Here’s my brief and proudly-biased timeline of the greatest and most historically significant video games — and some just because I owned a copy or played it at a local arcade. Feel free to comment to the effect of, “What?! No blankety-blank?”
Timeline of key games:
1947 Cathode Ray-Tube Amusement Device (sadly, no image but incredible name).
1952 OXO (aka Noughts and Crosses). All that machinery (above) just to play tic-tac-toe.
1958 Tennis For Two promised minutes of fun gameplay.
1969 Space Travel
1971 The dawn of the coin-operated game included Galaxy Game and Computer Space (featured in Soylent Green). Also Magnavox Odyssey became the first game console, although it looks like all their games were just Pong with a translucent overlay. The geography game is priceless.
1972 Pong, widely (and obviously incorrectly) often referred to as the first video game.
1973 Missile Radar, Space Race, Rebound, Gotcha
1974 Tank, Gran Track 10, Qwak!
1975 Gunfight, Destruction Derby
1976 Night Driver, Breakout, Heavyweight Champ
1978 Space Invaders, Space Wars, Asteroids, Firetruck, Football. I have fond memories of going to the corner store on the corner of Green Meadows and Providence, my dad holding me in one arm (mashing the “fire” button) whilst he steered with the other on these games.
1979 Galaxian, Lunar Lander, Warrior. When our Cocker Spaniel “Maggie” died, I asked if it would be ok to go play Galaxian to take my mind off it.
1980 Pac Man, Defender, Centipede, Tempest, Battlezone, Berzerk, Missile Command
1981 Cosmic Avenger, Gorf, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga, Satan’s Hollow, Turbo. Gorf first caught my attention at Godfather’s Pizza in the Sharp End neighborhood. On my way to get a refill of root beer, this game f-ing talked! Gorf mocked and boasted with his robotic voice a series of remarks including:
Try again! I devour coins!”
“Ha ha ha ha!”
“Prepare for annihilation!”
“All hail the supreme Gorfian Empire!”
“Long live Gorf!”
And I used to get down to Satan’s Hollow at Showbiz Pizza (I’m starting to see a pattern of pizza and gaming emerge). The gameplay wasn’t that great but it had a black light and the name and subject matter seduced me to the dark side.
After my parents divorced, my dad moved to a duplex. He’d wash his clothes at Lily Pad Laundry and I’d play Frogger whilst we waited. This was also around the time I started drawing fanciful video games on big sheets of manila paper. I also got some Donkey Kong PJs.
1982 Q*Bert, Joust, BurgerTime, Pitfall!, Moon Patrol, Tron, Bump ‘n’ Jump, Donkey Kong Jr., Popeye, Zaxxon. I was a master of all these titles. My brother, however, was better at Pitfall! and completed all the tasks within the time limit. He took a picture of the screen and was going to send away for the Pitfall! Adventurer patch but the picture didn’t really come out. Pitfall! was also innovative because it was one of the first to have an ending, not just an endless succession of levels. I used to sneak into this country club when I was a kid, initially pretending to be the guest of a member, but eventually getting to the point where the staff knew my name and assumed I was a member since I was using their pool all the time. Anyway, they had Q*Bert and I remember getting to, I think, the 27th level and the boxes started to look too M.C. Escher to me so I had to walk away and hand over the controls to one of the assembled and amazed little preppies.
That summer, Tron came out and I thought it was amazing. I remember talking about it in summer school (the advanced kind, not the remedial one). I had no idea that it would be the last year a teacher would endorse me for that honor.
That same year, this older kid, Gus, sang the lyrics to “Pac-Man Fever” on the school bus. When I found out what it was, my sister got my the Buckner & Garcia album for Christmas (my first or second LP).
1983 Spy Hunter, Dragon’s Lair, Root Beer Tapper, Beamrider, Mountain King, Journey, M.A.C.H. 3, Star Wars, and Mario Brothers. Those were some damn fine games except that Dragon’s Lair, which used a Laserdisc, cost 50 cents, and was just impossible to play.
It was also the year of the Video Game Crash, the only year since their invention that the video game industry hasn’t grown. Loads of consoles flooded the market and there were some really crap titles like E.T., which is, without a doubt, one of the worst games ever (as games based on movies usually are) and some of the earliest proof of Steven Spielberg‘s child-baiting evil.
