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Video Game Day – July 8th, 2011

Video Game Day – July 8th, 2011

By James L. (JimiJam)


Video games have been around for a LONG time.  Those who remember Pac-man’s early days may take offense at this assertion, at least until they hear that the first video game predates Pac-man by over 20 years!  In 1947, Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Este Ray Mann submitted an application for the very first video game related patent, then called a “cathode ray tube amusement device”.  The game was not only the world’s first video game, but the first of what have come to be known as “shooters”.  In this case, the targets were meant to represent airplanes, and the first gamers used a set of buttons and knobs to fire the cathode ray tube beam toward the oncoming blips.  Little did anyone realize, a multi-billion dollar industry was born.


The future of video games wasn’t even remotely obvious during those first fledgling decades.  In fact, it took quite a few stumbling years in the mid-to-late ‘70s before gaming began to show it’s true potential.  While many of the first home consoles (Atari, CalecoVision, Intellivision) found some success in the early ‘80s, it was largely due to what is now known as the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games that gaming truly came into its own.  Memorable classics such as Pac-Man, Defender, Space Invaders, and Centipede quickly became buzzwords in America’s pop-cultural vernacular.


While the age of the arcade enjoyed its primacy, we also saw the arrival of the home computer, as well as the rise of one of the most important words in video game history: Nintendo.  Originally a playing card manufacturer, Nintendo’s focus shifted to home entertainment featuring some of gaming’s best time-tested interfaces, like the “zapper”, a light capturing device used as a gun, and familiar to anyone who has played games like Nintendo’s own Duck Hunt, bundled in-cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System with the biggest icon since Mickey Mouse: Mario Mario, the plumber.

Since those early days, we’ve seen Nintendo joined by companies like Sega, Sony, and Microsoft, who over the years have released an army of consoles and formats, and have consistently revolutionized the notion of home entertainment.  We’ve seen games grow from simple single screen spritefests to immense and beautifully depicted virtual environments set as the backdrop for ongoing storylines and multifaceted plots more complex than the modern movie trilogy can express.  These days, gamers don’t just play for the simple thrill of a few satisfying bleeps; today’s gamers immerse themselves into the roles of their characters, roving virtual landscapes in teams and squads with comrades networked across the world, perpetuating limitless plotlines and participating in nothing less than modern mythmaking, taking the labels of hero and villain alike onto themselves.


Friday July 8th is actually the first of two days set aside for celebration of video games.  Considering how powerful these sources of amusement have become within modern society, it’s not surprising that two days are required.  From a two players manipulating blips on oscilloscopes to warehouses filled with row after row of gamer-helmed PCs; from single screens of platforms to environments so real they have weather patterns; from an informative paragraph in an instruction pamphlet to hours of in game cinematics expositing storylines to rival some of the most fantastic of novels, video games have evolved into something far greater than their earliest designers could have ever predicted.  We now live in a world chock full of video game inspired paraphernalia, including toys, movies, books, clothing lines, music scores, home decorations, entire conventions, whole lives dedicated to what has become a world unto itself.


The Myst Reader Books 1-3 by Rand Miller, Robyn Miller, David Wingrove


What Every Parent Needs to Know About Video Games by Richard Abanes


First Strike – HALO, Bk 3 by  Eric Nylund


Perfect Dark: Second Front by Greg Rucka


The Best of the Super Mario Bros


Donkey Kong Country by Michael Teitelbaum, Leif Peng (Illustrator)


Sonic the Hedgehog by Michael Teitelbaum



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