down through the ages that fun and games are not frivolous pursuits per se—instead, they come naturally to us as essential parts of being alive. When you understand the evolution of games, you can begin to make intelligent choices about what elements of games you might want to include in your gamification designs.

A Dim and Distant Past

Have you ever been to the zoo? If so, you’ll most likely have sat and watched monkeys and apes for a while. It doesn’t take very much to see them at play. They’ll chase each other, throw things, jump on each other, and that kind of thing. Assuming, as seems likely, that human beings are just better evolved monkeys, it’s likely that we’ve been playing games for a long, long time. We were probably playing games before we learned to speak or even to stand on two legs.

That means we have no idea what the first games we played were like. However, we do have a good idea of the timeline of modern game development.

Rolling the Dice 3,000 Years Ago

Dice aren’t a modern invention. In fact, they’re probably among the oldest known gaming tools known to man. During an excavation in Southeastern Iran, archeologists discovered a 3,000-year-old set of dice! We don’t know exactly what games those early Persians would have played with them, but the popularity of dice has endured throughout the centuries.

history of games essay

Dice games have been with mankind for a very long time, as you can see from this cave painting.

©WolfgangRieger, Fair Use

In 14th-century England, people were playing a game called Hazard (it’s mentioned in that famous work The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer), and Hazard didn’t fall out of favour until the 19th century. It had a very complex rule set and has since been supplanted by dice games with simpler rules.

“Take a simple idea and take it seriously.” —Charlie Munger, American investor, businessman, lawyer and philanthropist

Whether carved in bone or cast in plastic, the simplicity of a die—a cube with dots and nothing more—as an effective, if chancy, determinant is ageless. You may not know this, but the most popular game in casinos would remain—well into the 21st century—a dice game. Craps is the only game in a gambling house where the odds are in favour of the gambler. Despite this, it’s the most profitable game for the casinos; people don’t seem to know just when to stop playing. And play they do—elsewhere, too, using dice in a range of fun-filled activities that have been extending into less adult settings, such as homes and schools, through the years. Yahtzee revolves around dice, and not for nothing does Dungeons & Dragons incorporate dice, even if many of those dice have 4, 10, 12, 20 or even more faces.

Tiles and Dominoes

There are references to tile games in China that are over 2,900 years old. Dominoes emerged 1,000 years later during the Song Dynasty (also in China). However, Western dominoes probably only began in the 18th century, and Mahjong (the most popular tile game in the world – it’s of Chinese origin) didn’t arrive until the 19th century.

Board Games are Even Older

If you enjoy a game of Monopoly or Scrabble, it would appear that you are in good company. The earliest known board games are 5,000 years old and were played by the Egyptians. We don’t know the rules of these games, but there is a “Senet” board that dates back to about 3500 B.C.!

The Chinese invented their first known board game in 200 B.C., and, in Western Europe, they were playing Tafl (a game very similar to chess) from 400 B.C.

history of games essay

Chess is often considered to be the “archetypal” board game and is itself very old, but there were board games well prior to the invention of chess.

© Bubba73, CC BY-SA 3.0

Still Playing!

If you’ve ever played Go, Chess, Backgammon or Nine Men’s Morris, then you’ve played a game with more than a thousand years of history! Go is from 200 B.C. in Korea, Backgammon from Iran around 600 A.D. (complete with dice), Chess from India around the same time and Nine Men’s Morris may be from Mediaeval England, but many think it stems from the Roman Empire!

Snakes and Ladders, one of the world’s most popular children’s games probably began in India in the 16th century. And, surprise, surprise, dice power the probability for players in that game, too.

The first commercial board game arrived in the year 1800 and was produced by George Fox in England. It was called the Mansion of Happiness and was essentially a “race game” similar to Ludo. The oldest surviving board game company is Milton Bradley (whose famous games include; Downfall, Hungry Hippos and Connect 4), who were formed in 1860!

history of games essay

The Mansion of Happiness was the very first board game to be produced commercially (i.e., on an industrial basis).

© ItsLassieTime, Fair Use

Deal Me In!

Card games are a more recent invention, and the first use of a card deck was probably in Ancient China. They would have been played during the Tang Dynasty (6th century A.D. – 9th century A.D.). Cards reached Europe in the 14th century, and early decks would have been very similar to Tarot cards, whose modern and classic mediaeval versions we can find online or in virtually any bookstore’s Mind, Body and Spirit section.

The four-suit (hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds) deck that we’re most familiar with was invented in France around 1480. The oldest card game that we still play is probably Cribbage, which came from the 17th century. Bridge didn’t arrive until the early 19th century.

In the 1990s, cards were revisited and games like ‘Magic! The Gathering’ were introduced and became incredibly popular. Card games would also extend to trumps—a classic favourite in British schools, featuring items from racing cars to spacecraft, Western gunfighters and horror monsters, in which players compare the statistics of their topmost cards, and win or lose accordingly.

Table Games

Carom, is possibly the oldest table game (it’s very similar to tiddlywinks or shuffleboard), but no-one knows exactly when or where it came into existence. Pool, billiards and snooker are all relatively recent inventions, and roulette only arrived in the 19th century.

history of games essay

The game pictured above, may look (at first glance) like pool, but it’s actually a modern billiards table—as you can see by the lack of pockets on the table.

© LezFraniak, CC BY-SA 3.0

You’re in Good Company

As you can see, games have a long rich history, and whenever you decide to play a game, you’re in good company. Human beings have been playing games throughout the centuries. They are part of the human experience.

What about Electronic Games?

You may be surprised to find that the first electronic game was invented in the United States before the computer! A patent was filed back in 1947 for a “Cathode ray tube amusement device”. In the 1950s, also in the United States, (very few) people began playing computer games on mainframe systems – these would have been out of reach for the vast majority of people as the hardware would have been astronomically expensive.

The first games console was the Magnavox Odyssey – released in 1972. Arcade games such as Space Invaders, Pacman, etc. began life in 1978 and became hugely popular into the early 1980s. During that time, quite a few consoles were released, but a crash in the American gaming industry killed off most of the companies involved in 1983. When the Japanese picked up the reins and began developing video games, console gaming became universally popular, signalling the slow downfall of the arcade game.

“Everyone has played video games at some point these days, and video games are fun.” —PewDiePie, Swedish comedian and web producer

Games have a long history, as you can see, and the electronic game’s roots stretch right back to the earliest of human games. It’s not that our ancestors needed to tell us that games go with the territory of being alive; games are hardwired into our DNA.

The Take Away

Human history and games are inextricably intertwined. For millennia, people have held an innate compulsion to play, and that won’t change anytime soon. What they needed, they innovated, leaving us a wealthy legacy of devices through the centuries, ranging from the basic but powerful wonder of dice, to the timeless strategising involved in chess, and on up to a library of latter-day board games that run the gamut in their levels of sophistication. As long as you’ve got an understanding the evolution of games, you can begin to make intelligent choices about what elements of games you might want to include in your gamification designs.

References & Where to Learn More

Course: Gamification - How to Create Engaging User Experiences

The Institute of Play examines the history of games in a learning context .

Janaki Mythily Kumar and Mario Herger, Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software , The Interaction Design Foundation, 2014

Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Nick Kellingley. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-ND

Design for a Better World with Don Norman

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How student-designed video games made me rethink how I teach history

history of games essay

Professor of History, The University of Texas at Austin

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Imagine you’re a young samurai in Japan in 1701. You have to make a difficult choice between an impoverished life in exile, or the prospect of almost certain death while trying to avenge the death of your dishonored lord. Which do you choose?

“ Ako: A Tale of Loyalty ,” a video game built in 2020, takes players along a difficult journey through early modern Japan filled with decisions like this one. It’s become an essential component of my classes on Japanese history, but it wasn’t developed by a professional game studio. Instead, it was created by a team of four undergraduate history majors with no specialized training.

Loading screen for black-and-white video game

Designing a video game may seem like a strange assignment for a humanities classroom, but as a professor who teaches a range of courses in East Asian history I have found that such exercises provide an engaging learning experience for students while also generating new educational content that can be widely shared.

The gaming revolution

Nearly two-thirds of American adults play video games, and that figure rises steadily each year. Fueled by stay-at-home orders and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, global gaming sales rose to nearly US$180 billion in 2020.

Among university students, video games are utterly pervasive . When I ask my classes who consumes video game content, either as a player or via streaming services like Twitch , it’s rare that a single student’s hand is not raised.

Schools and colleges have rushed to respond to these trends. Programs like Gamestar Mechanic or Scratch help K-12 students learn basic coding skills, while many universities, including my own, have introduced game design majors to train the next generation of developers.

History professors, however, have been slower to embrace video games as teaching tools. Part of the problem is that the historical content contained within games is often, with some exceptions , repetitive and superficial.

Artwork from video game

While there are many games focused on Japanese history, for example, the majority reinforce the same tired image of the heroic warrior bound by the rigid code of “bushidō,” a code that scholars have shown had very little to do with the daily life or conduct of most samurai.

Designing humanities games

In 2020, I asked four undergraduate history majors to design a fully functional video game with a clear educational payoff built around a controversial episode in Japanese history.

I was motivated by two ideas. First, I wanted to move beyond a standard reliance on academic essays. While I still assign essays, many students find them fairly passive exercises which don’t stimulate deep engagement with a topic.

Second, I was convinced that university professors need to get into the business of producing games content. To be clear, we’re not going to design anything even close to what comes out of professional studios. But we can produce compelling games that are ready to be used both in colleges and – equally important – K-12 classrooms, where teachers are always looking for vetted scholarly content. A conventional academic essay is intended for just one person, the professor. But a video game produced by a group of committed undergraduates can be played by thousands of students at different institutions.

Video game artwork of two Japanese women

At first, I worried the task I had set was too big and the technological barriers too high. None of the four team members was enrolled in a video game design program or had specialized training. It quickly became clear that such fears were overblown.

The team decided to work on a visual novel game, a genre that originated in Japan and can best be described as interactive stories. The design process for such games is facilitated by programs such as Ren’Py , which streamline development.

Learning by design

The team’s first task was to design a believable central character. Successful games push players to emotionally invest in their characters and the choices they make. In the case of “Ako,” the design team created a young samurai named Kanpei Hashimoto who was grounded in the period but also easy to relate to as a young person struggling to find his way in a complex world.

From there, the team created branching storylines punctuated by clear decisions. In total, “Ako” has five possible outcomes depending on the choices a player makes. Numerous smaller decisions along the way open up additional ways to navigate the game.

