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Who Invented Video Games?

who invented video games

Learn who invented video games as we take you through the history of video games.

The video game may have started its life as an infant several decades ago, but today it has grown into a mature and sophisticated adult. 

Video games began as simple consoles that displayed minimalistic colors and shapes.  The games featured simple story lines and uncomplicated tasks designed for video game players to perform. 

These early video games relied on the player’s reflex and precision to overcome simple obstacles. 

Today, video games are beautifully and intricately designed. 

Video games feature realistic characters, scenes, and situations which require a complicated problem-solving strategy to overcome the presented obstacles. 

Many avid video game players wonder about the history of video games.  Who invented video games? Was it an individual who was bored with the chessboard, or an upstart computer programmer looking to make a quick fortune?  The answer may surprise you.

The Truth Behind Who Invented Video Games?

The earliest video games were not considered games at all.  The simplest of computers was programmed to assist the government in military missile defense. 

As this programming was revealed to the public, intelligent computer programmers began to realize that the computer could be used as a pleasure device and not simply a scientific tool.

Thomas Goldsmith, a computer programmer who worked in the 1940s is credited with the design of the first video game.  He submitted a patent to the United States government for a computer program that would simulate an airplane pilot’s targeting and shooting of enemy ships. 

His design was simple:it involved only aiming the light projected from a cathode ray tube at pinpoints of light on a designated screen. 

This video game was never actually produced: its existence lies only in the theory and the patent.

The Next Step in Video Games

A few years later, a young television technician named Ralph Baer came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea. 

Ralph wondered what the reaction would be to a television set that could be controlled by the viewer, allowing them to manipulate what they were seeing on the screen. 

This leap in thought could possibly have been the beginning of modern video games. 

Unfortunately, Baer’s supervisor rejected the idea and instructed him to get back to work.  Baer’s concept for an interactive television program was never examined.

The Early History of Video Games

In the 1950s and 1960s, several United States universities began allowing students to develop “games” that could be played on their large mainframe computers. 

These games were designed by computer programming hobbyists and were extremely simple and unsophisticated.  The computers simply didn’t have enough memory to run complex lines of code. 

Anything too advanced would render the computer useless. 

A few of these early games were:

  • Maze Games: Computer screens displayed an intricate grid of lines which represented the walls of a maze.  Users guided a small point of light, usually representing a mouse, through the maze in an attempt to escape the walls.
  • Light and Sound Games: These early video games had no agenda or task for users to complete.  The light and sound video games simply allowed players to manipulate the graphic display and audio produced by the computer by twisting knobs, pulling levers, and punching buttons.  This may not seem like a game at all, but it was a significant advancement in allowing the average individual to see how a computer could be manipulated by a human.
  • Drawing Games: Users operating this game could draw simple lines by moving a cursor across a blank screen.  The drawing game was one of the first video games ever featured on a college campus.
  • Simple Pen Games: Simple games such as Tic-Tac-Toe were some of the first video games with a computerized opponent.  The computer was programmed to play the opposing team in very simple games.

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