April 15, 2024

Evolution of Video Games

In 1958, William Higinbotham created what is thought to be the first video game. It was a simple tennis game that is similar to the classic video game Pong. Visitors waited in line at Brookhaven National Laboratory to play this Tennis for Two game. When Tennis for Two was first introduced, the oscilloscope display was only five inches in diameter. In 1959, the game was improved. A larger screen was used and players could select variations of tennis on the moon, with low gravity, or on Jupiter, with high gravity.

A re-creation of Tennis for Two on display in Rochester, New York.

In 1948, Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle R. Mann created the “Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device.” Since it was made ten years before Tennis for Two, it makes it the earliest-documented video game predecessor. The amusement device, required players to overlay pictures or illustrations of targets such as airplanes in front of the screen. This was unlike Tennis for Two, which entirely displayed the game’s visuals on the screen.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the video game industry hit many milestones including:

  • The release of the Space Invaders arcade game in 1978
  • The launch of Activision, the first third-party game developer in 1979
  • The introduction of Pac-Man to the United States
  • Nintendo’s creation of Donkey Kong
  • Microsoft’s release of its first Flight Simulator game


Perhaps one of the most popular games is Pac-Man which was made in 1980. Around this time video games were still relatively new and people wanted action packed games about shooting things. The creator of Pac-Man, Toru Iwatani, wanted to try something different. “When I started drafting up this project in the late 1970s, the arcades were filled with violent games all about killing aliens,” said Iwatani. He also said he wanted to “make arcades into livelier places that women and couples might enjoy visiting, so I thought it best to design a game with women in mind.”


Photo of Pac-Man

In 1983, the North American video game industry crashed due to an oversaturated game console market, competition from computer gaming, and an abundance of over-hyped, low-quality games. This crash lasted years and led to the bankruptcy of several companies. In 1985, the video game home industry began to recover when the Nintendo Entertainment System, called Famicom in Japan, came to the United States. The Nintendo Entertainment System had improved 8-bit graphics, colors, sound and gameplay over previous consoles.

In 2000, the Playstation 2 released and eventually became the best-selling game console of all time. The Playstation 2, which was the first console that used DVDs, went against the Sega Dreamcast, the Nintendo Gamecube, and Microsoft’s Xbox.

In 2016, Sony released a better version of its console, called the Playstation 4 Pro, which was the first console capable of 4K video output. In early 2017, Nintendo released its Wii U successor and the Nintendo Switch, which is the only system to allow both television-based and handheld gaming. In late 2017, Microsoft released its 4K-ready console, the Xbox One X.


Playstation 4 Pro and Xbox One X