The next step was dialogue. A typical academic essay is around 2,500 words, and students often complain about how difficult it is to fill the required pages. In contrast, the “Ako” team wrote over 30,000 words of dialogue. It required extensive research. What would a samurai family have eaten for breakfast? How much did it cost to buy a “kaimyō,” or posthumous Buddhist name, for a deceased parent? How long did it take to make the oiled paper umbrellas , called “wagasa,” that many poor samurai sold to survive?

Video artwork of monk

Finally, the students developed historically accurate artwork. The game has four chapters with 30 background images and 13 characters. Making sure everything was consistent with this period in Japanese history was a huge undertaking that stretched both me and the students.

Ultimately, the team learned more about samurai life and early modern Japan than any group of students I had worked with across a single semester. They read a dizzying array of books and articles while working and reworking the overall design, dialogue and artwork. And they succeeded in developing a fully functional video game that has already been used in other classrooms across the country.

Most importantly, I believe their experience provides a template for how student-designed video games can transform the humanities classroom.

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A History of Video Games

This research begins with the premise that while video-games have become a pervasive cultural force over the last four decades, there is still a dearth of educational and historical material regarding the emergence of video game home consoles and their content. Games have an extensive history, dating back to early radar displays and oscilloscopes of the 1960s (Tennis for Two, 1958) and early home video game consoles of the 1970s (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972). From the JAMMA (Japanese Amusement Machine and Marketing Association) arcade standard of the 80s to the high powered processors of Sonys PS4, video games have come a long way and left a wealth of audio-visual material in their wake. Much of this material, however, is archived and engaged within a traditional manner: through text books or museum exhibitions (Games Master, ACMI 2015). Through interactive design however, this data can be made easily comprehensible and accessible as interactive data-visualisation content. This design research project explores processes of data visualization, interactive design and video game production to open up video game history and communicate its developmental stages in a universally accessible manner. Though there has been research conducted utilising game engines for visualizations in other fields (from landscape architecture to bio-medical science) it has rarely been used to visualize the history of gaming itself. This visualization (utilising the Unreal Engine and incorporating historical video content) creates an accessible preservation and catalogue of video game history, and an interactive graphical interface that allows users to easily learn and understand the history of console development and the processes that lead video games to their current state.

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The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives Essay


Attention Getter: If you look around, you’ll see that video games have become a significant part of modern people’s lives. Today I am going to tell you about the history of video games, a phenomenon that has caused a revolution in the entertainment sphere.

Overview of Main Points: We are going to speak about the dawn of computer games, paying attention to their predecessors the milestones of their development. Of course, the concept of video games did not come out of the thin air.

It could be logical to connect the creation of video games with the development of computer technologies. Still, it would be unfair not to mention the ancestors that had nothing to do with technologies.

Chess, checkers, cards, billiard, and, of course, table-top role-playing games all supplied the ideas for video games (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith, Tosca & Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2013).

A word should also be said about coin-operated mechanical entertainment machines, most of which were invented by the 1940s. Those usually gave you a chance to play games like pinball or simulated gunfights and horse races and nowadays look like the prototypes of “real” video games (Kent, 2001).

It took some time for the new type of entertainment to travel from scientific laboratories and to a common consumer’s apartment.

At first, these games were never commercialized which is understandable: the huge machines that were required to play a computerized version of tennis were noisy and inconvenient.

In 1966, however, Ralph Baer suggested using TV sets for playing games (Wolf, 2008)?

The first video game console called Odyssey was manufactured in 1972 (Wolf, 2008). It enabled people to play their first video games at home. What were those games like? Well, for example, in Firefighter you had to repeatedly hit a single button to prevent the screen from going red.

The industry, which has experienced both upturns and downturns in the course of its development.

The 70s and the 80s are usually called the golden age of arcade games (Wolf, 2008). The legendary games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man and most of the video game genres (like RPG or horror survival) were developed during that period of time.

In 1983, however, the video game crash took place and caused bankruptcy for several North American companies that produced consoles and computers. One of the reasons for the crisis was a common belief that video games were just another fad that could not last long or bring much profit (Wolf, 2008).

Thankfully, this idea proved to be wrong and, as Nintendo developed a new generation of consoles, the industry got another chance. Since then the continuous development of consoles and computer technologies pushed this type of entertainment forward, making it more popular and turning the whole industry more profitable. 3D graphics came into video games during the 90s. Handheld games were introduced at the beginning of the 90s and the first mobile game, “Snake”, was installed onto Nokia phones in 1997 (Wolf, 2008).

Indeed, despite the doubts caused by the first attempts at creating video games, they have become an integral part of the modern entertainment industry. Their development depended very much on the development of computer technologies. As the latter flourished the former followed suit.

It is not difficult to realize that the history of computer games is far from over. We witness it now, we take part in it now and we are going to shape it with our own hands.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S., Smith, J., Tosca, S., & Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2013). Understanding video games (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Kent, S. (2001). The ultimate history of video games. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Wolf, M. (2008). The video game explosion . Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

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IvyPanda. (2022, January 26). The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-video-games/

"The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives." IvyPanda , 26 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-video-games/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives'. 26 January.

IvyPanda . 2022. "The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives." January 26, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-video-games/.

1. IvyPanda . "The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives." January 26, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-video-games/.


IvyPanda . "The History of Video Games: A Significant Part of Modern People’s Lives." January 26, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-history-of-video-games/.

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One of the extraordinary consequences of computer modeling techniques is that they make it possible to simulate various real-world phenomena in fantastic detail.

Computer fluid dynamics, for example, has largely replaced the use of wind tunnels in many applications. Social-network simulations have changed the way we understand traffic jams and crowd control as well as the spread of fake news and infectious diseases. And many games, such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Second Life, and many others, re-create the real world in ways that allow players to experiment with alternate realities.

But while this phenomenon has had a huge influence on science, its impact on the humanities—and in particular on the study of history—has been less marked. Which creates something of an opportunity for enterprising historians. Various computer games simulate past events in ever-increasing detail, allowing players to better understand the forces at work and explore alternative histories.

history of games essay

Could this kind of computational history change the way we understand the past and the lessons it holds for us today?

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Mehmet Sükrü Kuran at Abdullah Gul University in Turkey and a couple of colleagues. These guys have developed an undergraduate history course in which students use historical computer games to better understand their subject.

The process is straightforward. Over the last four years, Kuran and co have incorporated a variety of computer games into their history course to determine which best stimulate discussion and improve student understanding.

The course covers three ages in history: the Middle Ages, focusing on the Great Schism in the Christian world and the Sunni-Shia split in the Islamic world; the early modern age, including the Industrial Revolution; and the modern age, essentially the two 20th-century world wars.

Kuran and co experimented with a number of games, including  Sid Meier’s Civilization series by Firaxis games, the Total War series by the Creative Assembly, and the Grand Strategy games such as Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, and Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Interactive.

Each module in the course began with a learning and discussion session, followed by an introduction to the chosen game. Students were given certain goals to achieve in the game on their own and then asked to write about their experience by comparing it with other sources of historical information.

After two years, Kuran and co decided that one game series was clearly better for learning purposes. “The games from Grand Strategy series provided the most comprehensive experience due to their level of detail, high historical accuracy, and versatility on modeling different cultures and nations,” they say.

So they continued their course using the Crusader Kings II game to help study the medieval period, Europa Universalis IV to help study the early modern to industrial ages, and Hearts of Iron IV to study the early to mid 20th century.

After each session, the students had to write a 500-word blog post about their experience. Then they chose one era to specialize in and wrote a 3,000-word essay on the research they undertook.

Kuran and co list a wide range of advantages for the students in this form of teaching. For example, the game play gave students a much better understanding of global geography and its political and economic implications for trade routes and military supply chains.

The games also taught students about the complex interactions between economic, religious, technological, political, and cultural forces, which play a crucial role in all societies. In particular, the students learned how societies were different in the past and how this affected outcomes. That change from viewing events from a modern point of view to viewing them from a historical point of view is crucial. “This change of perspective greatly increases their understanding of certain historical key events,” say Kuran and co.

The games also gave students a better experience. “Most of the students report that learning history through a video game has a critical immersive component,” say the team. That leads to better recollection and analysis of events.

Kuran and co are clearly convinced that games can play an important role in understanding history. “Although it requires some effort to set up such a blended world history course, we observe the gains outweigh the challenges and allow for a more deep and immersive learning experience,” they say.

It's not hard to see why students might enjoy and benefit from such an approach. But this is clearly just the start. The ability to simulate the past with increasing detail could be of huge value to historians themselves. Data points in history are often sparse and inaccurate, so historians have to fill in the gaps. Computer models are ideal for testing hypotheses and assessing whether they fit with known data points.

Of course, there is a huge difference between game series like Civilization and Grand Strategy and proper scientific simulations. Not least of these is that games are black-box systems affording little or no insight into how they work or how they model events. That makes them hard to assess from an evidence-based point of view.

A good model must allow researchers to control the parameters behind the simulation so that it can be fine-tuned and so that researchers have a clear view of how the input data is processed.

But with such an approach, good models have huge potential. In the same way that climate models allow scientists to explore different ways we can influence the climate, good models of history could help historians study alternative outcomes.

One interesting idea is that there are certain points in history when circumstances ensured that there could be only one outcome, regardless of how the relevant actors behaved. For example, in 1914 the world is widely thought to have been on the precipice of war; so much so that the supposed trigger for the conflict—the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914—was inconsequential. Almost any act of international significance could have pushed Europe into war at that time.

But is that true? Computer models ought to be able to test this idea. And if it is true, how often throughout history have circumstances been such that no alternative outcomes were possible? How can we use this knowledge to prevent similar circumstances?

Readers of this blog will have been following the emergence of computational history as a discipline . Students are beginning to benefit. And a new breed of computational historian is surely set to emerge as well. The question now is how this new discipline will change the way we understand our past and use this newfound knowledge to benefit our future.

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Introduction: American Game Studies

Patrick Jagoda is professor of cinema and media studies, English, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. He is executive editor of Critical Inquiry and director of the Weston Game Lab. Patrick’s books include Network Aesthetics (2016), The Game Worlds of Jason Rohrer (2016, cowritten with Michael Maizels), and Experimental Games: Critique, Play, and Design in the Age of Gamification (2020). He has also coedited volumes including “Surplus Data: On the New Life of Quantity” ( Critical Inquiry , 2022) and The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and Science Since 1900 (2020).

Jennifer Malkowski is associate professor of film and media studies at Smith College. They are the author of Dying in Full Detail: Mortality and Digital Documentary (2017), the coeditor of Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games (2017), and the coeditor of the book series Power Play: Games, Politics, Culture (Duke University Press). Their work has also been published in Cinema Journal , Jump Cut , Film Quarterly , and the edited collections Unwatchable and Queers in American Popular Culture .

