They seemed like a novelty or passing fad when they first arrived in the ‘70s…but it’s fairly evident now that video games are here to stay. Here are some landmarks moments in the history of what toy makers once called “TV games.”
FIRST CARTRIDGE SYSTEM
Home video game systems, with their abilities to play a wide range of games sold via disc, cartridge, or download, slowly killed the video game arcades that once crowded every strip mall in America. Early home systems plugged into a TV and were preprogrammed with one or more simple games. The Fairchild Channel F, released in 1976 at a cost of $170 ($750 in today’s money) introduced interchangeability.
Successful video games spawn sequels all the time — how many Call of Duty and The Legend of Zelda titles are there, anyway? It makes sense, because games often tell a story, albeit an interactive one. But the first game long before the advent of narrative games with continuing characters. In 1972, the virtual table tennis game Pong hit arcades. It’s the first video game most people heard about, and was so successful that within a year, Atari already had a follow-up out called Pong Doubles. It was exactly the same as Pong, except that four people could play instead of two.
FIRST MOVIE BASED ON A VIDEO GAME
Despite a wealth of interesting, well-known source material, movies based on video games are almost universally bad. (Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Tomb Raider, anyone?) The first movie sourced from a game was based on the most popular franchise to date in 1993: Super Mario Bros. Loosely based on the games, Bob Hoskins played Mario and Dennis Hopper portrayed bad guy lizard man King Koopa.
FIRST VIDEO GAME BASED ON A MOVIE
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, a video game built around the plot of a movie became a valuable and lucrative marketing tool for the film. Perhaps the most popular and well-received title for Nintendo’s N64 system is based on a movie: GoldenEye. The first example of this sub-genre: the 1975 arcade game Death Race. It was a basic racing game where the player got extra points for running over gremlins, and based on the 1975 B-movie Death Race 2000. (The difference is that in the movie, drivers killed humans, not gremlins.)
FIRST VIDEO GAME WITH VOICES
Today’s video games are very sophisticated and realistic, containing lifelike graphics and a soundtrack of human voice actors. The technology for that took a long time to develop. The first game to feature synthesized human voices was Space Spartans, a game released in 1982 for the Intellivision home video game console.