The formative years of video games consist of basic games that made use of interactive electronic devices with various display formats. The earliest example was in 1947, where the idea for a “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device” was conceived by Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann. The two filed for a patent on January 25, 1947, which was issued on December 14, 1948 as U.S. Patent 2455992.
Inspired by radar displays, it consisted of an analog device that allowed a user to control a vector drawn dot on the screen to simulate a missile being fired at targets represented by drawings fixed to the screen. Other examples included the NIMROD computer at the 1951 Festival of Britain, Alexander S. Douglas’s OXO for the EDSAC in 1952, William Higinbotham’s interactive game called Tennis for Two in 1958, and MIT students Martin Graetz, Steve Russell, and Wayne Wiitanen’s Spacewar! on a DEC PDP-1 computer in 1961. Each game used different means of display: NIMROD used a panel of lights to play the game of Nim, OXO used a graphical display to play tic-tac-toe, Tennis for Two used an oscilloscope to display a side view of a tennis court, and Spacewar! used the DEC PDP-1’s vector display to have two spaceships battle each other.
In 1971, Computer Space, created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, was the first commercially sold, coin-operated video game. For its display it used a black-and-white television and the computer system was a state machine made of 74 series TTL chips. The game was featured in the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green. Computer Space was followed in 1972 by the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home console. Modeled after a late 1960s prototype console developed by Ralph H. Baer called the “Brown Box”, it also used a standard television and game generated video signal. These systems were followed by two versions of Atari’s Pong; an arcade version in 1972 and a home version in 1975. The commercial success of Pong led other companies to develop numerous Pong-clones and their own systems, spawning the video game industry.
The term “platform” refers to the specific combination of electronic or computer hardware which, in conjunction with low-level software, allows a video game to operate. The term “system” is also commonly used.
In common use a “PC game” refers to a form of media that involves a player interacting with a personal computer connected to a high-resolution video monitor. A “console game” is played on a specialized electronic device that connects to a standard television set or composite video monitor. A “handheld” gaming device is a self contained electronic device that is portable and can be held in a user’s hands. “Arcade game” generally refers to a game played on an even more specialized type of electronic device that is typically designed to play only one game and is encased in a special cabinet. These distinctions are not always clear and there may be games that bridge one or more platforms. There are also platforms that have non video game variations such as in the case of electro-mechanically based arcade machines. There are also devices with screens which have the ability to play games but are not dedicated video game machines. Examples are mobile phones, PDAs, graphing calculators, GPS receivers, MP3 players, digital cameras, and watches.
A video game, like most other forms of media, may be categorized into genres based on many factors such as method of game play, types of goals, and more. Because genres are dependent on content for definition, genres have changed and evolved as newer styles of video games are created. As the production values of video games have increased over the years both in visual appearance and depth of story telling, the video game industry has been producing more life-like and complex games that push the boundaries of the traditional game genres. Some genres represent combinations of others, such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games. It is also common to see higher level genre terms that are collective in nature across all other genres such as with action or horror-themed video games.