1. display at the labs yearly Visitors Days exhibition

1. History of
games

People
all around the world have been creating and playing games in some
form since ancient times. From sports to primitive dice games, people
seem to have turned to games for entertainment since our origins. The
oldest known board game at the time of writing is the Egyptian game
of Senet, created over 5,000 years ago (Piccione, 1980). Since then
games such as the Royal
Game of Ur,
Go and eventually chess would emerge from different parts of the
globe. These hand made games were more complex than any know dice
game to precede them, helping them to gain quick popularity and not
see a rival until much later, when games would be mass manufactured
and released on a global scale. According to Edwards:

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In
1822, the New York booksellers F. & R. Lockwood published
Traveller’s Tour Through the United States and its sister game
Traveller’s Tour Through Europe, which are the first known board
games printed in America
(2014, p 4).

The
popularity of these games and others like them helped this industry
grow and created demand for more similar products. The gaming world
would be ruled by the likes of Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders for
over a hundred years, while still enjoying plenty of success in
recent times. Again it would take a big change in the industrial
world for a successor to emerge, which came in the form of
electronics.

In
1958 William Alfred Higinbotham developed the “first computer game
to utilize handheld controllers and to display motion” (Sunysb.edu,
2017). Tennis for Two came about as a way to attract attention to an
oscilloscope in an exhibition at Brookhaven National Laboratory,
Upton, NY. The screen on the oscilloscope was used to display a point
of light to represent a ball and two lines were used as the ground
and a net. Two players could interact with the game using custom
controllers similar to those in figure 1. This game was on display at
the labs yearly Visitors Days exhibition until it concluded in 1959
when the game was disassembled. There was no attempt to commercialize
Tennis for Two and even its creator Higinbotham stated “it didn’t
strike me as the least bit novel” (Sunysb.edu, 2017).

Figure 1. Tennis for Two (remake)

Another
game Spacewars was created by MIT engineers in 1962 that ran on a
PDP-1 computer. They cost more than $100,000 at the time and were
rare outside of collages, but the game was so popular on campuses
that Stanford University banned it during business hours
(Io9.gizmodo.com, 2017). Despite its disruption to collage work, the
game inspired Nolan Bushnell to enter the gaming industry and develop
his own game Computer Space. “When Nolan Bushnell added a coin slot
to the arcade machine Computer
Space
in 1971, the video game industry was born” (Wolf, 2008). This
arcade machine brought video games to the general public for the
first time and helped attract many competitors to the market. The
next step was to get these games from the arcade and into peoples
homes.

The
first to do this was Ralph Baer in 1972 when he released the Magnavox
Odyssey which went on to sell over 100,000 units in its first year of
sale (Rutter and Bryce, 2006). This console used cartridges to load
games onto the system and output them onto the users television. It
came with a series of translucent screen overlays that would be
placed on the television to add variety to the limited games
available. Some of the games were variations of Tennis for Two that
used the overlays to depict various sports games such as tennis, ice
hockey and football, while others required the player to carefully
navigate a path shown on the overlay. The system also featured a
light gun accessory that could detect a bright point of light on
screen which was used to highlight enemies in the accompanying games
overly (fig 2). By pointing the gun at the enemy and pulling the
trigger, the system could determine if the player has hit their
target based on if it sees light or not, creating a shooting gallery
game. Although not a massive hit, the Magnavox Odyssey paved the way
for home gaming while introducing new technology and new ways to
play.

Figure 2. Magnavox Odyssey Shooting Gallery

In
the same year (1972) Nolan Bushnell renamed the company he confounded
with Ted Dabney, from Syzygy Co to Atari and released Pong into the
arcades. This was a massive success but due to its unmistakeable
similarity to the games released previously on the Magnavox Odyssey,
“Magnavox sued, showed evidence of Nolan Bushnell’s signature in an
Odyssey trade show demo guest book, and Atari ponied up a one-time
$700,000 licensing fee” (IGN, 2017).

