Think you know your video game history? Think again. In its short, but dynamic history, video games have taken the world by storm, propelling them as one of the most interactive and popular forms of entertainment. Although a relatively short history compared to other mediums, there are a number of misconceptions and interesting bits in the video game world that are not widely known. Here are a few rare facts about video games that you probably didn’t know:
5. Pong Was Not the First Video Game Ever Made
Starting our list of interesting facts about video games is a very rare fact that only a few people know. Ask anyone what was the first video game ever, and more than likely, the usual response would be “Pong”. Released in 1972, and found in bars across the country, this simple ping-pong-like game is definitely the first video game to have commercial success, however, even before Pong, there was another arcade machine called “Computer Space”, which was based on an even earlier video game called “Spacewar!” — a game that was played on early mainframe computers.
In fact, the first video game ever to be made pre-dates Pong by 25 years, in 1947. It did not have a name and was a game that used knobs and buttons to fire at airborne targets.
4. Atari was Formed in a Restaurant
Nolan Bushnell, considered to be the “father of video games”, felt that Silicon Valley needed a truly fine dining restaurant, and as a result, he built the “Lion and Compass Restaurant” in Sunnyvale, CA. He didn’t want to create some dinner with a jukebox. It was in this restaurant, that he and his partners drew up the plans to start Atari, Inc.
In classic 1990s dot-com fashion, they drew up their business plan on the back of a cocktail napkin. Something else you may not know is that the name “Atari”, comes from the Japanese strategy game “Go” — a game that uses black and white tiles on a grid — and is the equivalent to the term “check” in chess.
3. The First Video Game Crash was not in 1983
For those of you old enough to remember, there was a major crash in the video game market in 1983, attributed to crappy games such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Pacman on the Atari 2600 system. In fact, it is rumored that Atari commissioned all remaining copies of E.T. to be buried in a landfill somewhere in New Mexico.
However, several years earlier, another crash occurred in 1977 that only left two survivors: Magnavox and Atari. Back then, video games were nothing more than variations of Pong, and other companies such as Fairchild and RCA got into the game by releasing their own home consoles that played Pong-like games.
As a result, the market was flooded with Pong clones, which crashed the market. This crash recovered the next year though, with the Japanese game company, Taito, releasing its legendary ‘Space Invaders’ game.
2. Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak Created One of the Most Popular Early Games
In 1975, an eighteen-year-old Steve Jobs was employed as employee #40 at Atari. He was a master of talking his way into anything, and without having any knowledge of computer chip design or programming, he was able to land this job. His childhood friend, Steve Wozniak, on the other hand, was a genius in chip design, and Jobs had no problems calling on Wozniak to do his work.
When Jobs was handed the job to create a new game, ‘Breakout’, he immediately contacted Wozniak about this deal. Back then, games were embedded directly onto computer chips, and most games required 100-130 chips, which made them extremely expensive. Atari wanted this new game to be under 100 chips.
Wozniak was able to squeeze this game down to 46 chips, which in those days, was completely unheard of. There is another side story about how Jobs screwed Wozniak in this deal, taking over $5,000 for himself, and giving Wozniak $350 for his work.
1. Nintendo Started off as a Paying Card Company
The last rare fact in our list of rare facts about video games is that Nintendo (Founded in 1889) started off as a playing card company that produced cards for a Japanese card game known as ‘Hanafuda’. During the 1950s and 1960s, the business expanded into playing cards that we use in the US, a television network, and even a love hotel chain. It wasn’t until 1974 that Nintendo became the distributor of the Magnavox Odyssey console in Japan that it started to dive into the world of video games.
Starting with the Color TV-Game series in 1977, Nintendo started to produce its own video game consoles. In 1980, it released the Game & Watch series of handheld games, and then in 1983, released the Famicom, which was later introduced in the West, like the Nintendo Entertainment System. From there, it went on to produce the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Game Cube, Nintendo Wii, and the upcoming Nintendo Wii U.
Nintendo is also at the forefront of the portable game space with the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS/DSi, and most recently, Nintendo 3DS. To this day, Nintendo still produces playing cards, and in fact, hosts its own bridge tournament called the “Nintendo Cup”.
Do you know of any other interesting facts about video games? Share them with us in the comments section below!