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Patrick Jagoda , Jennifer Malkowski; Introduction: American Game Studies. American Literature 1 March 2022; 94 (1): 1–16. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-9696959

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In 2017 , the American game designer Momo Pixel released the single-player, browser-based game Hair Nah . In this game, you play as Aeva, a Black woman taking trips to locations that include Osaka, Havana, and the Santa Monica Pier. As you move through levels on your journey—taking a taxi ride, traversing airport security, sitting on an airplane—you must slap away increasingly aggressive white hands that reach into the frame to touch your hair. Though Hair Nah taps into the genre of a casual button-mashing game, this interactive experience also explores the topic of microaggressions via unwanted hair touching. If you slap away enough hands on your travels, you reach a screen welcoming you to your destination with the message “YOU WIN!” but the caveat, “The game is over, but this experience isn’t. This is an issue that black women face daily. So a note to those who do it STOP THAT SHIT.”

How did video games move from a medium oriented toward adolescent male consumers and characterized by violent actions, such as shooting or fighting, to one that could also accommodate a playfully serious and cathartic exploration of a Black woman defending herself against racist bodily intrusions? Though video games still privilege violent mechanics and are far from diverse, especially in terms of designers and developers in the industry, the early twenty-first century has seen an expansion of the form of, and the culture surrounding, games. This has included a proliferation of game genres: puzzle-platformers (hybrids that combine spatial or cognitive puzzles with jumps across platforms as in Super Mario Bros. [Nintendo, 1983]); survival horror games (action-adventure games in which the player must persist in a threatening environment without adequate resources); time loop games (games that repeat a set period of time and encourage experimentation in the mode of the film Groundhog Day [Harold Ramis, 1993]); battle royale games (online multiplayer games in which players explore and gather resources while striving to be the final survivor), etc. And beyond entertainment, the variety of audiences addressed by digital games becomes apparent through terms such as artgames , indie games , serious games , casual games , gamification , citizen science games , and esports . Gradually, video games have also foregrounded the experiences of people of color, queer and trans folks, and other marginalized creators. Overall, video games have gone from their peripheral position as fun experiments created by mostly white, male, and cis computer engineers on machines intended for military and academic applications, to novelty arcade machines that might appear at pizza parlors, to an enormous worldwide industry that has surpassed the book, film, and music industries, now including an estimated 3 billion gamers worldwide ( Newzoo 2021 ).

While the United States is no longer the top video game market (China is), it has played an important part in the emergence, imagining, and culture of games, especially video games. This special issue explores the intersection of two academic fields: game studies and American studies. In preparing this special issue, we as coeditors have sought to explore the contributions of American studies—its methods, its worldview—to the interdisciplinary constellation of game studies through essays that pull from both of these fields. In preparing its introduction, we attempt to speak to multiple audiences, most especially readers of American Literature who may be new to game studies and scholars of game studies who may be new to this journal or the field of American studies. Ahead, we begin with some writing on game studies’ evolution that seeks to introduce this area of inquiry to readers in the former group, and to frame our particular perspective on it for readers in the latter group. Our second section looks more closely at the “American” in American studies and in this issue’s heuristic category of “American game studies.” Finally, we conclude by previewing and framing the seven essays ahead.

  • “Versus”: A Brief History of Game Studies, a Fruitfully Combative Field

While game studies is among the youngest academic disciplines and most visibly focuses on video games, the lineage of intellectual engagement with games is longer and broader than the formal field’s short history might indicate. A social interest in games—as metaphors, forms, and applied tools—dates back to such coordinates as nineteenth-century Prussian war games or Kriegsspiel , mid-twentieth-century research in economic game theory and American wargaming simulations during the Cold War, and the emergence of the serious games movement with Clark C. Abt’s book Serious Games ( 1970 ). An interest in games and play was already a feature of early work in computer science following World War II, including Claude E. Shannon’s important paper “Programming a Computer for Playing Chess” (1949) and Alan Turing’s ( 1950 ) “imitation game” concept that became central to artificial intelligence research. In the social sciences, games were a central organizing principle in classic books such as Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s cultural history of play Homo Ludens ( 1938 ), sociologist Roger Caillois’s formalist study Man, Play and Games ( 1961 ), and Marshall McLuhan’s media studies classic Understanding Media ( 1964 ), which includes a chapter about games and culture. Finally, games have played a central role in the humanities and the arts. Analog games were key to some of the most important concepts in twentieth-century critical theory, including Sigmund Freud’s ( 1920 ) “fort-da” game, Clifford Geertz’s ( 1973 ) “deep play,” and Jacques Derrida’s ( 1966 ) “free play.” Similarly, games have influenced twentieth-century art movements, including the Situationist International’s use of “play” as a guiding principle and the Fluxus collective’s creation of actual games and “events scores,” as in the work of artists such as George Maciunas, Yoko Ono, and Ben Patterson.

For all of these precursors, the interdisciplinary field of game studies, with an emphasis on video games, did not begin to emerge until the 1990s and 2000s—about four decades after the creation of the earliest (noncommercial) video games in the 1950s and about two decades after the rise of the commercial industry with the arcade era and the first wave of console gaming in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Game studies grew out of a vibrant cultural studies that had been expanding for several decades and the simultaneous advent of new media studies. Key institutional development occurred during this period, including the beginning of games-specific journals, such as Board Game Studies (1998) and Game Studies (2001), as well as the establishment of organizations, such as the Digital Games Research Association (2003) and Games for Change (2004).

As a fledgling field, game studies began with a debate, which arguably became more of a foundational myth than the divisive intellectual showdown it is often misremembered to have been. Nevertheless, this alleged rift signals competing energies that shaped the field early on and previews the approximately decennial schisms that would continue to structure it. All academic fields weather periods of sharp ideological disputes—ranging in tone from collegial disagreements to blood feuds—but it feels as if there is something special about the way these have defined game studies. Perhaps our chosen objects of inquiry reflect our natural penchant for competitive, often-binary contests (as in the fighting game genre, early games like Spacewar! [1962, Steve Russell] and Pong [1972, Atari], and resonant with the medium’s Cold War origins). But if that is the case, then our frequent engagement with such contests as play may cast our skirmishes in a different light and set us up to learn well from our opponents, ultimately strengthening both sides. Game studies—seen through the lens of its performances of competition, whether serious or playful—can function as a metagame.

This first debate’s groundwork was laid through some of the earliest humanistic writing focused on games and its origins in fields such as theater and performance studies and literary studies; it included Brenda Laurel’s Computers as Theatre ( 1991 ), Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace ( 1997 ), and Espen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature ( 1997 ). Each of these important works began with a focus on the formalistic properties and poetics of computational and interactive works, including video games. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, numerous scholars—such as Markku Eskelinen ( 2001 ), Gonzalo Frasca ( 2003 ), and Jesper Juul ( 1998 )—sought to define game studies as its own field. In distinction to the scholarship of Laurel, Murray, and Aarseth, which they characterized as narratology and saw as inflected by literary criticism, these writers posited a new field of ludology . This field deemphasized concepts derived from print literature or theatrical performance in favor of a medium-specific vocabulary for games. Terms such as rules , mechanics , challenges , and objectives dominated over analysis of narrative , character , or text . Though ludology attended to all games, there was a growing interest in digital games during this period, including the precise aesthetic qualities of digital works. This focus on the newer media of computer games and video games, which was shared by narratologists, included attention to a game’s procedural dynamics, navigable spaces, elements of participatory play, possibilities for dynamic decision-making, and more.

Though the narratology versus ludology debate looms largest in game studies, other schisms in the field followed, mapping new possibilities in terms of both methods and research areas. An important methodological divide that crystallized in the 2000s was that between proceduralism and anti-proceduralism (or play-centrism ). On the one hand, proceduralism, as introduced by Murray and elaborated by Ian Bogost ( 2007 ), focuses on the ways that games use rules and algorithmic processes to communicate meanings. In a formalistic mode, proceduralism asks scholars to analyze games via the systems that constitute games—interrelated and changeable components such as rules; objectives; textual, visual, or audio information; and mechanics—and often reveal their underlying ideologies. On the other hand, anti-proceduralism or play-centrism, as elaborated by scholars such as Miguel Sicart ( 2011 ), focuses on how players play games instead of on the games themselves. From this perspective, player experience and experimentation, as it manifests in culture, matters more than the underlying code or structure of a game. Though Sicart characterizes this as a disagreement, both proceduralist and play-centric scholarship have introduced a greater range of methods to game studies.

With the emergence of anti-proceduralism, we see the binary debates of the field productively pushing game studies to follow the path of other disciplines in the arts and humanities, such as literary studies or film studies: to expand from a hyperfocus on The Text to a more substantive engagement with its larger context. Anti-proceduralism called for an examination of the range of audience experiences of games—notably the commercial entertainment medium most likely to produce radically different experiences of the same text, because of its highly interactive and variable, often multiplayer, nature. In turn, a strong current of industry studies emerged within the discipline to examine the material and commercial context of games’ production and consumption. Work on esports has delved into the organized and highly monetized world of gaming competition. And a critical mass of scholars has engaged with the vast universe of video game paratexts online, researching everything from fan subcultures of specific franchises to game-based art to the booming business of livestreaming one’s own gameplay via platforms like Twitch.

The retreading of other disciplines’ intellectual paths occurred again in the 2010s when a new debate came to the fore, carrying with it shadows of game studies’ previous narratology versus ludology rift. The 2010s divide was between computational and representational approaches to game studies. A computational approach unfolded through subfields such as code, software, and platform studies that attended to the technical dimensions of video games by writers such as Nick Montfort and Bogost ( 2009 ), and Noah Wardrip-Fruin ( 2009 ). The approach made a sometimes-implicit, sometimes-explicit claim about what aspects of games were most important (hardware, software) and what type of knowledge and training scholars should possess to optimally study video games (computational). A representational approach—which sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly positioned itself against the computational—sought a larger platform for questions about identity (including across lines of race, gender, sexuality, and class) and representation, in games themselves and in the industries and cultures that produce and contain them. This latter approach has been adopted by numerous scholars including Shira Chess ( 2020 ), Mia Consalvo ( 2012 ), Anna Everett ( 2009 ), Tara Fickle ( 2019 ), Kishonna L. Gray ( 2020 ), Patrick Jagoda ( 2020 ), Carly A. Kocurek ( 2015 ), Soraya Murray ( 2018 ), Lisa Nakamura ( 2002 ), Laine Nooney ( 2013 ), Adrienne Shaw ( 2015 ), Jennifer Malkowski and TreaAndrea M. Russworm ( 2017 ), Christopher B. Patterson ( 2020 ), Amanda Phillips ( 2020 ), and Bo Ruberg ( 2019 ). As with other fields before it, game studies was now being called to examine the inclusions and exclusions at work not only in its texts but also within the academic discipline itself, and to see the familiar ways these have privileged white men as characters, players, and scholars. At the same time, those doing computational work pushed researchers interested in representation to stay accountable to the medium-specificity of video games, to acquire new knowledge and skills enabling that approach, and, in the process, to discover new implications of how representation works in this computational medium. Once again, the field’s cyclical return to binary contests was far from a zero-sum game, advancing research in complex ways and in multiple directions.

