Computer games, that is, games that you can play on a personal computer, originated in the minds of Martin Graetz and Alan Kotok, two MIT students, in 1961. The original game named “Spacewar!” involved two player controlled ships battling around a central star. About 10 years later, the text based computer game burst on the scene. Originally called “Adventure,” the game featured no graphics and was based entirely on imagination and text. Now the mid 1970’s, the power of home personal computers was growing rapidly. Soon, games would be released that combined graphics with text.
From here, computer games really began to take off. Different gaming groups and organizations were formed so that gamers could talk about their interests. In fact, the real explosion of computer games did not occur until the 1980’s thanks to a little bit of luck. It took the downfall of their rival, console gaming, for computer games to really succeed. Luckily, in 1983, there was a major crash in video games. Console makers like Atari, after posting record highs in profits for the previous years, began to flood the market with poor games and many different versions of consoles that discouraged buyers. In 1983, Atari and the console gaming industry would have record losses that would continue into the next few years.
In contrast, during the video game crash of 1983, sales of home computers were on the rise due to a significant decrease in price. Low cost computers like the famous Commodore 64 found their way into millions of homes and with that, the purchase of computer games rose significantly. Computer games exploited a great hole in the market. Many parents were selling their children’s video game consoles and equipment to purchase a computer to help with the children’s education. However, the children would still want to play some type of game and would purchase computer games. Electronic Arts, a company that vowed to stick to the creation of computer games, benefited greatly from the success of the home personal computer.
The adaptation of the mouse marked another great day in computer games history. Games like King’s Quest became amazingly popular, especially with the improvement in graphical interfaces. Improvement in sound came with the Creative Labs Sound Blaster card which allowed computers to utter more than simple beeps. And then in the early 1990’s, the 3D revolution began. Games like Hovertank 3D and Wolfenstein 3D, both designed by iD Software, became mildly famous for their new 3D graphics which marked another generation in computer games. In fact, Wolfenstein 3D created a new genre that would turn into one of the best selling genres in gaming: the first person shooter. Wolfenstein 3D also was distributed in a unique way: shareware. Players were able to play through a limited portion of the game, but if they enjoyed it, they were required to pay a fee for the full version.
At this point in computer games history, consoles were lagging behind tremendously. In fact, consoles put out by Nintendo and then popular Sega were operating at only 3 to 7 megahertz, while many home personal computers were operating around 16 to 100 megahertz which allowed for more calculations. With this increased capacity, computer games developer created the first person shooter Doom whose graphics were considered amazing at the time and a goal for the console developers. The Doom breakthrough in 3D graphics thrust computer games into the forefront of the gaming industry and led computers into the modern era.