Open Question

by Darius Kazemi on March 24, 2005

in Uncategorized

Here’s a crazy question I’m trying to answer: what do you think were the historical prerequisites that led up to the creation of the video game as we know it today? Obviously, the computer was a technological/historical prerequisite. But technological prereqs are easy to think about. What about our Western cultural situation? Or hell, our Eastern cultural situation, since Japan had a lot to do with it, too (although to my knowledge the real pioneers, SpaceWar and Pong dudes, were in the USA). Did the post-WWII situation have anything to do with it? Questions, questions… I’m interested in hearing some answers, dammit!


Craig Perko March 24, 2005 at 8:11 pm

Not that I HAVE any answers, but it seems to me that individual social isolation has a lot to do with it. In almost all of the major video game countries, such as America and Japan, you’ll find that families are small, strangers are unfriendly, and people tend to move from place to place relatively frequently instead of having ‘family land’.

You’ll notice that burgeoning areas of game development – Germany, United Kingdom, France – usually have most of those attributes. Whereas, on the other hand, places like Italy, Spain, China, and Australia don’t seem to have much of a games industry. These places generally have large, tightly-knit families and/or fairly friendly people.

Now, correlation doesn’t suggest causation, but…

Brad M. March 25, 2005 at 6:35 am

You know, I think a good part of the development of video games is that we (as people, men, Americans, geeks, whatever) just can’t resist dicking around with stuff. I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that video games and pinball both ended up in arcades. Pinball was really big in the ’40s and ’50s. Video games were really invented back in the ’50s (1952, to be specific). The idea of electromechanics powering games probably set the stage, but it doesn’t adequately explain why we did what we did.

Maybe it was the space program. We took all that ballistics technology developed in WWII and shot for the moon. Once again, video games had thematic elements of rocket ships and space and it’s probably not a coincidence. I think going into space changed our perceptions. People started looking at blank oscilloscopes and blank TV monitors and seeing space, thinking what was out there. It’s a manifestation of the real “manifest destiny,” the belief that the true destiny of the human race is to populate the stars. Asimov alluded to this in “The End of Eternity,” that the death of the human race lies only in finding out that there’s nowhere for us to go. We did that with video games; we populated space and let the player be part of it.

Or maybe it was a combination of four elements. Games existed from time immemorial, logic circuitry existed from the 1940s, TV had existed from the ’30s, and going to space had existed as an idea since Verne. This is the hallmark of the truly genius among us; they find the disparate elements which together exhibit emergent behavior. Video games are emergent behavior. The exuberance of exploring space eventually becomes narrative, which is then applied across all strokes of our epic history and our speculative future.

Darren Torpey March 28, 2005 at 5:17 am

I don’t have anything even remotely approaching an answer to this one. (Yet)

However, your question reminded me of a similar one I often ask: What was it that prepared us for and/or motivated such a large interest in fantasy settings? Novels, movies, and games have been rich with fantasy settings in a way that would have seemed (I imagine) downright queer a century ago. How has Western civilization gotten back to a point (or is it an entirely new point) now where we enjoy having our imaginations and perhaps our old-fashioned love for magical thinking played with and used as a setting for our entertainment?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: