Video gaming has been popular since Pong arrived on the scene. Although not the first game to be made it was the first successful video game and paved the way for many classics and failures to follow.

The late 1970s and ’80s were a golden time for video games. Space Invaders and Asteroids arrived in local arcades followed by many others. Then came home consoles, computers, handheld games, and later virtual reality.

Here is a rough history of gaming through the last few decades.

Arcade games

The arcade gaming industry was huge in the early ’80s. A $3 billion business that turned out hit after hit. Centipede, Pac Man, and Donkey Kong. Companies like Atari and Nintendo were giants but then the crash came. The market was oversaturated and America was hit the worst. The revenues dropped to $100 million and arcades closed down everywhere. As the arcade industry was floundering the home computer and console industry was just beginning.

Sinclair and other home computers

In the UK in the early 1980’s Sir Clive Sinclair was quietly launching the first of his easily accessible home computers. The ZX80 and ZX81 were small computers with a whopping 1K of RAM. No, that is not a typo. These were sold in the high street but by 1982 Sinclair delivered a computer that would change many people’s lives; The Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

To look at the ZX Spectrum now (or even then) you wouldn’t think much of it. A small metal rectangle with a rubber keyboard housed either 16K or 48K of RAm but was responsible for some of the most creative games writing over the next few years. Games came on cassette (although there was an attempt at cartridges) and would take a few minutes to load and often fail. Yet this didn’t stop the enthusiasm of early gamers.

Commodore owners would sneer at ZX Spectrum owners although both home computers were massively popular. The ZX Spectrum went through a few incarnations such as the 128K version with a full keyboard and built-in cassette player but it is the original that still evokes nostalgia from older players.

PCs were quietly being used for gaming around this time too. Machines that were meant for businesses were being used to play adventure games. Zork 1, one of the earliest text adventure games was released in 1980 and the spreadsheets were pushed aside for gaming.


Before the Spectrum though there was the Atari 2600 VCS. This lets the home player enjoy their favorite games from the arcade in the living room or bedroom. Centipede, Asteroids, Tank, and Space Invaders were all available. The start of the big movie tie-ins began here and games like Indiana Jones and Star Wars were put onto cartridges for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Until ET came along and everything changed.

The movie ET was a huge hit and it seemed like a no-brainer to license the film and get it onto the market for Christmas. The problem was it was rushed through in way too short a time for any programmer to make a quality game and turned out to be a disaster. This helped Atari towards its demise along with the video games crash of 1983 or the Atari shock as it is affectionately known in Japan.

Nintendo brought out the Famicom in 1983 (later renamed the NES) and while arcades were never going to re-emerge in the way they used to exist, home entertainment was finding solid growth. Most teens could only afford one system and unless Santa was kind they had one way to play. Gamers would be split into groups that had Commodores, Spectrums, Nintendos, and later Segas.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the launch of fourth-generation machines. The Sega Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo arrived. While Nintendo favored family entertainment with characters such as Mario and Zelda, Sega was more willing to release a wider variety of games. However, one game that was released on both platforms provided much controversy.

Mortal Kombat

This game came from an arcade game that followed the standard player vs player or player vs computer combat game. Like Street Fighter which came before, the player chooses a character then fights their opponent. The difference between this game and others that came before is that you fight to the death with graphic results. The characters were based on real people that were digitized and then gory effects added like decapitation and spines being ripped out. This led to an outcry from outraged parents and concerned adults.

This game along with the controversial but pretty rubbish Night Trap led to the Entertainment Software Rating Board or ESRB. Games would then be handed certification in the same way movies were. In reality, Mortal Kombat looks fairly tame now but it certainly led to other titles coming out with more blood and body parts going missing.

The 1990’s to now

While the arcades had mostly gone the home market was thriving and more machines were released as technology advanced. Atari released the ST which was trumped by Commodore’s Amiga. Then followed a whole array of consoles including the Dreamcast, Jaguar, NeoGeo, and the Saturn all arrived in varying degrees of success. Just before the start of the decade the Nintendo GameBoy arrived and brought gaming into the hands (quite literally) of players everywhere.

1995 saw a machine arrive that would arguably change home gaming forever. The Sony Playstation was launched and with games like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy, it really felt like the future had arrived. Of course, since then we have had console after console with the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation releasing newer versions to battle it out for bigger market shares.

Games have become big business and releases are on par with cinema blockbusters. Halo, Call of Duty, and Minecraft attracts huge followings. Minecraft even has dedicated servers available for players to rent and host their own games on. You can find out about Minecraft games servers at


There is not enough space to do justice to the rich history of gaming here but the future is bright for players, many of whom started off decades ago playing Space Invaders. Other gamers are just beginning with games being easily accessible on tablets and smartphones. One thing is certain and that is gaming is here to stay but what form that may take in the future will be interesting to see.


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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360
Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
Developer(s): 4J Studios
Genres: Sandbox
Themes: Survival
Release Date: 2012-05-09

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