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The changing face of games.

January 29th, 2015 by Irwin Fletcher Comments


Back in the day people were transfixed to their TV screens when the first home arcade machines hit the market.  If you are thinking that the Atari Pong was the first one then you are actually mistaken.  The Magnavox Odyssey was the world’s first commercial home video game console. Designed by Ralph H. Baer, who began around 1966 and had a working prototype finished by 1968, the Magnavox Odyssey hit homes in August 1972 predating the Atari Pong home consoles by three years. The system launched with a dozen included games in the box, four more sold with a separate light gun, and six games sold separately. These games were largely variations on the quiz, chase, shooting, and ball-and-paddle games conceived by Baer and his team and made use of screen overlays and accessories such as cards and dice that were also included with the system for additional graphical and gameplay elements. While the system failed to catch on in a big way, however, its legacy would be the birth of a vibrant video arcade game industry when Ralph Baer’s design ingenuity intersected Nolan Bushnell’s entrepreneurial ambition.

Bushnell and Dabney founded Atari, Inc. in 1972, before releasing their next game: Pong. Pong was the first arcade video game with widespread success. The game is loosely based on table tennis: a ball is “served” from the centre of the court and as the ball moves towards their side of the court each player must manoeuvre their paddle to hit the ball back to their opponent.  Allan created Pong as a training exercise assigned to him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. Bushnell based the idea on an electronic ping-pong game included in the Magnavox Odyssey, which later resulted in a lawsuit against Atari. Surprised by the quality of Alcorn’s work, Bushnell and Dabney decided to manufacture the game. Atari sold over 19,000 Pong machines, spawning many imitators.

Pong quickly became a success and was the first commercially successful arcade video game machine without which we may never have gone on to have such household staples such as the Wii, XBOX, or PlayStation, let alone gaming on  the go devices such as the PS Vita, or Nintendo DSs.

Out of the early arcade machines, and home consoles, we moved not on to games on computers, which had long been seen only as an office or military device, but also to increasingly intricate and popular games on the one piece of electrical equipment that people in the 21st century just couldn’t do without: the cell/mobile phone.

These days the phone has everything that the old arcade machines and home consoles had, and more.  The games that we can take with us and play have changed from the basic tennis style game of Pong through to in-depth strategy games, first person shooters, RPGs, and games of chance such as bingo, poker and even games that were once only seen inside actual casinos.  These days we don’t even have to leave the house if we want to roll the dice, we can just download an app or follow a simple click on our PC.  Places like are now right on our doorstep, at the ends of our fingers, and are bringing games to us.

So next time you fire up your XBOX, play a game on your PC, or download an app on your phone, maybe give a little thought to Ralph H. Baer for helping pave the way to what we have now.

I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.