tirsdag 25. oktober 2011

A history of computer games: 1950s - 1980s

Videogames have roots as far back as the early 1950s. It is difficult to pinpoint excactly when and who started this all.

Technology developed in leaps and bounds. Computers shrunk from taking up entire rooms and into little boxes. The military was a natural driving force of development and research; the cold war and the threat of atomic warfare blanketed the world during this time-period. The chase for the technological upper hand eventually accumulated into the space race. Technology developed so far it was possible to launch things into orbit. Private parties did a great deal of research too. Technology and computing were used for logistics, banking, mathematics… the possibilities and visions were endless. 

Clearly, the best thing to do was to use this new, amazing technology for entertainment purposes

The first geniouses to patent an entertainment system were Thomas Goldsmith, an engineer and professor of physics, and Estle Ray Mann. In 1947 they patented ”Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device.” This was a simple missile shooting game. It didn’t project an image on a screen but instead used a printed overlay on the screen to define the playing field. As such is not a video game, but it is one of the first examples of using technology for pure amusement. Due to production cost it was never released to the general market. 

The earliest graphical computer game known to exist was developed in 1952. A. S. Douglas wrote his PhD on Human-Computer interraction, and developed a Tic-Tac-Toe game to demonstrate his thesis. As such it was not created for pure fun, but I can imagine the students at the University of Cambridge spent many an hour playing this game and stomping their feet in frustration when the computer outsmarted them. 

The first multiplayer-game was developed by William Higinbotham. It was called Tennis for Two, and is exactly what you think it is; an early, sideways version of Pong. Perhaps a bit more advanced than Pong, even, seeing as it featured gravity. It was an interactive exhibit in the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, which visitors could play with. 

Spacewar! was developed in 1961 by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology-students. If you want to play tennis or tic-tac-toe you can do that without fancy technology, but very few of us can easily participate in alien warfare in space. Spacewar was the first game to emulate something which does not actually exist in our physical world, the first game in the video game tradition we know today. 

Spacewar! had features such as gravity and varying luminosity. How realistic!

From 1950-1970, games were developed by scientists or students at universities for research purposes, or by hobbyists. Computer hardware was not available to the common man. However, games became more accessible during the 70’s, trough arcades and home systems. 

During the same year, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created Computer Space, an arcade version of Spacewar. 1500 Computer Space-machines were produced, making Spacewar the first mass-produced video game, and the first video game offered for commercial sale. Bushnell and Dabney formed Atari in 1972, and then created Pong, which became a commercial arcade success. 

The first home consoles were developed during the 70s too. The Magnavox Odyssey was released in 1972, and came with cartridges allowing it to play several different games (most of which were probably Pong-clones). A landslide of home-consoles and Pong-clones followed, making video games more accessible to everyone. 

Magnavox Odyssey: Available with games like Pong, Pong, Pong and Pong! 

tirsdag 11. oktober 2011


My name is Katarina Aasgaard Strømsvåg and I moved to Leicester on the 17th of September to study at De Montfort University. I’d never been to England before, I had barely even been outside of Norway, and certainly never on my own. English is not my mother tongue, so please bear with me if my language seems clumsy.

I come from Kristiansund, a small town built on a handful of islands on the west coast of Norway. I’ve lived there for the majority of my life. There are about as many people living in Kristiansund as there are students at De Montfort University. 

I have five younger siblings and a dog. My parents are divorced, so I have a large extended family. Before I moved here, mum gave me pots, pans and other useful kitchen things. Dad gave me a kilo of chocolate.

Apart from the obvious interests like video games and drawing, I am interested in music, art and comics. Since coming to Leicester I’ve spent a lot of my evenings cooking with friends and playing Risk (last night I won). I also write a little in my spare time. There isn’t much room for other hobbies, though there are several things I wish I had time for. 

I’ve drawn since I was little and I always knew drawing was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s never really been a decision, it’s just something I’ve known. In upper secondary school, I specialised in art and design-subjects. I’ve wanted to study abroad since I was 16; I felt a need to stretch my wings, I get the bonus of learning the English language better, and it will look good on my CV. I had a look at a lot of UK universities as well as a couple in other countries, but in the end I settled for game art design at De Montfort University, because I wanted to learn 3D modelling as well as developing my drawing abilities. The Skillset accreditation convinced me of the credibility of the course as well. 

My ambitions for this year is to work my ass off to get a good handle on 3Ds Studio Max, and improve my drawings skills by miles. I also aim to become much better at communicating in English, but I think my language skills are something that will develop naturally as I live and study in Leicester. 

In the duration of the course, I want to develop my skills even more, and hopefully become good enough to get a job within the industry. Some dream jobs for me right now would be working as a character artist or even concept artist for one of my favourite developers, such as Valve, Bethseda, Double Fine or Irrational Games. Requirements for current job openings now vary, but they often have these in common:
- Good drawing abilities and knowledge of composition and colour theory. 
- Good knowledge of 3D software. 
- Good communication skills.
- The ability to work in a team. 
- Adaptability. 

Which is why I need to work to improve myself and my abilities in all of these areas, and I think this course will give me a golden opportunity to do so. 

- Kat