One of the greatest nerd adventures ever invented? Or fun for the whole family?

Kids aren’t the only ones who think video games (aka electronic games) are one of the greatest inventions of all time. College students, teens, adults, even grandparents enjoy Candy Crushing and Wordle battles with friends. In fact, the NDP Group reports 76% of Americans have played video games this year alone proving they aren’t “just for nerds” anymore.

In 2022 the average American spends an average of 16.5 hours a week gaming according to marketingcharts.com. Of course, it’s no surprise that Generations Y and Z and millennials enjoy video games on the regular. But it may surprise you to know Gen Xers and Baby Boomers account for 9% of the playing action. (The bigger surprise is how they find the time.)

Video games stemmed from electro-mechanical gaming, which combines mechanical engineering technology and electrical components. One of the most popular examples of electro-mechanical gaming is Skee-Ball, patented in 1908 by Joseph Fourestier Simpson. The popularity of this new electro game gradually and steadily grew and was available to play in over 5,000 arcade alleys by 1936. Some believe that is where it all started, the world’s obsession with gaming that is. We kind of agree.

Fast forward to the 1930s and pinball came into play. The first pinball machines were actually only mechanical. They had coin slots and cost one penny to play. They were set up on table tops and eventually advanced to standing versions that included tilt mechanisms in 1934. Apparently, folks were physically lifting and shaking the games so that problem was solved with the good old tilt mechanism. Flipper advancement, bumpers, sounds, lights, music and other features were added as the technologies advanced and then by 1942 pinball was banned in New York City along with several other major US cities as the machines evolved into gambling devices. Meaning, they would pay the player for certain outcomes. They remained illegal in New York City until 1976 once the game of pinball was proven to be a game of skill in court. WHO KNEW?

With the invention of circuit board technology and modern computers, the new technology allowed for sound effects, more complex rules and immersive themes in gaming to develop. By 1962 the first ever video game was developed. “Spacewar” was in action. It is a space combat video game where two players can battle “DOG FIGHT” it out in their spaceships. This game was one of the most important and influential games in the early history of electronic video games. Oh yeah, of course, an MIT brought this gem to life.

Next came Arcade Video Games in the 1970s. Pong was the first commercially successful game. Pacman, Donkey Kong, Galaga, space invaders, Grand Prix and Tetris all adorned the arcades as the popularity of electronic gaming began its journey to being one of fun things to do when one got out of the house. I can remember going to Aladdin’s castle at the mall to play games all day long. And the only break was grabbing a slice in the food court.

In 1977 the first Atari console was released and this sparked a new era … home gaming systems. Arcades were still as popular as ever, but now people could enjoy this pastime pleasure in the comfort of home. The options for home systems like Intellivision came to life in 1980, ColecoVision and the good ole Commodore 64 all were options by 1982. They ranged in cost from $175 – $269. That was a fortune at that time. Atari stayed ahead of the others as they had the most market share for many years. They had some of the best games too.

The first Nintendo Entertainment system was release in 1983 followed by Sega in 1985. Then by 1994 Sega and PlayStation joined the pack of home play systems. Microsoft entered the frey in the early 2000’s with the ever so popular Xbox. The games available for pay were in the hundreds. Mortal combat was one of my favorites. No one can beat me still.

Wii jumped into the game by 2006. It was the first device to take the industry by storm as it abandoned its predecessors focus on precision jumping and emphasized simultaneous cooperative play. What does that mean? Basically, Wii introduced wireless technology with motion sensors allowing gameplay that incorporated physical movements by the player to control action within the game. It finally simmered down in 2013 and the focus within the industry became game engines that create a heightened sense of realism. Fast forward 10 more years and now “Virtual Reality Gaming” is the latest rage. Meta & Oculous Quest HTC Vive, just to name a few. The options for play are all over the board. Nerf Ultimate Championship is a fun one, Cities VR, Jurassic World: Aftermath, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Falcon Age, Vader Immortal: A Star War VR Series and Beat Saber are a few I recommend.

What’s Next? The trends will lead to more clould gaming, mobile gaming advancements and more game diversity. As the metaverse continues to evolve the future seems to be leaning toward a focus on mobile. This means that mobile games will be played on a number of different devices. Obviously, this means that our smartphones will be getting some more action when it comes to a platform that can be used for fun. The gap is diminishing every single day and 5G is making it possible to be able to play anywhere at any time without relying on a hardwired console.

We all carry smartphones, so this rolls back to the old stigma of being a nerd if you game. That stigma is over, it went away with malls and analog phones it seems. And yes, electronic games are indeed one of the greatest adventures ever invented.

About Teresa Spencer

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