To be clear, even as there are genuine disagreements in game studies, they might be conceptualized at best as organizing heuristics and at worst as oversimplifications. Some of the most compelling scholarship within game studies today is not so clear cut. There are scholars who have analyzed games with balanced and interanimating approaches to narrative and gameplay, procedure and play, and technical and representational dimensions—including scholars listed above as emblematizing only one side of a debate. More than many other fields, game studies encourages ongoing discussions between theorists and designers, formalists and historians, and empiricists and artists who approach games from different perspectives. Even as polemics and differences persist, game studies in the early 2020s has become a more vibrant field that attends to the political dimensions of ludic forms, as well as the ways that games reproduce, animate, and challenge patterns within broader cultures.

  • Why “American” Game Studies?

In exploring “American game studies” in 2022, this volume emerges in the long wake of the structuring binaries we have outlined in game studies’ history, and our contributors demonstrate the generative influence of the field’s periodic schisms. By pairing game studies with American studies in this special issue, we hoped to gather work from an already interdisciplinary field (game studies) inflected with the broad methodological sweep of another arguably even more interdisciplinary field (American studies). The intention is not to claim games as originally, essentially, or primarily “American,” whether specific to the United States or more capaciously understood according to transnational approaches. Instead, this special issue is an experiment that brings together the methods and orientations of two fields that have often intersected only in implicit ways. In relation to game studies, we find especially important American studies’ strong lineages to and from cultural studies, critical race and ethnic studies, Asian American studies, Black studies, Indigenous studies, Latinx studies, gender studies, queer studies, disability studies, and transnational theory—many of which appear in force in the essays that follow. Through a grounding in American studies, we wanted to draw on the aggressive heterogeneity and creativity of this field—its penchant for expansive, rather than divisive, thinking.

[In the 1950s] practitioners of New Criticism were seen—and saw themselves—as specialists in precise textual analysis . . . whereas the Americanists were known as practitioners of the contextual (or historicist) approach . . . Text versus context: the extent, seriousness, and comprehensiveness of this archetypal division was then—still is—oversimplified and exaggerated. Nonetheless, the close formalist study of texts as if they had an autonomous existence . . . was greatly enlightening to apprentice Americanists. But of course there was no reason, logical or pedagogical, to assume that such a formalist method was irreconcilable with the study of the interplay between literary works and their social and cultural contexts.

“Text versus context” parallels “narratology versus ludology”—not in a direct analogy of terms but in the anxieties that scholars trained in earlier disciplines often bring to the formation of new ones. Those moments of formation are characterized by fundamental questions: Whose training matters most? What established methodology best applies? The interdisciplinary growing pains align whether it is literature and theater scholars facing off with computer scientists about how to write about Tomb Raider (1996, Core Design) or New Criticism’s practitioners of close reading disagreeing with cultural historians on the ideal methodological approach to analyzing a Jonathan Edwards sermon. Alongside such similarities in field debates, there are also notable differences between the disciplinary histories of American studies and game studies. For example, the fields have seen varied approaches to national divides. Though game studies has been US-centric in a number of ways, it has never introduced the type of sharp divide that persisted, for several decades, between American and British literature in English departments.

As Marx notes, text and context are stronger when coexisting and synthesizing in a field’s scholarship—and so it became in American studies, even as text and context’s earlier clash inflated into legend. This has been true of the binary terms of game studies’ debates, as well. American studies today, from our vantage and in an ideal form, favors an intellectual climate where such debates do not resolve with one side “winning” and dominating future discourse. Rather the field has supported the proliferation of multiple branches of inquiry—intermingling, in their best versions, as they mature. We admire this inclusive approach and we see it on display, in an exemplary manner, in our contributors’ writing for this special issue.

The most troubled concept in the history of American studies is the “American” itself and the notion of this category as internally coherent and inherently significant. Haunted by a Cold War ethos of American exceptionalism and a tendency toward US-centrism within the broader category of America, the field nuanced this titular term in the late twentieth century through anti-racist, feminist, queer, Indigenous, and working-class critiques of its previous conception of “American” and through a sharp turn toward a more transnational approach (Radway 1999 ; Fisher Fishkin 2005 ). American studies’ current best practices of questioning US-centrism and framing US works in a transnational context are deeply appropriate to game studies, as the United States is not the global leader in video game development, manufacture, or consumption—in contrast to some other popular culture industries. For example, some of the earliest and most successful video game hardware and software developers were Japanese, including Nintendo, Sega, Konami, Namco (later Bandai Namco), and Square Co. (later Square Enix). And since 2010, the Asia-Pacific region has produced the most revenue for the industry (47 percent in 2017 compared to 13 percent from the United States), with mainland China as the medium’s biggest profit center (Prato, Feijoo, and Simon 2014 ; Patterson 2020 : 7). As Patterson ( 2020 : cover copy) argues, video games are “an inherently Asian commodity: its hardware is assembled in Asia; its most talented e-sports players are of Asian origin; Nintendo, Sony, and Sega have defined and dominated the genre.”

Interestingly, many video game players in the United States likely have little sense that their nation does not, in fact, broadly dominate the market and culture of the medium, because video games’ national origins are often purposefully obscured. Game studios all over the world use localization processes to tailor their finished products for different national markets. Localization largely happens through translating on-screen text and re-recording speech in the target country’s language, but it can also involve removing images or thematic elements that violate that country’s laws or cultural mores. And so, many games developed in the industry hub of Japan, for example, will have shed the most obvious markers of their Japanese origins by the time a US player is starting them up, mouse or controller or phone in hand (games in the Mario franchise [1981–present, Nintendo] may be the most familiar example). Comparing video games to another popular entertainment industry, film, in this context illustrates the psychological and cultural impact of localization. Filmgoers in the United States seeing a live-action film produced outside of the United States will usually get many indications of its foreign origin—first and foremost a spoken language other than English with subtitles or dubbing, or at least performers speaking differently accented English (saving, perhaps, some Canadian productions). Less common in film (though somewhat common in television) is the medium’s more invasive version of localization: the full-on US remake. So when a given filmgoer’s annual movie consumption includes, say, 95 percent movies with English spoken in American accents, that filmgoer has an accurate sense that their film consumption is US-dominated (though they may miss the way US studios’ big-budget releases are no longer really made for the United States, catering more than ever to the more lucrative international market). Not so for the US gamer, who may be unknowingly immersed in content from Japan, England, Poland, Australia, and other leading centers for development.

In the years to come, a growing and increasingly transnational video game culture is likely to complicate persisting assumptions about a US-centric video game industry. It is our intention, then, to frame “American game studies” here not as an unexamined default for game studies, but as a site in this issue of purposeful, culturally specific, and transnationally expanded inquiry that draws on American studies’ methods.

  • An Essay Itinerary

This special issue of American Literature explores the intersections of American and game studies through a range of literary, historical, and cultural works, but primarily through a careful medium-specific and cultural attention to video games. The collected essays raise larger questions that include the following: How does game studies contribute to an expanded understanding of the United States, the Americas, and American interactions around the world? What role do games play in nation building and perceptions of national and border cultures? How do categories such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability influence the work of game designers and players in our time? How have representations in video games shaped broader American discourses about identity, especially in the early twenty-first century? How is worldbuilding in games influenced by racialized national imaginaries? How does attention to genres such as visual novels reveal a US-centrism that ignores the substantial production and consumption of video games across Asia? How do historical methods and historiographical approaches help us analyze video games that attempt to produce counterhistories of marginalized peoples? How have games grappled or failed to grapple with America’s colonial and genocidal history relative to Indigenous peoples?

We begin with an essay that directly tackles the aforementioned positions of America and Asia in video game industries and cultures: Christopher B. Patterson’s “Making Queer Asiatic Worlds: Performance and Racial Interaction in North American Visual Novels.” Patterson concentrates on what he defines as a deeply “Asiatic” video game genre, the visual novel: text- and characterization-heavy interactive digital narratives, with a prominent history of erotic content and, generally, a manga/anime visual aesthetic. Patterson uses this genre to expose the binary of Asia and America in relation to video games as limiting and illusory. Making the case that “transpacific game studies” is essential to navigating this largely Asian/American hybrid medium, Patterson examines the potential of Asiatic visual novels produced in North America to do reparative cultural work. These games aspire to create queer and anti-racist worlds, but they do so unevenly in a manner that maps onto the racial identities of their creators, with queer Asian/American designer Brianna Lei’s Butterfly Soup (2017) as best realizing the genre’s utopic promise. This game is read against Doki Doki Literature Club (2017, Dan Salvato), Analogue: A Hate Story (2012, Christine Love), and Heaven Will Be Mine (2018, Aevee Bee). As Patterson aptly puts it, “If games make the boundaries of Asia and America irrelevant, visual novels explore this irrelevance through Asiatic irreverence .”

From the recent ludic imagining of queer and anti-racist utopias, Bo Ruberg pulls us back several decades to a more harrowing period of queer history with “The Mystery of the Missing AIDS Crisis: A Comparative Reading of Caper in the Castro and Murder on Main Street .” Struck by the seeming absence of HIV/AIDS from video games, despite the AIDS crisis coinciding with a period of booming game development, Ruberg takes a magnifying glass to 1988’s Caper in the Castro (C. M. Ralph)—often recognized as the first LGBTQ video game—and its “straight” remake Murder on Main Street (1989, C. M. Ralph). Their investigation deftly reveals the absent presence of HIV/AIDS in both versions of this point-and-click detective game. Asking on one level if the AIDS crisis was really missing from video game representations in the 1980s and 1990s, Ruberg is also asking: has the AIDS crisis, and its ties to the queer community, been a persistent influence on games as a medium, despite the rarity of its explicit depiction? And more broadly still: in what ways do seemingly absent cultural topics haunt video games more subtly?