Another reason that video games suffered was that computers grew so much in popularity. Like many others, we got an Apple ][e and before long I was programming games in addition to playing them. Wouldn’t you like to get your hands on my never-released text adventure “Voyage to Zeus?” Never!
1984 1942, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. I loved 1942, I don’t know why… old planes are cool, I guess. For It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll my band’s name was short for Blowtorch… a nod to my favorite insult at the time, “blowtorch balls.” This was also the year that the Last Starfighter hit theaters, offering friendless geeks everywhere the possibility that our video game skills might come into use after all.
1985 Super Mario Brothers, Alcazar-The Forgotten Fortress, Tetris, Gauntlet, Super Mario Brothers. Alcazar was the last game I bought for my Colecovision. I wanted, out of brand loyalty, to maintain that Colecos were superior to Nintendos but was clear that it was all over. The Nintendo Entertainment System had been available in Japan since 1983 but we had to wait til ’85 and its release just killed all other consoles.
I played Tetris so much that, when trying to read Light in August the words were falling and I’d see it when I closed my eyes. I realized that I had to quit Tetris cold turkey and never played it again until about 2003.
Super Mario Brothers made me feel old. Everyone loved it (it sold 40 million copies) and its secret levels and stuff like that but I didn’t like having to read a magazine to learn how to unlock a games potential. It was also weird because it made Mario like the Mickey Mouse of video games. He began as an working class Italian plumber (or carpenter named “Jumpman” in his native Japan) in love, trying to rescue his girlfriend, Pauline, from the clutches of his pet gorilla. Now he was some sort of over-sized heroic figure living in the Mushroom Kingdom and trying to rescue Princess Peach. Somewhere along the way he lost his soul.
1986 Legend of Zelda, Rampage, Castlevania, and Rygar. Rampage was so cool. You got to kill and eat defenseless innocent humans and destroy their building. Just sheer, glorified destruction. I spent hours playing Rygar at the Aladdin’s Castle once because, for some reason, I had unlimited lives!
1987 Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Contra, After Burner, Metal Gear. Double Dragon seemed so gritty and urban. This is back when I still imagined that thugs spent their time hanging out in alleys and empty warehouses just waiting to rumble.
1988 Ninja Gaiden, Splatterhouse, Altered Beast. Splatterhouse was the first game to have a parental advisory.
1989 A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia, The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Golden Axe, River City Ransom. In 1989, the monochromatic Game Boy and the color LCD Atari Lynx were both released. Lynx didn’t last long.
1990 Wing Commander, The Combatribes
1991 Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, Captain Commando
1992 Warriors of Fate, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Racing
1993 Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, Night Trap, The Punisher
1994 Tekken, Super Metroid, Killer Instinct, FIFA International Soccer, Aliens vs. Predator, Armored Warriors,
1996 Duke Nukem 3D, Soul Edge, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, House of the Dead
1997 Grand Theft Auto, Quake II
1998 Dance Dance Revolution, GuitarFreaks
2001 Max Payne, Ico
2002 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
2003 Max Payne 2, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
2004 Manhunt, Killzone, Red Dead Revolver
2005 Jade Empire, Shadow of the Colossus, Guitar Hero, Condemned: Criminal Origins
2006 Wii Sports, Dead Rising, Saints Row,
2008 Fallout 3. I know Fallout 3 hasn’t come out yet, but I’ve been waiting for this for 20 years, since back when my brother and I argued in a computer store in the Biscayne Mall over whether we should get one of the King’s Quests or Wasteland (his vote), which neither of us knew anything about. He won and, of course, it turned out to spawn the greatest franchise and game history! I was 14, without any friends, and I used to spend hours playing it with Kraftwerk on in the background. Fallout 3 will be the first in the series designed for video game consoles. I wonder if it’s too late to get Amoeba into Fallout 3! That would be so awesome!
In 2151 the Starfleet vessel Enterprise encounter the Xyrillians, a race who posses advanced holographic technology. They install a holographic chamber on a Klingon Battle Cruiser.
2364, Starfleet spacecraft are routinely outfitted with Holodecks.
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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