In
1975 Atari continued to follow the in the footsteps of the Magnavox
by releasing the Atari 2600 home console. According to giantbomb.com:

It
was largely successful due home versions of arcade games such as
Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Centipede as well as first- and
third-party games developed specifically for the console, such as
Pitfall and Adventure. The Atari 2600 made the home video game market
mainstream, selling 30 million units worldwide before being
discontinued in January 1, 1992 (giantbomb, 2018).

Big
competition would soon come in the form of home computers that
boasted the ability to perform office tasks in addition to playing
more advanced games than their console rivals. Companies such as
Apple and Commodore launched large marketing campaigns highlighting
to parents that their machines could be used to educate their
children as well as entertain them. After gaining a significant share
of the gaming market, these new computers put major pressure on game
console manufacturers. This combined with a lack of variety in games
released for consoles led to the video game crash of 1983 (Sfetcu,
2014).

Although
it did lead to the bankruptcy of several of Atari’s game console
counterparts, the industry crash would only last a few years before
returning to its former glory. When Nintendo and Sega released their
home gaming consoles they strengthened consoles position in the
gaming market and paved the way for all future consoles to come. Both
Nintendo’s NES and Sega’s Master System had more advanced technology
than former consoles, enabling better looking games with more
advances game mechanics. Games could now look so much more distinct,
that characters such as Mario and Sonic could become company mascots.
The extra power of these consoles allowed for a variety of game
genres to playable, including platformers featuring the
aforementioned Mario and Sonic, fighting games (Double Dragon), shoot
’em ups (R-Type, Contra) and open world RPGs like The Legend of
Zelda. The extra variety in gaming styles and possible art directions
helped to alleviate the sense that gaming had become a stagnant
industry. To better suit the variety of games now available, both
consoles released with a new type of controller that used direction
pads (fig 3) rather than the joysticks used in previous consoles and
arcade cabinets and had an extra button. In addition Nintendo
released a gun accessory that improved on the Magnavox’s earlier
design leading to more widespread use.

Figure
3. NES controller

This
resurgence of gaming allowed these companies to reinvest their
profits and develop the capabilities of these machines even further.
It was clear from the game crash of 1983 that gaming couldn’t say the
same for very long as it could cause the industry to collapse once
again. A technological arms race would emerge from this that exists
and drives console and PC gaming to this day. Each generation of
console provided game developers the opportunity to expand on what
was possible before by increasing the power of the console and
constantly innovating new ways to play / interact.

While
providing more power in their next home console, Nintendo and Sega
also took an alternative approach by making smaller less powerful
consoles in a portable form. They had their own screen and battery
allowing gamers to play on the go. Nintendo’s Game Boy vastly outsold
Sega’s Gamegear due to poor battery life, a smaller game collection
and a higher price (Digital Spy, 2018). The popularity of the Game
Boy led to many iterations of the device and even influenced the
design of Nintendo’s latest portable / home console hybrid the
Switch.

The
next big advancement came when games made the transition from 2D to
3D. While Nintendo did release a few 3D games such as Starfox on the
SNES, it wasn’t until the Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn and Sony
Playstation that 3D games were practical on a game console. This
generation also saw a change in the media used to play games with the
Saturn and Playstation moving from cartridges to CDs. This offered
more storage to developers allowing for bigger games, fully voice
acted characters and the use of high quality pre-rendered video to
show scenes from the story. Audio CDs were also playable through a
built in media player. This feature was been expanded upon in later
generations to support various formats of image, audio and video.

Online
gaming started out on PC in the 90’s, but given the majority of
gamers were console users, not everyone could avail of this feature.
Sega would be the first to bring online play to consoles with the
Dreamcast in 1999. Despite being first, the competition from Sony and
Nintendo led to poor sales for the Dreamcast which became Sega’s last
console (Armitage, Claypool and Branch, 2006). All consoles of the
following generation included an online play option bringing more
players online. This combined with more developers adding online
features to their games and an increase in PC gamers, online gaming
was now fully established. It has become so popular that some of the
biggest game franchises that were previously a single player
experience, have now shifted their focus to online multiplayer games.