While Ruberg looks for the AIDS crisis in game history, Josef Nguyen expresses relief that a certain gay character did not appear. In “Reconsidering Lost Opportunities for Diverse Representation,” Nguyen closely examines an offhand statement from game producer David Mullich about his I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995, Cyberdreams Interactive Entertainment). Mullich recalled in a 2012 interview that in adapting I Have No Mouth from a 1967 Harlan Ellison story, the development team erased the backstory of one character, Benny, and may have thus created, “a lost opportunity to write a story about someone struggling with the challenges of being homosexual.” To really spin out the “contingent possibility” of representation that this statement (and, indeed, this genre of “lost opportunity” statements) evokes, Nguyen journeys analytically through fan studies, Deleuzian theory, speculative fiction studies, and queer game studies. Productive detours through the production and reception history of Tomb Raider and through Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) bring readers back to I Have No Mouth powerfully and ask them to think more deeply about the often-insidious implications of regret or longing for these “lost opportunities for diverse representation” in early game history.

From the lost histories and foreclosures of representation in games under neoliberalism in Ruberg and Nguyen’s essays, we turn to an even earlier history of games in American economic game theory, which precedes the emergence of video games. In “The Game Theory of Sex,” Arthur Z. Wang considers the role of game metaphors and forms across US society. Specifically, this essay focuses on the relationship between economic game theory and sexual game metaphors in American culture that occur in self-help books, song lyrics, and other types of cultural works. The essay does not engage in a mere application of game theory to sex or to relationality, an analytical move that economics itself might engage in, but instead it constructs a cultural history that is organized through game form. As a central aesthetic case, Wang focuses on Lydia Davis’s economic microfictions, such as the story “Go Away” (1997), as game theoretical models that operate via modes such as fictionality, antinarrativity, and self-fulfilling prophecy. The essay proposes that the cultural history of sexual games might contribute to a fuller account of the connections between game theory and contemporary gamification that make games a component of business, education, health, job training, and other domains.

With “Authentic-Deconstructionist Games and Tragic Historiography in Assassin’s Creed III ,” Stephen Joyce steers our issue toward the first in a pair of formative moments in American history, as rendered through twenty-first-century video games. Joyce focuses on the 2012 installment of Ubisoft’s bestselling Assassin’s Creed franchise, a series that offers historical fiction narratives from settings that include the twelfth-century Holy Land, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe, and the eighteenth-century Caribbean. Assassin’s Creed III focuses on the American Revolution. Joyce argues that this game belongs to an “authentic-deconstructionist genre” that explores the ways in which historical knowledge is constructed. In particular, this essay attends to the narrative of an Indigenous protagonist who attempts to defend his tribe from white settlers. The positioning of this narrative within a broader story of national origins undermines its historiographic accomplishment. Nevertheless, Joyce argues that the game and its downloadable content (DLC) expansions have succeeded in eliciting generative conversations and critical responses regarding the role of Indigenous people during the latter half of the eighteenth century.

Katrina Marks moves us chronologically forward with “‘My Whole Life I’ve Been on the Run’: Fugitivity as a Postracial Trope in Red Dead Redemption 2 .” Marks analyzes the titular western game, which had the second most profitable launch of any video game (second only to Grand Theft Auto V [2013, Rockstar North]), earning $725 million in its first three days and, as of early 2021, exceeding 36 million units sold (Parijat 2021 ). Marks turns to critical race and ethnic studies for the concept of “fugitivity,” which describes legal and geographic dimensions of policing that surveil, constrain, and endanger racially othered bodies. The essay attends to the narrative, spatial, and kinesthetic qualities of the video game in order to argue that the player becomes aligned with racialized others through a fugitive relationship to space. Despite various representational shortcomings, Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018, Rockstar Games) operates as a complex interactive work that invites a player to interrogate the rhetoric and logics of postracialism.

Marks attends to space, mapping, the United States’ expanding national borders, and the figures within those borders who are accepted or deemed fugitive. These thematic concerns set the stage for our final essay, Gary Kafer’s “Gaming Borders: The Rhetorics of Gamification and National Belonging in Papers, Please .” Kafer writes expansively about the subgenre of border games, considering the ways in which they bolster or challenge the concepts of borders and national belonging by rendering these through game structure and mechanics. The essay centers on close reading of the most emblematic border game, the disturbing and experimental indie classic Papers, Please (2013, Lucas Pope), in which the player takes on the tedious and high-stakes work of a border control agent checking documents. Kafer rhetorically pairs two states of flow: the flow of bodies through borders and the achievement of a flow state in gaming (one that may feel unsettling to attain in Papers, Please for players who oppose the ethos of state racism endemic to border security). Moving off-screen, Kafer weaves in the “gamification” of actual border control procedures in the United States. Ultimately, Kafer reveals the key element video games introduce that can offer sharp new insight into the operation and the idea of borders: failure.

Rather than suggesting a unified field of American game studies, this issue seeks to foreground present-day developments at this established intersection and to proliferate new possibilities for the future of the field. Moving across numerous genres—including visual novels, point-and-click games, AAA blockbuster games from major publishers, and smaller experimental games—the issue showcases the formal range of video games, as well as the wide applicability of methods in and around American studies—including transpacific studies, queer historiography, cultural history, critical race and ethnic studies, and border studies—to all corners of the medium. These genres and approaches are far from exhaustive. For example, game studies has much more to say about genres such as platformers or first-person shooters, phenomena such as citizen science games or esports, and major platforms such as mobile or Twitch livestreaming. Games and video games now encompass a far greater field of possibility than they did in their inaugural decades. Even so, our goal in this issue is to create new bridges between fields that have been in conversation, but would benefit from more intentional and precise connections.

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History of Game Development

The History of Game Development: From RPG to FPS

When you think of gaming, what comes to mind? Xbox? PlayStation? PC games? All of these things have become staples in our lives over the past few decades. But where did it all start? In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the history of game development, from its humble beginnings in text-based adventure and role-playing games (RPGs) to the first-person shooters (FPS) and open world games we know and love today. We’ll explore how technology has shaped game development since the 1970s and why game development is still such an important part of our culture today.

The early days of game development

The early days of game development were very different from what we see today. There were no big budget studios or AAA titles. Instead, there were small teams of passionate developers who worked on their projects in their spare time. The most popular type of game during this period was the text-based adventure game. These games relied heavily on the player’s imagination and gave them a great deal of freedom to explore the world they were in. One of the earliest and most successful text-based adventure games was Zork, which was released in 1977. Zork was developed by a team of four people at MIT and sold over half a million copies. It was so popular that it spawned a franchise that includes several sequels and spin-offs. Another popular genre during the early days of game development was the role-playing game (RPG). One of the earliest and most influential RPGs was Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), which was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. D&D inspired a whole new genre of games and is still played by millions of people today. The first commercially successful video game console was the Atari 2600, which was released in 1977. This ushered in a new era of gaming, as now people could play video games in their homes. The 2600 was followed by other consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Genesis. These consoles allowed for more complex games with graphics and sound that greatly improved over those

The rise of console gaming

history of games essay

The console gaming industry has been on the rise ever since the release of the first home video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, in 1972. With the release of more sophisticated consoles like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System, console gaming became a mainstream pastime. Today, there are dozens of different home video game consoles available on the market, ranging from budget-friendly options to high-end systems with 4K graphics and VR support. With the popularity of console gaming comes a rise in professional gamers. These athletes compete in tournaments for big prizes and earn a living off of their skills. The most popular games played professionally are first-person shooters (FPS) and MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games. Some of the most well-known professional gamers include Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who earned over $10 million in 2018 playing Fortnite, and Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan, who won over $6 million playing Dota 2. As professional gaming becomes more popular, we’re likely to see even more growth in the console gaming industry. New technologies like 5G and cloud streaming will make it easier than ever to play games on the go, and we can expect to see even more immersive experiences thanks to virtual reality (VR). With so much potential for growth, it’s an exciting time to be a gamer!

The advent of PC gaming

The late 1970s saw the advent of personal computer (PC) gaming. Games such as Zork and Star Trek: The War Game were developed for mainframe computers and sold commercially in conjunction with hardware vendors. However, the costs associated with these games prevented them from becoming widely popular. It was not until the early 1980s that PC gaming began to take off. This was due to two factors: the introduction of affordable home computers such as the Commodore 64, and the development of a new type of game known as the first-person shooter (FPS). The FPS genre was pioneered by games such as Castle Wolfenstein and Doom. These games put players in the shoes of a protagonist who must navigate through enemy-filled environments while shooting at anything that moves. They proved to be immensely popular, and their popularity only increased with the release of Quake in 1996. Quake popularized 3D graphics and multiplayer gaming, and laid the foundations for many of today’s most popular genres. Today, PC gaming is more popular than ever before. There are countless different genres to choose from, and new games are released on a daily basis. Whether you’re looking for an immersive singleplayer experience or some competitive multiplayer action, there’s sure to be a game out there for you.

The birth of online gaming

The birth of online gaming can be traced back to the early days of role-playing games. Early examples of online gaming include “MUDs” (multi-user dungeons), which were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. These early games were text-based, with players typing commands to control their characters. One of the earliest and most influential MUDs was “Adventure”, which was created in 1975. This game spawned many imitators, and is credited with popularizing the genre. The first commercial MUD, “Britannia”, was released in 1980. Online gaming really took off in the 1990s with the advent of graphical MUDs and the first MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games). These games allowed hundreds or even thousands of players to interact in real-time, creating a virtual world that could be explored and conquered. Some of the most popular early MMORPGs include “Ultima Online” (1997), “EverQuest” (1999), and “Dark Age of Camelot” (2001). These games laid the foundation for modern MMOs, which continue to grow in popularity to this day.

The mobile gaming revolution

The mobile gaming revolution has been driven by the proliferation of mobile devices and the ever-increasing demand for gaming content. Mobile games are typically designed for quick, easy gameplay and are often free-to-play or ad-supported. In recent years, mobile gaming has become increasingly popular, with estimates suggesting that there are now more than 2 billion active mobile gamers worldwide. The rise of mobile gaming has been accompanied by a number of significant trends, including the increasing popularity of ‘freemium’ games, the growth of esports, and the rise of independent game developers. These trends have had a major impact on the games industry as a whole, and on the way we play video games.

The future of game development

The future of game development is looking very bright. With the advent of new technologies, game developers are now able to create experiences that are more immersive and realistic than ever before. We are also seeing a shift towards more independent and smaller scale projects, as the barriers to entry for game development have lowered significantly in recent years. This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in game development, and we can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store for us.

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Home — Essay Samples — Entertainment — Video Games — Video Games Should Be Banned


Video Games Should Be Banned

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Essay on CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act): History, New Rules, and More

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  • Mar 14, 2024

Essay on CAA

Essay on CAA: The Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act on 11th December 2019 after long debates. CAA will provide Indian citizenship to the 6 minority communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who have been living illegally in India. These 6 communities are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Opposition, on the other hand, has claimed that the CAA is unconstitutional and will deprive the rights of citizenship.

