The Early History of Gaming – Part 3

In 1980, we saw the introduction of Space Invaders for the Atari VCS, thanks to the integration of the microprocessor, which suggested that gaming had awoken to a brand-new era. Part of that new era was an increase in sales: the same year saw a 2mn increase in sales for the Atari 2600.

The gaming community started to boom at the same time as arcade and home gaming. Towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s, we saw hobbyist magazines on shelves such as Computer Gaming World, Video Games, and Computer and Video Games. This gave gamers a sense of community, along with an avenue through which they could communicate.

Personal Computers

The gaming boom that came about from the popularity of Space Invaders resulted in numerous new consoles and companies, which, in turn, led to market saturation. With a large number of consoles combined with a small number of exciting new games, a gaming crash occurred in North America in 1983. This saw enormous losses and vast amounts of games buried in the desert simply to get them out of the way. Changes were clearly needed if the industry was to survive.

As consoles started to get negative press, such home computers as the Apple 11, the Commodore 64, and the Commodore Vic-20 began to become more popular. The average American could afford the retail price of around $300 (around $860 today) for home computers that were promoted as the whole family’s “sensible” option.

Bill Gates the programmer

Such home computers came with processors that packed more power than their predecessors. This paved the way for gaming to reach new levels, with less linear and more advanced games. They also provided the technology that was required for gamers to develop their very own games using BASIC code. Bill Gates himself even designed a game known as Donkey. The player drove a sports car along the highway while avoiding donkeys on the way. The game returned in 2012 as an iOS app.

While some from rival company Apple called the game “embarrassing”, Gates used his game to encourage others to create programs and games themselves with the integrated BASIC code program.

Magazines providing code

Magazines such as Gaming World and Computer and Video Games provided BASIC source code for utility programs and games, which could be typed into early PCs. Programs, games, and readers’ code submissions were accepted and subsequently shared.

As well as providing a way for people to develop their own game, these early computers also opened the door for multiplayer gaming, a significant step for the development of the gaming community.

While many gamers reported that the game became unstable and slowed severely when there were five players or more playing at the same time, it was the first step towards the deathmatch concept, which became extremely popular in 1993 when Doom was released. Doom became one of the most popular games in the history of gaming.