Over at The Strong in Rochester, New York, which houses a massive collection of historical materials related to play, there’s the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, or ICHEG. This center is devoted to video games and studies the ways video games “are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other,” so says their website.
Their collection includes 37,000-plus electronic games and game-related materials, one of the largest in the world. So they know a lot about video games.
They just posted a new timeline that attempts to boil down the history of video games in a series of single slides, beginning at a date they peg as the start of the whole industry. Can you guess where they begin?
You might guess, say, 1966, the year Ralph Baer came up with the idea of playing a video game on television, which led to his “Brown Box” and the Magnavox Odyssey.
Their timeline begins in 1940 when, according to ICHEG, “Edward U. Condon designs a computer for the Westinghouse display at the World’s Fair that plays the traditional game Nim.”
Huh. I never knew that.
If you read ICHEG Director Jon-Paul Dyson’s blog post, you can learn how ICHEG decided what to include on the timeline. The ICHEG chose to only have one entry, or significant event, per year, from 1940 to today.
So they had some tough choices to make: “Is Tron the right selection for 1982?” Dyson writes. “After all, other great arcade games hit the market that year like Joust, Q-bert, Robotron 2084, and Ms. Pac-Man.” The next year, the movie Wargames was released, which like Tron, was a key reflection in pop culture how society was beginning to worry about all these pixelated fantasy worlds. (I wrote about this very issue in a story about Wreck-It Ralph and other Hollywood manifestations of video game terror.) The timeline ends with 2011′s entry: “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim showcases the beauty, majesty, and massiveness of video games as players explore a seemingly endless, beautifully rendered fantasy world.”
Dyson asks on his blog, “What entries do you disagree with? What would you add or subtract?”
My question to Dyson and ICHEG : Why the artificial “rule” of one entry per year and only one entry per year? Why not have some years with multiple entries? Some years with no entries?
Check out the timeline and let us know if you agree with ICHEG’s selections. And, Dyson asks, what would you nominate for 2012?