Essay on CAA is often asked in academic tests and competitive tests. You need to understand all the dimensions of this newly enacted law to secure better marks. This page will discuss the history of the Citizenship Amendment Act, the new rules added by the Indian Government, and other important details. Stay tuned!

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Important points of the caa, history of the citizenship amendment act, caa new rules, is caa unconstitutional, why is caa controversial, what will be the outcomes of the caa.

  • The CAA will benefit thousands of Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis, who have been living in India illegally or on long-term visas (LTV).
  • CAA is only applicable to people who entered India illegally before 31st December 2014.
  • Individuals with any criminal records will not be eligible for Indian citizenship under the Foreigners Act, of 1946 and the Passport Act, of 1920 .
  • These two acts specify punishments for entering or residing illegally in India or staying after the expiration of their visas.
  • The Muslim community has been excluded from the CAA since the above-mentioned countries are Muslim-majority countries.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha (House of Commons) in 2016 as an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The Joint Parliamentary Committee concluded its report on the CAA Bil on 7th January 2019. On 8th and 11th January 2019, the CAA Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and was sent for the President’s assent. 

The Citizenship Amendment Act will provide Indian citizenship to 6 communities of India’s three neighboring countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who are minorities in their country. These 6 communities are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. 

Indian citizenship will be provided to only those individuals who have been residing in India before 21st December 2014. 

On 11th March 2024, the Indin Government revised the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019. These new rules will help in the implementation of this much-awaited controversial law. According to the CAA’s new rules, individuals belonging to any of these 6 communities must have the following documents issued by their country of origin:

  • Birth or Educational Institution Certificate.
  • Identification Card (of any kind).
  • Any license or certificate.
  • Land or tenancy records or any other official documents where their name and age are mentioned.

These documents are necessary to prove that the individual was once a resident of that country. Moreover, it will provide a sense of belonging to their identity.

*The documents listed above are not required for children in the age group of 5 to 11 years. This act relaxed the resident requirement for the neutralization of these children.

Read More On CAA:

Since the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the opposition has been claiming it is unconstitutional. They argue that the CAA, along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will benefit only non-Muslims. 

Moreover, there has been mass protest in Assam, where protestors are claiming that this act contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985 , which states that illegal migrants residing after 25th March 1971 from Bangladesh must be deported back.

Estimates claim that more than 2 crore illegal Bangladeshi migrants are currently living in Assam and are responsible for the depletion of natural resources and inflation in the state.

However, the CAA is not unconstitutional. The government has considered all the dimensions and has explained all the rules of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which will provide Indian citizenship to people living in India illegally before 31st December 2014.

Also Read: Capital Punishment Essay for Students in English: 250 and 500 Words

CAA has become a controversial topic, and it is very important to understand all the dimensions of this newly enacted law. 

  • The government claims that the CAA will provide Indian citizenship to the 6 minorities of India’s neighbouring countries. 
  • The opposition groups have been claiming this act was discriminatory against the ‘Muslims’, the ‘Rohingya Hindus of Myanmar, and the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’. 
  • Critics argue that the CAA violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the Right to Equality before the Law and the principle of Secularism , enlisted in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.

The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 amended the Citizenship Act of 1955. This act will provide Indian citizenship to 6 religious communities; Hindus Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, and Christians, who fled their countries before December 2014 due to fear of religious persecution.

The government has revised the rules of the CAA for its smooth implementation. CAA will benefit thousands of the above-mentioned 6 communities, who have been living in India illegally or whose visas or legal permits have expired. 

Ans: The Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act on 11th December 2019 after long debates. CAA will provide Indian citizenship to the 6 minority communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who have been living illegally in India. These 6 communities are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Opposition, on the other hand, has claimed that the CAA is unconstitutional and will deprive the rights of citizenship.

Ans: The CAA will benefit thousands of Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis, who have been living in India illegally or on long-term visas (LTV). – CAA is only applicable to people who entered India illegally before 31st December 2014. – Individuals will any criminal records will not be eligible for Indian citizenship under the Foreigners Act, of 1946 and the Passport Act, of 1920.

Ans: CAA is not unconstitutional. The opposition political parties have claimed the CAA as unconstitutional because this act does not include the Muslims, Hindu Rohingyas and Sri Lankan Tamils.

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History of Games

The first game that was invented was a diced game and the purpose of it was to pass the people through a grave famine. It was invented in the Kingdom of Lydia by a king named Herodotus. The king decided that one day the people would eat and the second day the people would play games and so forth. The famine lasted for 18 years and they were able to survive; however, for one winter the famine increased and there wasn’t enough food for everyone.

The king decided for the people to play a dice game which would decide who will go out into the world and explore in order to find a new place to live while just enough people remained behind so that the food would last them (McGonigal). The following historical anecdote might sound like a normal, exciting story, although it carries out a deep message.


First, it sounds like a Video games story plot and secondly it shows us how games are beneficial to us and how they can be of use to humanity.

Multiple people today accuse video games as a source of wasting time or a source of corruption for many generations. Despite the stigma surrounding video games, they have been proven to have a positive contribution to our children’s skills development and community.

History of Video Games

Video games have been around for almost 60 years, since 1958. Throughout the 60-years video games have evolved in various way and come in many forms. Today, video games come on virtual reality, or on consoles such as PS4 and Xbox, or on computers, or even on phones.

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The more video games evolve the more people are attracted to them. According to the Entertainment Software Association(ESA) – a U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet- “About 67% of Americans or 211 million people” play video games and this number will continue to rise according to many experts. As the number of public attractions increase, so does the evolving of the industry. “Americans spent a record of $36 billion on video games last year, and demographics show that number is expected to go up …” (Bhardwaj, Prachi). Since they have been able to attract so many people, they were able to attract various group age. This started to make people question what is the importance of video games in our lives and why is it attracting so many people with various group ages at such a fast rate? Although Adolescents and younger pupils are getting attracted today at an increasing rate than older people, this may have had different effects on their skill development and concepts of gender equality.

Video Games Today

We see today that there is almost an equal number of both female and male gamers. According to George Osborn founder of Go Editorial, a content marketing company that supports companies in the video games industry, 46% of Gamers are women while 54% of gamers are men. On top of that, Video games have been proven to be one of the most Non-gendered media which means that it portrays men and women equally and not only does it portray them equally, but also provides both of them with an equal chance at achieving the same goal with equal difficulty without discrimination. Michael Kimmel a distinguished professor at Stony Brook University and the State University of New York. Also, a leading researcher and writer on gender, men and masculinity, and also the author or editor of numerous books and articles including The Gendered Society Reader Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors, Society, and Manhood in America proves the fact that the concept of sexism and gender inequality exists in our society, and how women are underrepresented. Therefore, Video games are not only promoting equality among all but also teaching it as well to the younger generations even if it isn’t pointed out directly.

Video games are usually inspired by a real-life event that occurred in our history or our imagination of what the future will be like. For instance, Assassin Creed Black Flag is a game that reflects a series of events that occurred during the Renaissance to the War of Independence to the Age of Piracy. The Assassin or the gamer tries to develop a strategy to conquer all the territories on the map. Another game is Call of Duty: WWII which reflects the history of World War II from a soldier’s points of view. Other strategy games are sports games such as FIFA or NFL. One game that shows what the future is Spider-Man 2022, which reflect a world with advanced technology such as flying cars and a lot of robots. The point is that video games provide many opportunities for learning and building creative and innovative ideas.

Video games are “natural teachers” according to Dr. Douglas A. Gentile – an expert in his field, a talented writer, and co-authored a book titled Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents. By natural teachers, he is referring to the mechanism in which video games introduce new skills to the gamer which they use multiple time throughout the game plot. Practicing that skill over and over provides the gamer to advance the part of the brain responsible for coordination and memory, also known as the Hippocampus. Advancing such part of the brain help those players to prevent achieving diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s as they grow older. Other improvements that Dr. Gentile mentions are “… visual attention to the periphery of a computer screen.… collaboration skills”. Collaborating is a crucial skill that applies everywhere in school and at the workspace. Speaking of collaborating skills Jane McGonigal, a video games programmer, and researcher at the Institution of the Future, talks about the development of games that thrives people to solve worldwide problems. One of the examples that she mentions is SuperStruct, which is game where the world is about to go extinct in 23 years and everyone is on the team and they are responsible to save it. There were about 8,000 participants that played for 8 weeks and introduced 500 new extortionary ideas that are creative and innovative. On top of that video games reinforces the presuming of good habit due to rewarding the players for their good actions like plus one health or plus one strength. This concept doesn’t exist in the outside world, so games help to train players to presume these good habits even after playing. The concept of having many chances to perform a certain task is something that also doesn’t exist in the world which provides the player to learn from his or her mistakes as he or she is repeating the task, in which they failed to complete. Leading to the understanding of mistakes in which they have performed and why the strategy they performed won’t work. This serves as a good mechanism of training in the health care professional careers.

Today, Video games come in many forms. One of the most recently developed forms is virtual reality. Virtually reality is exactly what it sounds like, a fake world where a person enters by using Virtual reality glasses to do whatever he or she wishes and escape reality. Since it’s a made-up world created by us, we were able to develop a program for the health care professional careers like a surgeon and pharmacists. Using this program allows a surgeon to practice surgery before actually performing which reduces the risks of death when performing the surgery. This is due to the fact that they use these Virtual reality programs to stimulate the outcomes if they perform a certain action during the surgery. As for pharmacists and nurses, it provides an opportunity for them to live-in real-life situations and practices on how to deal with patients depending on the workplace in which they are placed in. Providing practice for younger generation studying to be in such health care professional careers, so they have the optimum amount of knowledge when they are ready to be assigned to their field of practice. Although video games have proven to be beneficial in multiple ways, many still do believe that there consequences far out way their positive effects.

Effects of Video Games

Video games produce effects such as addiction which may seem incomparable with the benefits that we gain from video games; however, the following negative effects would not be produced in a controlled environment. Parents are the caregivers, the captains of the ship which guides their child’s development, so it’s important that they guide that ship in the right direction. It’s important that we understand that parents need to give enough time for the child to play to develop advantageous skills and not adverse symptoms such as addiction, obesity, and even Social separation. Doctor Jesus Pujol and his colleagues, at the hospital Del Mar, conducted a research in 2016 that investigates the correlation between playing video games weekly and certain cognitive abilities development and related problems in development. They concluded that playing video games for one hour per week was associated with positive motor skills and higher school achievement scores. But no further benefits were observed in the children playing more than two hours each week. Hannah Nichols, a journalist who writes about medical and health content for patient, health care professional, obstetrician, gynecologist and midwifery audiences in the specialist area of stem cell processing and research, states that “72 percent of gamers aged 18 or older”, this is good because most of the developing stages that occur in humans are from eight to fourteen years of age, also known as puberty. Nonetheless, the remaining 28 percent includes kids within the developing ages which would lead to the point that parents must observe when buying games what kind of the content does the game include and how it can affect the child playing them. However, this may not seem as big issue because according to the ESA-entertainment software association- “94 percent of parents say they pay attention to the video games played by their child”. On top of that, they Claim that 70% of gamers parents believe that “video games are a positive part of their child’s life.” Not only are they important for the child’s growth, but also for economic growth.

