When Was the First Video Game Created?

That Pac-Man cocktail table for sale brings back memories…distant memories. In fact, you may realize that Pac-Man was one of the first video games you ever played. That is true for many people since Pac-Man was one of the first classic arcade machines to gain worldwide fame.

But when was the very first video game created? Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t in the 1980s during the golden age of arcade games. It was many decades prior. The earliest video games date back to the 1940s, when human and computer interaction was just beginning.

The Early Predecessors

Video game development began in the 1940s. The Cathode-ray Tube Amusement Device was built in 1948, and is normally thought of as the first interactive video game, but it was never manufactured or sold. Also, players had to overlay targets on the screen, so it was not a fully-computerized game.

Alan Turing, the famed British computer scientist, began developing a Chess game based on an algorithm known as Turochamp in 1948, but it was never put onto a computer.

Bertie the Brain was built by Josef Kates in 1950. Players could play tic-tac-toe against the computer, but the central purpose of the creation was to demonstrate the capabilities of a computer, not to entertain.

Higinbotham’s Tennis for Two: Created for Entertainment

William Higinbotham, an American physicist, is credited with creating the first video game that was designed solely for entertainment in 1958. He was a member of the team that worked on designing the first nuclear bomb, but he created Tennis for Two with the idea that applying science to entertainment would convince society that science is relevant. He probably couldn’t have predicted how far his idea would go.

Tennis for Two is described as an early version of Pong, with viewers looking at a two-dimensional tennis court from a side view. The gamer would control the angle of the tennis racket using buttons and dials and the second player could hit the ball back.

Pong Spurred the Coin-Operated Arcade Frenzy

Pong, one of the first arcade games, was much like Tennis for Two, with two-dimensional graphics and the tennis theme. Only instead of being introduced then mostly forgotten, Pong birthed the gaming industry and has gone down in history as one of the most important games in the world. But no one should forget about the early developers and the work they invested – their discoveries and findings built the foundation for today’s video game success.