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Video Games

 A Brief History of Video Games

Video games in their embryonic stage were incubated by geeks and nerds at universities and computer engineering corporations throughout the 1960s. In 1972, Magnavox introduced Odyssey, the first video game console that could be played on a home television. But a combination of poor marketing and expensive pricing kept sales sluggish. The real break-out in the history of video gaming for consumers began with the foundation of the Atari Company and its release of an early video arcade game, Pong, in 1972.

Within three years, Atari released a home version of Pong. Growing sales attracted more companies to the home console gaming market. The games available were mainly arcade style games for play at home. Pacman appeared in 1980, gobbling up popularity around the world.

But the promise of a rosy future was about to hit a dip, and in North America it would be more like a crash. The Commodore 64, the first widely selling home computer, hit the shelves in 1982. "Why buy a game console when I can play games on my computer?" reasoned the consumer. The British-built Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the BBC Microcomputer and the Amstrad CPC 464 were also reducing the demand for game consoles.

To shift the interest away from computers and back to game consoles, the industry innovated with games having longer stories and more developed characters. Nintendo gave Jumpman, a carpenter from their arcade game Donkey Kong, a complete make-over and Mario, icon of Mario Bros. Plumbing, hit the screens. The Legend of Zelda role-playing series plunged gamers even deeper into the allure of visiting alternate universes.

During the nest decade, there was a steady progression of game cartridge hardware: Nintendo NES, 1985; Sega Genesis, 1989; Sony Playstation, 1994; Nintendo 64, 1996. Software was improving with increasingly detailed graphics and in the complexity of plotlines. Games took on the appearance of being three-dimensional. Controllers were designed with ergonomics in mind.

Individual hand-held games became popular in the 1990s. Sega's Dreamcast was released in Europe in 1999 as the first home console to accommodate Internet links for play with distant opponents.

In the new millennium, game cartridges were replaced by optical disks. No longer limited to pushing buttons or swiveling joysticks, gamers now rose to their feet to play Wii's games utilising motion controls oriented by infrared tracking. Video games will continue to write their history hand in hand with cutting-edge technology.

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