Video games industries have made “36 billion-dollar revenue” last year, and the number according to experts should increase within the upcoming years. Also, they provide over 220, 000 jobs for people throughout the United States according to the ESA. On top of that, there are about 500 million gamers in the world and within the next decade the number is expected to increase by 1 billion, so this would result in 1.5 billion gamers states, McGonigal. As the number of gamers increases the demand for games will increase, which would lead to more demand for the production of games. This is a basic economic shift in the demand and supply curves. The meaning of the following concept is that more players are going to need more games, so more games are going to need to be created by the manufactures. The manufacturers are going to need more supplies and in order to create more supplies, we need more workers and more video games programmers. Making more jobs available to the population. Although later on in the future this concept might not be implied since buying games online is becoming more popular but at a slow rate because of such factors as hacking.

Video games provided a positive contribution to our economy, to our education, and our children’s developing skills and ability. It’s time to observe and recognize these positive contributions and leave the empty half of the cup behind and focus on the full half of the cup. Video games may have a negative effect if used abusively and inconsiderable, but if used correctly we can benefit more and survive through our own famine just like the kingdom of Lydia. This is why it’s important to urge the parents to lead and teach their kids to have a sense of responsibility when using video games, and maybe through playing more we can solve worldwide problems like global warming or world starvation in places like the African contents or even find a way to live on Mars, and so on. It’s time that we Advance the younger generations, so they can accomplish goals that our ancestors and even us weren’t able to achieve. Let us put our hopes in younger generations and video games. who knows maybe one day the younger generations can even attend school in virtual reality, which would give our children more fun, safer, and real experience.

  • Bhardwaj, Prachi. “Americans Spent a Record $36 Billion on Video Games Last Year, and Demographics Show That Number Is Expected to Go up in 2018.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 12 June 2018, www.businessinsider.com/americans-spent-record-36-billion-video-games-2017-charts-2018-6.
  • Campbell, Colin. “Truth and Fantasy in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag.” Polygon, Polygon, 22 July 2013, www.polygon.com/2013/7/22/4543968/truth-and-fantasy-in-assassins-creed-4-black-flag.
  • Gentile, Douglas A. “Video Games Affect the Brain-for Better and Worse.” Dana Foundation – Home, 23 July 2009, www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2009/Video_Games_Affect_the_Brain%E2%80%94for_Better_and_Worse/.
  • “Industry Facts.” The Entertainment Software Association, www.theesa.com/about-esa/industry-facts/.
  • McGonigal, Jane. “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, 2014, www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world/up-next?language=en.
  • Nichols, Hannah. “How Video Games Affect the Brain.” Medical News Today, Med Lexicon International, 10 July 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318345.php.
  • Nielsen , Mark, and Morgan J. Tear . “Video Games and Prosocial Behavior: A Study of the Effects of Non-Violent, Violent and Ultra-Violent Gameplay.” Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 26 Sept. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563214004415#.
  • Pujol, Jesus, et al. “Video Gaming in School Children: How Much Is Enough?” Annals of Neurology, vol. 80, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 424–433. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/ana.24745.
  • Sacirbey, Susan. “VIDEO GAMES and THEIR EFFECT on MODERN DAY SOCIETY.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/montclair-diplomats/video-games-and-their-eff_b_9873646.html.
  • Smuz , Lisa. “Ask the Expert: How Do Video Games Affect Mental Health?” Each Mind Matters, www.eachmindmatters.org/ask-the-expert/ask-the-expert-how-do-video-games-affect-mental-health/.
  • “Virtual Reality in Healthcare.” Virtual Reality Society, 22 June 2018, www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-healthcare/.

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LeBron James surpasses 40,000 career points as NBA legend burnishes legacy

LeBron James surpassed 40,000 career points during Saturday night’s home game between his Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, further solidifying his place in the NBA record books.

James, who has held the pro basketball league’s record for most career points since last year, was within 9 points of the achievement going into the game. A layup in the second quarter had James reach 40,000 points, and another layup ensured he surpassed the mark.

When James reached the history-making number, L.A. fans jumped to their feet. Amid a subsequent timeout, a brief ceremony was held, and a video commemorating some of James’ achievements, “LeBron James ‘Scoring King’ Career Mixtape,” was played at the venue.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James acknowledges fans after scoring to become the first NBA player to reach 40,000 points in a career during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The player with four NBA championships on his resume said it was a “special” moment when he looked toward his daughter, 9-year-old Zhuri, as he realized he made history with the first layup.

“My daughter was just clapping, and you know like pumping her arms up in the air,” James said during a postgame news conference. “So that was a super cool moment. Blew her a kiss, she blew one back to me.”

James finished the game with 26 points, but the night’s glow was fleeting, as the Lakers fell 114-124 after the defending champions went on a 9-point run late in the fourth.

James’ presence on the hardwood wasn’t a certainty Saturday night.

On Friday, the NBA echoed a report by LakersNation.com stating that the Lakers had listed James as questionable for the Nuggets game because of pain and swelling in his left ankle. But James has been known to play, and play well, regardless of how he’s listed.

Lakers fans basked in another James high mark, but play for his home state’s Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as for the Miami Heat, contributed to his career total.

With another milestone, his 40th birthday, coming later this year, James’ superlative performances have come amid what is retirement age for almost any pro athlete.

In February, James became the first NBA player to start in 20 All-Star games, this year as captain of the West. He scored 8 points in a self-limited 14 minutes of play as the East prevailed 211-186.

“The most important thing for me is definitely my health,” James said at the time.

He’s played more minutes than any other NBA player, past or present, and upon his expected return next season, he’ll match Vince Carter, eight-time All-Star and retired Toronto Raptors guard-forward, for most seasons: 22.

But despite the plethora of accomplishments, he still has professional goals.

James has said he wants to play in the NBA with his sons, University of Southern California combo guard Bronny , a college freshman, and Sierra Canyon School shooting guard Bryce, a high school sophomore.

On Feb. 7, 2023, James scored his 38,388th point  in a home game against the Oklahoma Thunder, surpassing former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points. The achievement elevated him to the all-time top scorer position.

After Thursday’s Lakers win over the Washington Wizards 134-131 in overtime, James suggested reaching 40,000 is another metaphorical offspring of his career — precious, but not nearly as significant as his firstborn, besting Abdul-Jabbar’s total.

“No one has ever done it,” he said of scoring 40,000 career points at the postgame news conference on Thursday. “For me to be in this position at this point in time in my career, I think it’s pretty cool. Does it sit at the top of the things I’ve done in my career? No. Does it mean something? Of course. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t it?”

Remaining the league’s all-time points leader isn’t guaranteed.

Among today’s top 10 career scorers, there’s only one other active player — Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns — who had 38,113 points through Friday and, at 35, may have plenty of points ahead.

A number of younger players may be building a challenge to James’ record as the world considers his legacy, as well.

Slovenian forward-guard Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks was the 2023-24 season’s leading scorer. On Christmas night, a 3-pointer against the Phoenix Suns pushed him past 10,000 career NBA points. On Wednesday, he turned 25.

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 25; the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, 29; the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell Jr., 27; and Durant completed the list of the season’s top-five scorers.

On Thursday, James’ 31-point performance helped the Lakers prevail against the Wizards, and it got him within nine points of the 40,000 points mark.

At the postgame news conference, James noted that he still has the job of all-time scorer, and he made it clear he will defend his fortress of points.

“It was never a goal of mine when I came into the league, like I wanted to be the all-time leading scorer,” he said.

“But I’m still playing, so...” he said, trailing off.

“It’s going to continue to go up,” he said of his career total, “until I’m done playing.”

history of games essay

Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital. 

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Guest Essay

‘This Could Well Be Game Over’

The Supreme Court building in Washington, seen from behind a rain-spattered window.

By Thomas B. Edsall

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

While the Supreme Court ruling on Monday that states cannot bar Donald Trump from appearing on their presidential ballots garnered a lot of attention, the more politically consequential decision came on Feb. 28, when the court set a hearing on Trump’s claim of presidential immunity for the week of April 22.

That delay is both a devastating blow to President Biden’s campaign and a major assist to Trump’s multipronged effort to minimize attention to the details of the 91 felony charges against him.

It increases the likelihood that neither of the two federal indictments of Trump will come to trial before the November election. A failure to hold at least one of these trials before Nov. 5 would undermine a key Democratic goal: to expand voters’ awareness of the dangers posed by a second Trump term.

Those trials, should they occur, are very likely to produce a flood of daily headlines and television broadcasts describing Trump’s role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and his sequestering of classified government documents in his Mar-a-Lago home — a media onslaught reminiscent of the Senate Watergate hearings , which stretched out over 51 days in 1973.

“Early on, I called the federal election subversion case potentially the most important case in this nation’s history ,” Richard L. Hasen , a law professor at U.C.L.A., wrote on his Election Law Blog . “And now it may not happen because of timing, timing that is completely in the Supreme Court’s control. This could well be game over.”

Whether the trials are held before the election is crucial to the outcome, for at least two reasons.

First, a surprisingly large segment of the electorate has either no idea or slight knowledge of the charges against Trump. Increased knowledge of these charges can only work to Biden’s advantage.

Second, a key element of the Biden campaign’s strategy is to mobilize what political strategists are calling the anti-MAGA majority . Many anti-MAGA voters cannot be relied on to turn out unless the threat of a Trump-MAGA victory is put squarely before them — something the trials would help accomplish.

A Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 YouGov survey asked voters whether they knew a) that Trump has “been charged with falsifying business records to conceal hush-money payments to a porn star,” b) that he “has been charged with taking highly classified documents from the White House and with obstructing efforts to retrieve them,” c) that he “has been charged with conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election” and d) that he “has been charged with attempting to obstruct the certification of a presidential election.”

Of those surveyed, 20 to 25 percent said they did not know, and 20 to 25 percent said they were “not sure” what the charges against Trump were; in other words, nearly half of those surveyed had little or no comprehension of the array of allegations against him.

