Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A history of computer games, part one: 1950s - 1970s - Personal Gaming History Included!

Although there were inventions like the Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device as early as 1947, the first patented electronic game displayed on a monitor. Many do not consider it an actual video game as it does not use any programming or computer generated graphics, it is purely mechanical. 

There was a graphical computer game developed in 1952 by Alexander Shafto Douglas using AI, called OXO (Noughts and Crosses) the game used the EDSAC Stored-Program Computer, located in Cambridge, as an opponent. 
Because the computer was unique only to Cambridge, OXO did not have widespread popularity.

Then, in 1958 'Tennis For Two' was developed by Physicist William A. Higinbotham. The first publicly displayed computer game.

Its strange when you read about William A. Higinbotham's association with video games.  
Especially when you discover that he worked on the components for the first atomic bomb. 

That is quite a stark contrast. 

One bringing joy and entertainment, the other raining hell and devastation on the unfortunate souls to be exposed. 

Another contrast being that it took him, planing aside, about two weeks to produce 'Tennis For Two' and he dedicated 47 years of his life towards awareness of Nuclear Armaments and the risks they posed to our world.

Understandable really. 
You could look at Tennis For Two and say "that was really good fun, quite successful, I think!" 
Then, compare the effects of an atomic bomb and, well, I doubt any one witness stood up and said "that was hoot!", 
"Can I have go?" 
I think a reassessment of ethics would be in order. 

Oh my! This was a bad idea!
It's quite sad when you read his obituary and half the body of text is about a video game, then one tiny paragraph states: 

"But throughout his career, controlling nuclear arms was Mr. Higinbotham's primary interest. 
The Federation of American Scientists planned to honour him next month by renaming its headquarters in Washington Higinbotham Hall." 

Now, that must be quite an honour but it is completely over-shadowed by the main focus of his obituary. 

On further investigation, Ralph H. Baer proclaims himself as the "Father of Home Video Games" and fervently disputes Higinbotham's title and association towards video games. 

I think this is where the distinction between a computer game and a video game originates. 

Clearly William A. Higinbotham created an interactive Computer Game. 
Ralph H. Baer created the "Home Video Game System".

A system offering several different games to play. Two sets of colour screen overlays (wow) and a 'light-gun' 
(not to shabby for console originally named the "Brown Box"). 

The newly renamed Magnavox Odyssey was certainly a commercially viable product compared to Steve Russell's "Spacewar!" computer game, which ran on a PDP-1 computer, costing $120,000 and was about the size of a refrigerator. 
Russell also neglected to patent or copyright his work still, he must have a stake in the title for "Father of Computer Games", surely? 
For it was widely distributed amongst the computer community.
Despite its public limitations 'Spacewar!' was still the first popular computer game. 

With Baer's home gaming console selling near 2 million units, its clear that 1972 is the beginning of the video games industry. 

Following the success of his inventions, a National Medal of Technology in 2006 and having the initial insight to develop the technology to begin with, Ralph H. Baer, has earned the right to be addressed as "Father of Video Games". 

"W" and the "Baer"

Another candidate for the title would be Nolan Bushnell of Atari. 
But Atari themselves did not make a "Home Console" until 1975. 

Instead Bushnell, with his invention "Computer Space" in 1969, takes the title of "Father of Arcade Games!" 
Which is really just a divergent branch of the video game tree. Albeit a very lucrative divergence.

Arcade games became increasingly popular throughout the 70's and Atari provide a lot of break through games advancing the technology within the machines to provide a better experience for their 'gamers'. 

Although it is Midway's Licensing of the Japanese hit game 'Space Invaders' in 1978, that provides the most mainstream hit up to that point. 

to be continued...........80's - 90's.

(I realise I may have gone over this already so I will elaborate a little more)
This is my earliest memory of a video game: 

PONG (essentially Tennis For 2.0)

The console belonged to my dad. He brought it home one evening and we played it for hours! 
For some reason we had the TV resting on the floor. I have no idea why!?
(I think it may have originally belonged to one of his friends!)

It was a simple yet exciting form of entertainment because I couldn't quite understand how I was able to control the image on screen. I couldn't have been very old maybe 4 or 5.
This would have been around 1984-85.

I do remember a Grandstand console and an Atari home Console quite soon afterwards. 
My dad must have been keen to try something more current.

Atari 2600
And this guy!  
But I think they must have been broken because me and my family never played with them again. Probably full of Gremlins!

There were brief gaps in my encounters with computer and video games. 
Lots of climbing trees, Karate, BMX and Skateboards. (I am rubbish at Skateboarding).