And
then, of course, there is eSport side of things. Video game
competitions streamed live have become such a huge hit that in 2015,
Twitch.tv announced they had more than 1.5 million registered
broadcasters, which was similar to a Youtube channel, and over 100
million visitors every month (Hansen, 2016).

Other
noteworthy advances in gaming comes from how we interact with the
games. The Nintendo 64 was the first to include a vibrating
controller that would simulate the shock wave of an explosion, recoil
of a gun or the revving of an engine to make the experience more
immersive. Nintendo’s later console the Wii would bring motion
controlled games to the masses and had such success it was soon
imitated by both its rivals at the time, Sony and Microsoft. After
some failed attempts, Virtual Reality gaming is only recently taking
off with Sony’s Playstation VR, the Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE. We have
now reached a stage where both consoles and PCs are powerful enough
to run games at 4K, support online play, feature media players and
support new ways of playing such as VR and motion controls.

2. Impact of gaming
2.1. Impact on business

The
gaming industry has grown massively since its inception with an
estimated audience between 2.2 and 2.6 billion people and the global
software market was worth $116 billion in 2017 (Ukie.org.uk, 2018).
As a result of its size the gaming employs large numbers worldwide.
In the US alone over 220,000 work in gaming and as of 2015 there were
2,457 game companies with 2,858 locations across the country (Siwek,
2017).

As
with any big business conflicts and lawsuits are common. The Magnavox
VS Nolan Bushnell case mentioned earlier was small in comparison with
later lawsuits, for example Epic games were awarded nearly $4.5
million from Silicon Knights after a long term dispute (Lowood and
Guins, 2016).

With
such a dependency on constantly providing bigger and better
experiences with each new hardware generation, an immense driving
force is created, forcing companies to always be at the cutting edge
of technology. Due to both public demand and a need to stand out
from the competition, developing unique ways of playing in addition
to improved visuals is almost a necessity. The introduction of motion
controls to Nintendo’s Wii console led to such impressive sales that
as of September 2017 it had sold 101.18 million units making it their
most successful home console and the fifth best selling console of
all time (Statista, 2018). When these innovational creations are put
into place the developers take a risk that can pay off or cost the
company a lot of money from researching, manufacturing and marketing
these devices. The current major console companies at the time of
writing are Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft who all experimented with
the likes of motion controls, touch screens and VR, each with varying
degrees of success. Taking these risk at times when other aspects of
the business are doing well (i.e. Nintendo taking risks on its home
console when its portable was selling well and visa versa), provides
a safety net and also protects against them being considered stale or
too similar to the competition which has been the downfall of many
companies in the past.

2.2. Impact on people

Gaming
has had an impact on people as individuals and possibly society as a
whole. Given commercial games hit the general public as far back as
1971, many of us today have grown up as least familiar with gaming.
With games making being adapted to Hollywood films and games being
available on so many devices from consoles / computers to smart
phones and TVs it is almost difficult to have no knowledge of them.

Opinions
on how games effect people varies and has been a heated debate for
many years. Many studies have suggested there are cognitive benefits
from playing games. In 2015 University of California researchers
found that their test group who played a 3D Super Mario game
performed better in follow up memory tasks than a group that played
the more basic Angry Birds game and a group who played nothing
(Clemenson and Stark, 2015). A review of 38 studies concluded that
playing games improved both the physical and psychological health of
195 patients (Primack et al., 2012). Speaking at the American Pain
Society’s annual scientific meeting Jeffrey I. Gold revealed how
virtual reality could be effective in reducing anxiety and acute
pain. “Virtual reality produces a modulating effect that is
endogenous, so the analgesic influence is not simply a result of
distraction but may also impact how the brain responds to painful
stimuli” (George, 2010). A journal published in 2013 describes
how playing action games for nine sessions of 80 minutes a day
improved the reading abilities, phonological and attention skills of
dyslexic children to levels equal to or exceeding traditional reading
treatments (Franceschini et al., 2013).