A Jan. 25 to 29 YouGov survey asked a different question: “How much have you heard about” each of the indictments? In this case, independent voters, who will play a large role in determining the outcome of the 2024 election, were far less familiar with the charges than Democrats and Republicans.

More than half of Republicans (55.5 percent) and Democrats (50.7 percent) told YouGov they had heard “a lot” about the indictments, compared with 41.7 percent of independents.

These poll findings pose interesting challenges for political analysts. While political professionals differ in the details of the strategies they believe Biden should adopt, the Supreme Court decision to postpone adjudication of Trump’s immunity claims is a genuine setback.

Nate Silver , the founder of 538 , argued that Biden needs to adopt a persuasion strategy to persuade voters who supported Biden in 2020 but now support Trump to return to the Democratic fold.

“Democrats usually assume that they win elections” through “turnout rather than persuasion,” Silver wrote in a recent Substack post . “It’s not a crazy proposition, by any means. But it looks like a losing approach for 2024.”

As recently as 2012, according to Silver, putting resources into increasing turnout proved effective in large part because the overall electorate was decisively more Democratic than Republican, 38 to 32.

Since then, Silver wrote, “Democrats have lost their edge on party ID in many polls. In Gallup polling throughout 2023, for instance — in contrast to the Democratic edge in 2012 — the same percentage of Americans (27 percent) identified as Democratic and Republican, with 43 percent identifying as independent.” Recent Gallup polling found that when asked whether they lean to either party, independents now split evenly between voting Democratic and Republican.

Silver analyzed details of a recent Times/Siena poll to show “the potential dangers for Democrats of the base-turnout focus”:

The poll asked voters who they voted for in 2020 as well as who they plan to vote for in November. This produced a big gap; Biden actually led by 12 points in the recalled 2020 vote, but he trails Trump by 5 points in 2024 voter preferences: 2020 recalled vote (excluding nonvoters): Biden 53 percent, Trump 41 percent. 2024 vote (including leaners): Trump 48 percent, Biden 43 percent.

This is, Silver continued, “a bad data point for the White House. In the poll, only 83 percent of voters who say they chose Biden in 2020 plan to vote for him this year, whereas 97 percent who voted for Trump plan to vote for Trump again.”

More important, these Biden defectors are not part of the Democratic base, Silver argued:

If Biden is retaining only 83 percent of his 2020 vote overall, that implies he’s doing quite poorly with people who voted for him in 2020 but who are not loyal Democratic primary voters. Only about 75 percent of this group say they’ll vote for Biden again.

Silver’s conclusion?

If they want to maximize their chances of winning in November, Democrats ought to focus on this group of vote-switching swing voters first, and the base second.

Adam Carlson — a former Democratic pollster who still aggregates data on voting trends among key subgroups from several surveys — has gathered material supportive of Silver’s argument that Democrats need to restore loyalty among past Democratic voters now considering voting for Trump.

In a Feb. 28 posting on X, Carlson wrote: “The seven subgroups that are paying the least attention to the 2024 election are the same seven subgroups that are swinging the most toward Trump in the polls.”

Specifically, after combining data from polls conducted Feb. 1 to Feb. 27, Carlson found that 17 percent of independents were paying attention to the election and that this group had shifted 26.3 points toward Trump compared with their actual vote in 2020.

Similarly, 27 percent of Hispanics said they were following the election, while their vote intentions had moved 16 points toward Trump since 2020. Carlson described similar trends for low-income, young, Black and moderate voters.

Michael Podhorzer , a former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and a founder of the Analyst Institute , makes two basic assumptions in calculating effective Democratic strategies this year.

The most important premise underpinning Podhorzer’s analysis is that anti-MAGA voters make up a majority of the electorate. The second assumption is that this anti-MAGA majority is made up of two parts, the first being reliable voters who consistently turn out on Election Day and the second consisting of low-turnout, unreliable voters who need to be repeatedly warned in detail of the dangers posed by the election of Trump and his allies.

“The ‘anti-MAGA majority’ is the most important dynamic in our elections today,” Podhorzer wrote in a Feb. 28 posting on his Substack newsletter, “ Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport ”:

When the question is called, most Americans don’t want a MAGA future. Of the 178 million Americans who have voted at least once beginning in 2016, about 94 million have voted against MAGA, and about 84 million have voted for MAGA.

The “dangerous mistake” Democrats are quite likely to make going into the November election, Podhorzer argued,

is to take for granted that the ordinary voters who will decide this election will invariably make their decisions based on whether they judge Biden or Trump better able to perform the presidency, rather than on what they and their families have to lose if Trump and MAGA win. The evidence of voter behavior since 2016 tells us that people will do the latter, as long as these stakes are made clear to them. But if we treat this like a normal election — just another round of single combat between two individuals, Joe Biden and Donald Trump — Trump and MAGA could win.

A crucial bloc of voters, according to this view, is composed of “newly engaged voters — those who only entered (or rejoined) the electorate in 2018 or later — and who have been driving historically high turnout, and have been breaking dramatically, and consistently, for Biden and Democrats when the stakes have been a MAGA future.”

In support of his analysis, Podhorzer pointed to the 2022 midterm elections. Those contests are “best understood as two different elections — one in the key battlegrounds, where voters understood the stakes and turned out in droves to reject MAGA; the other where voters did not understand the stakes and turned out at low levels more typical of a midterm, allowing the predicted Red Wave to occur.”

Podhorzer provided data to back up his claim: In 2022, turnout nationwide fell by four points, to 46 percent, compared with 50 percent in 2018 — which was widely perceived as a referendum on Trump. Democrats suffered a net loss of nine House seats in 2022.

In the states where Republicans ran MAGA candidates in competitive races for statewide office — Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan — turnout from 2018 to 2022 remained constant at 53 percent, and Democrats gained four House seats.

The bottom line: “When people don’t recognize those stakes, they stay home,” which then “leads us to the unacknowledged problem with the anti-MAGA majority dynamic for Democrats,” Podhorzer wrote. “Their majorities in the Electoral College battleground states depend on sustaining ahistorically high turnout and support from people who were not regular voters in 2016.”

Not only are these voters “alienated from partisan politics”; they also “lack confidence in Democrats’ governing ability.”

At the same time, Podhorzer added, “not only are most voters now not paying attention to Trump’s legal troubles, they know next to nothing about what he’s said on the campaign trail about what he will do if elected again, let alone the very specific and chilling agenda his allies have assembled in the event he wins a second term.”

Because so many of the anti-MAGA voters are not enthusiastic about Biden, Podhorzer wrote, Democrats need to make the case that “in November, we are not choosing a leader; we are choosing the nation we will become.”

The federal trials that now appear as though they may be deferred until after the election — possibly permanently deferred — may well have persuaded hesitant voters that American constitutional government was on the ballot.

Celinda Lake , a Democratic pollster, argued in an email that in the drive to mobilize low-turnout voters, it is not so important whether Trump goes on trial but whether he is convicted: “It’s not trials but convictions that matter. If Trump is convicted of a criminal felony by a jury, of plotting to overturn or steal the election, that will matter.” Lake added: “A Trump conviction would increase voting among low-turnout Democratic men, and it would come second to abortion in mobilizing low-turnout Democratic women.”

In a Dec. 26 Times guest essay, “A Trump Conviction Could Cost Him Enough Voters to Tip the Election,” Lake; Norman Eisen , the special counsel for the 2019-20 impeachment of Trump; and Anat Shenker-Osorio , a political consultant, wrote:

Why do the polls register a sharp decline for Mr. Trump if he is convicted? Our analysis — including focus groups we have conducted and viewed — shows that Americans care about our freedoms, especially the freedom to cast our votes, have them counted and ensure that the will of the voters prevails. They are leery of entrusting the Oval Office to someone who abused his power by engaging in a criminal conspiracy to deny or take away those freedoms.

Why is a conviction so much more important than an indictment?

Lake, Eisen and Shenker-Osorio wrote:

Voters understand that crime must be proved. They recognize that in our legal system there is a difference between allegations and proof, and between an individual who is merely accused and one who is found guilty by a jury of his peers.

Whit Ayres , a Republican pollster, described in an email the cross-pressures on voters, particularly Republican voters in the event of a trial and, possibly, a conviction:

The exit polls for G.O.P. primary voters asked if voters would consider Trump unfit for office if he is convicted of a crime, and the numbers were significant: 31 percent in Iowa, 47 percent in New Hampshire and 36 percent in South Carolina. But that tells you nothing about how these people would vote in a Trump-Biden race, because they also likely consider Biden unfit because he’s too old to run again.

Another key factor, Ayres wrote, is “which trial we are considering. If I were designing a case that would be easy for Republicans to dismiss as a partisan witch hunt, it would be the Alvin Bragg-Stormy Daniels hush-money case in New York.”

Conversely, Ayres continued, “the Jack Smith indictments — classified documents and the Jan. 6 insurrection — are far more serious and could conceivably change some voters’ minds if they come to trial before Election Day. But recent events and the current calendar make that highly unlikely.”

Overall, Ayres was dismissive of the potential of the trials to determine the outcome of the election: “If Democrats want to defeat Trump, they need to get Biden to step aside and nominate someone who would be truly competitive with Trump, which Biden is not right now. Putting their hope in trials that haven’t happened yet is a pipe dream.”

Ayres’s last point about Biden’s age raises the question: Can the Biden campaign somehow lessen or mute concerns about his ability to perform the tasks essential to the presidency? Can it shift public attention to the broad range of Trump liabilities and to the threats, coming from Trump himself and many others, that a second Trump administration would pose to American democracy, its Constitution and the rule of law?

These doubts as to Biden’s competence have remained a dominant public concern — despite a significantly improving economy with average annual G.D.P. growth for the first three years of the Biden administration at 3.4 percent, outpacing the 2.6 percent during the first three years of the Trump years, declining rates of inflation and an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.

The Biden campaign will not be lacking in one crucial resource: campaign cash. Biden’s campaign committee has raised $107.6 million as of early February, according to Open Secrets , compared with $85.3 million by Trump’s committee. The pro-Biden super PAC, Future Forward, has, in turn, announced plans to spend $250 million in the current election cycle, much of it in the weeks before Nov. 5.

No matter the size of Biden’s cash advantage, campaign spending will be most effective if the campaign has concrete material to work with — something a timely Trump trial would provide.

In 2000 the Supreme Court, with a Republican-appointed majority, decided a presidential election in the Republican candidate’s favor. There is something very wrong with our democracy if this happens twice in less than a quarter-century.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here's our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , X and Threads .

Thomas B. Edsall has been a contributor to the Times Opinion section since 2011. His column on strategic and demographic trends in American politics appears every Wednesday. He previously covered politics for The Washington Post. @ edsall


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