They say studying the past will help us to learn and anticipate the future. Here, Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah talks about one of the most profitable entertainment industries in the world, online gaming, how it came to be, and where it’s going from here.
The playing of games is an ancient pastime, and scientists have documented games as far back as 5,000 years ago using bones and painted stones, Justin C. Williams says. This represents a huge leap in human culture and technology when compared to the online games we play nowadays. “Who could have guessed that we would have evolved our game playing from old sticks, bones, and stones to the sophistication of what we have today in the online gaming world?” he says.
It’s no secret that the invention of the computer and video games has turned gaming into a multi-billion dollar industry. Statistica reports the worth of the worldwide PC online industry alone will be worth 45.5 billion as of 2021. But, as we’d expect, it didn’t start out that way.
Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah explains the beginning of the industry is somewhat undecided, as some scholars debate who invented the first video game. Some say it was invented by Dr. Edward Uhler Condon at the New York World’s Fair in 1940 and based on the mathematical game of Nim. This game was crude and elementary but garnered a lot of attention during the fair as it was the first of its kind ever seen.
Others say the first commercial video game ever recorded was created by a physicist, William Higinbotham of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, in 1958. It was an elementary tennis game created specifically for a science fair that used a tiny 5-inch screen. This game performed very similar to the later version of the tennis game named Pong that came out in the 1970s. However, it set the bar for more complicated and efficient computer programming to come.
Still, others claim it was the Brown Box created by Ralph Baer and his team in 1967, in which users could play ping pong, checkers, and four types of sports games. (This was later sold to Magnavox which released it in 1972 and changed the name to Magnavox Odyssey.)
In 1972, Atari came on the scene with a solution for the large and growing gaming community with their creation of their gaming console. Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah says this started the demand for the whole multi-player craze, and soon, video games began popping up in nearly every movie hall, bowling alley, and arcade.
The first multi-player video game with players playing on separate screens was a game for up to 8 players introduced in 1972 called Empire. This led to the addition of more players and 3D with the shooting game of Spasim released in 1973. Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah explains this increase in technology paved the way for even more advanced technology even though the cost of computers at that time was still prohibitively too high for most. But with the invention of the microprocessor in the 80s, home computing became a reality, and with the addition of LAN networks and the internet, the gaming industry exploded.
Once personal computers hit the market with Commodore 64 and Apple, this made it affordable for nearly everyone to play video games. Justin C. Williams explains many of the basic codes were shared publicly between developers, making it even easier to obtain different games and expand on them.
Justin C. Williams of Park City, Utah says since the early 2000s, the online gaming industry has expanded exponentially due to increasingly complex technology, increasing speeds of both the games themselves and the internet. He says, as of 2015, mobile applications of online games finally exceeded console-based gaming for the first time in history to the point where it’s estimated that today, 4 out of 5 households have some kind of gaming console or video game available.
So what’s next with the gaming industry that hasn’t already been invented? Justin C. Williams believes virtual reality gaming appears to be the next big thing, and artificial intelligence (AI) is just getting started. “As these are combined with multi-player gaming and ever-increasing speed and technology, there is virtually no limit to what can be created next,” he says. “Whatever it is, it’s going to be exciting.”