Plugged In

Love gaming? Check out these inventions that shaped the industry!

Thursday, April 11, 2019
Posted by
Rachel Wong

Visitors have been loving the Game Changers exhibit this winter. It's a great outing for all ages because, with 40 years of video gaming history represented, everyone gets a turn being an expert!

With gaming on our minds, we wondered about how video games have changed over the years. To satisfy our curiosity, we have researched five video game inventions that played a role in changing the industry. Continue reading to discover how video games (and their promotions) evolved over the decades!

1) First video game that can be ported to multiple computers

Spacewar! (1962)
Spacewar! was one of the first video games played on multiple computers. Originally written for the new PDP-1 computer at MIT, Spacewar! had many members of the programming community contributing to its creation, adding components like a gamepad to make gaming easier. The innovative Spacewar! led to the creation of many arcade games in the following years.

2) First home game console

Magnavox Odyssey (1972)
Inspired by the infamous Pong arcade game, Magnavox Odyssey came with two controllers and twelve game cartridges, including games like tennis, Simon Says, and skiing. In order to play the games, the user placed a game overlay over the television screen (the console was only capable of controlling a few lighted dots and lines on the screen). The Magnavox Odyssey was priced at $100 in 1972, which is equivalent to approximately $580 in 2017. In total, the console sold over 350,000 copies and was succeeded by Magnavox Odyssey2.

3) First handheld game console

Milton Bradley Company’s Microvision (1979)
Microvision was the first handheld game console created with a 16 byte memory and no internal central processing unit (CPU). Only twelve games were made for Microvision, and each game cartridge has its own CPU. Although it was the first handheld game console, Microvision had many limitations. Its small 16x16 pixel screen was susceptible to heat damage, and the first version of the Microvision needed two 9-volt batteries to operate.

4) Immersing in virtual reality

Oculus VR’s Oculus Rift (2016)
After several failed non-commercial attempts at a virtual reality (VR) headset, the Oculus Rift became the first commercially available headset for virtual reality after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Since its creation, there have been video games specifically designed for the Rift, like EVE: Valkyrie. Besides gaming, users can also use the Rift for watching VR movies, studying human anatomy, and aiding architectural designs. 

With the hefty price tag of the Oculus RiftGoogle Cardboard (2016) provided an affordable VR headset option for consumers interested in experiencing VR. They could choose to either use Google’s specifications to build their own cardboard VR headset or purchase a pre-cut cardboard VR set from Google’s online store. Users experienced VR through VR videos on YouTube, VR apps, or other platforms. 

5) Making video games accessible

Microsoft’s XBox Adaptive Controller (2018)
If you watched the 2019 Super Bowl on television, you probably also saw Microsoft’s commercial about its Xbox adaptive controller. Designed for people with physical limitations, the first mass-produced adaptive controller lets the player customize the controller to maximize the gaming experience and minimize any hindrances to play.

Games Changers is open through May 5, and admission is included with regular museum admission. (Visit on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening and make a stop in The 8-Bit Lounge! Relax for a few minutes, enjoy a Surly Warp Zone Pilsner (created just for the Science Museum to celebrate Game Changers), play some digital and analog games, and find some Instagrammable moments! The 8-Bit Lounge is located on level 4, right next to the entrance to Game Changers.

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