Rewind

Video Games: The Birth of an Industry

A look at the video game industry fifty years after its birth. With games like Pong, Space Invaders and Centipede, video games quickly attracted a fanatical fan base and have become a billion dollar industry.
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      Fifty years ago in 1966, Ralph Baer, who worked for a defence contractor and liked to tinker and invent things, was waiting for a colleague at a bus terminal. He had a little time and so picked up a pad and pencil and sketched an idea for a special box so people could play games on a TV. A few years later, the video game industry was born.

      "Nobody realized, even at that time, that we were on this geometric curve ... that would go straight up to heaven." - Ralph Baer , Inventor of the Video game

      By 1976, popular video games were on-screen versions of tennis, handball and hockey- complete with both a forward and defence! The split-screen technology was considered high-tech, a far cry from the Dooms, XCOMs and Final Fantasy games of today. Centipede and Pong  andPacMan were also enormously popular, although critics worried that the latter was too aggressive and violent. Nevertheless, it remains one of the highest grossing video games of all time.

      The birth of video games was closely entwined with the birth of the personal computer. In 1977 on the CBC program Money Makers, industry leaders saw their goal as enabling everyone in the world with a computer. Computer components were miniaturized so they no longer filled an entire room. The cost had come way down too. The revolution had begun and before long people were paying bills, making reservations and taking educational courses on them.  

      By 1981, video games were so popular they had their own awards.  At the first World Video Games Championships in Chicago, the cash prize was $50,000. By 2015 22-year-old Kurtis Ling of Vancouver won $6.6 million after winning a video game championship. He's a professional gamer. At a time when new video games are released every week with countless websites reviewing and rating them, nostalgia for the classic retro video games is still alive and well. The Strong Museum in Rochester N.Y. is home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, and 2000 video games along with 100 vintage gaming consoles make up the the University of Calgary's Video Games Archive

      Along with video games came worries: do they lead to addiction? Are they bad for children? Who knows for sure, but every year, more games are created, not only for children but for adults. The video game industry's revenues topped $23.5 billion last year in the U.S. alone.

      Finally- are you as good as you once were? Take your own shot at these links for some classics: Asteroids, Space Invaders and Tetris. As for Ralph Baer, who started thing in 1966, he admitted the video games kids play now were too complicated for him to enjoy. Ralph Baer died in 2011.