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History of Game Design
Emerging as an important branch of game development in the 1970s after the huge success of arcade video games, game designers as we know them today were tasked with designing the bulk of game content, including rules, storyline, characters and general appeal. Today, game design is a multi-million dollar industry that is only expected to grow as technology advances. Take a look at the timeline below to see how the industry has evolved and grown over the years.
1952 – Willy Higinbotham creates what is commonly called “the first video game”. Similar to table tennis, this 2-player game was played on an oscilloscope.
1961 – MIT student Steve Russell creates the first interactive game, Spacewars, played on mainframe computers.
1971 – Computer Space, developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (founders of Atari), becomes the first video arcade game released. Although it was instantly popular, many people found the game too difficult.
1972 – Realizing the potential of video games, Magnavox launches Odyssey, the first home video game system. Most notably, Atari is founded and quickly recognized as the leader in the video game industry. Their first released game, Pong, was a resounding success and soon became available as a home version.
1974 – Steve Jobs, one of Atari’s technicians and later a circuit board designer, presents an idea to the founders of Atari for a personal computer system. Because the funds were tied up in other projects, Bushnell referred a venture capitalist to Jobs for financial backing. This personal computer, of course, was the beginning of Apple.
1975 – The first video game hits the market. Gunfight used a microprocessor instead of hard-wired circuitry.
1977 – Priced at $249.95, a hefty amount of money at the time, the Atari 2600 game console was released.
1978 – Adding another level of competition and appeal to video games, Space Invaders hits arcades as the first game to track and post high scores. Soon after, the Asteroids game went a step further and allowed three-letter initials to be stored with high scores.
1980 – The first 3D game, Battlezone, is created. The game caught the attention of the US government, which later modified it for training exercises. Due to the increasing complexity of games, companies are starting to form teams to deal specifically with the design. Game designers and programmers quickly became separate and distinct careers.
1981 – The gaming industry proves its importance with the first dedicated periodical, Electronic Games.
1985 – Developed by a Russian programmer, Tetris is released for arcades, video game consoles, as well as personal computers.
1989 – The Game Boys, handheld gaming devices manufactured by Nintendo, hit the market with great success. Later that year, Sega releases the Genesis game console.
1994 – The Entertainment Software Rating Board is created due to concerns about violence in games and the marketing tactics used. Games now receive a rating displayed on the packaging.
1995 – Sony launches the PlayStation in the United States By 1997, 20 million units had been sold.
1996 – The arcades move from traditional video games to more popular physical horse riding games, such as skiing and car and bicycle racing.
1998 – The Sega Dreamcast was released, one of Sega’s last pullovers to stay on the market.
2000 – Release of Sony’s PlayStation 2. The initial 500,000 units instantly sell for $300 each. The same year, The Sims surpassed Myst as the best-selling PC game. Game designers now work in teams of dozens to quickly create the complex games sold.
2001 – “Next Generation” game systems are introduced. Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo GameCube are not only more interactive for the user, but also easier to develop for games. Shortly after the release of these products, Sega announces that it will no longer produce hardware.
2004 – The Nintendo DS is launched as a portable console. Sony followed a year later with their portable version, the Sony PSP.
2006 – The Nintendo Wii revolutionizes the market with its joystick system, designed to mimic real physical movements like swinging a tennis racket or throwing a bowling ball. During the same year, the PlayStation 3 was released as the most sophisticated (and expensive) console.
2007 – Apple launches the iPhone, creating an entirely new device in which to play games.
2008 – The App Store is launched. With a wide range of features, games are quickly becoming the most popular and lucrative “apps”. The design and development of games for Smartphone applications is becoming a big niche. In a successful effort to engage and excite people of all ages about the Wii, Nintendo releases the Wii Fit game. The following year, Wii Sports overtook Super Mario Bros as the best-selling video game with over 40 million units sold.
2011 – Scheduled to grow another 30% by 2016, the gaming industry generates sales of over $18 billion a year. Colleges and degrees specifically dedicated to game design and production are becoming more advanced and popular.
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