I didn't really start getting into computer and video games until the late 80's which I will elaborate more on in my next Blog.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Blog Introduction - Who the heck am I?

Blog time! 

I'm Craig Mooney (_)(_) 
Apparently a Mature Student!  
- 13/06/80 - (My Wii Fit Age is 26)

The first game I ever played was Pong. With my dad.
It was strangely mesmerising :o

From then I had an Amstrad CPC-464

The games took so long to load!

Roland in The Caves = Epic
Ghostbusters II = A long, long wait
Dizzy = The most bizarre game I ever played at the time

Check him out!

From then it was a Commodore Amiga 1200

Ah! New Zealand Story how I miss you :'(

Then I got hold of this White Elephant of the Video Game world - The Amiga CD32
I just couldn't find any games! So I sold it to a collector! "Kah-Ching!"

To cut a long story short:

Xbox 360

======   \{>o<}/  ======

I've spent the last nine years working in Graphic Design, Textiles and finally (or mainly) Photography. 
So the last time I was in a place of learning was about 10 years ago! 
It's going to be interesting, back 'in class' again.

I'm not really sure why my career path led in that direction?! 
Considering my interest lie in more Illustrative pursuits. 

I think it was a combination of biding my time on the corporate ladder and paying the bills. 
More of the latter though. 

But generally, I felt that my skills were not being used for anything productive, or creative, 
that I could be proud of. 
My dream is simply that I want to work, so that people can enjoy what I do. Does that make sense? 
I'd like my art/work to make people happy and entertain them. (And hopefully get paid for it). 

But I have no illusions about the industry. I expect lots of late nights at the office, getting the latest project ready for deadline. Maybe some Pizza?
And, to be honest, that sounds great to me. Compared to the creative Black-Hole I just came from. 
I just hope I don't get stuck making everyone's Tea! 

Because I'm crap at making Tea. 

I've always loved to draw, sketch and generally create things. 
Whether it be on paper or with Plasticine and bits of wire. 
I remember once, taking apart an entire VCR, just to get a few strips of candy stripped wire! 


It's a great feeling to realise your idea. 

3D work has the same kind of appeal to me. 
Creating an object, although insubstantial, to become something with nearly endless possibilities. 
Or limited possibilities! It's still a craft in my opinion.  

3dsmax is like most programs when you first use them. It makes you feel like an absolute retard. 

Oooh! Shiny!
But it's all gradually seeping in. It doesn't help that I've been using Macs for 14 years and keep mixing up my shortcuts. 
I swear, my brain thinks Apple+C, Apple+V!

Help me! Steve Jobs has subverted my cognisance!

And to be able to just sit and draw for 4 hours on a Tuesday!
It's awesome. 
I had to sneak in a few moments of drawing in my previous job. And it was never time enough to get my sketches done. 

Now I have the opportunity to develop and rediscover those skills, it's a great relief. 
It also feels like I have more of a handle on my career prospects, which is a lot of pressure, but still a good feeling regardless. 
I'm waiting for my strengths to emerge through the assignments. 
I've always considered myself a reasonably good 2d artist. But I may discover that I'm stronger in 3D production. 
I did start out looking at the role of Concept Artist - 

http://www.skillset.org/film/jobs/productiondesign/article_4680_1.asp (this more film based)

This has so much appeal but requires the Artist to be as fluid with their ideas as possible and to continually adapt to the clients whims. 
Now, I've always considered myself to be tenacious and a little stubborn with my ideas so, this would require a great deal of personal growth and revision towards my work and output. 
But this whole journey for me has been all about change, whether it be in small or large measures. 

So it's not unachievable. 

I think one main barrier I need to overcome, is feeling that I'm not good enough to be doing this. 
My confidence has atrophied somewhat. 

But it's all coming back :)

I've certainly learnt some essential drawing pointers from Chris, that were previously unknown to me (even at the ripe age of 30!) 

So, for this 1st year I plan to be like a sponge and just soak up all the lessons, crits, tutorials and techniques and just evolve. 

I hope that makes sense :D

I must admit, on my first week, I had so many reservations about what the course would entail and what my fellow game students would be like, those fears have all dissolved. 
I think I must have been carrying a few hang-ups from my previous adventures in Higher Education. 

Your good people!

I feel like I'm in good hands with Chris, Heather and Mike too. Which is a massive relief! 
(I've encountered so many Jaded course leaders and tutors in the past)
Their approach is a breath of fresh air. 

(The images displayed are some examples of a random experiment with wire, plasticine and anatomy. Just to see if I could make an armature out of these materials)

So here I am 
(The actual story is a long and winding road of repeated back injuries and financial disappointment which, believe me, I have spared you)