We owe the humble beginnings of gaming to a group of Americans who not only boosted consumerism, expanded city living into the suburbs and spawned a population growth of 3.4MM babies — more than any other in previous history: The Baby Boomers.
Seriously. Nearly 4MM babies were born each year — a number that hasn’t necessarily jumped since (of note — even in 2018, birth rates were under 4MM — in fact, 2016 was an all-time low!).
So between all the buying and selling and expanding family ties, the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War, gaming started taking on a life of its own as innovation stirred imagination and imagination conceived visions of 0s and 1s.
Here’s how it went down:
It starts out kinda boring actually. Most programmers were really scientists and scientists love Chess and Checkers (stereotype much?) … so hours upon hours and days upon days saw entire laboratories full of computers bigger than 50 refrigerators used to figure out one single chess move.
But the possibilities were there. And that one chess move was all it took.
Who knows. It could’ve been the Aliens — I mean Los Alamos Labs has long been thought to house Alien DNA (and of course it is where the Atomic Bomb was invented). In 1954, programmers developed the first blackjack upright game. Although it didn’t take coins, it could potentially fit into your living room — as long as you didn’t need to … say … move around.
The beginning of the Cold War also played a huge part in gaming history — as laboratories all over the country focused on developing war simulations. The first simulation, known as Hutspiel, was created by the US military. Red and blue players, simulating NATO and Soviet Commanders waged war within an upright, equivalent to about 4 refrigerators .
Then it happens …
As a precursor to the beloved pong (still one of the coolest video game soundtracks), 1958 saw Brookhaven National Lab in New York demonstrate a tennis game — Tennis for Two. Some say this development, although mostly forgotten — is the beginning of console gaming as we know it.
So, while we aren’t yet sitting down and playing games in the local Pizza Hut (which opened in 1958 in Wichita Kansas), we are well on our way to coin-op video game greatness and the 1960s sure look promising ….
Note: Thanks to MuseumOfPlay.Org for great photos & information. Check them out for a full timeline of gaming history.