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How video games helped the world cozy up to computers

In a new feature The Atlantic rounds up insights from experts (John Romero, Laine Nooney, Bill Budge, et al) about how computer games in the '80s helped usher in today's tech-heavy culture.
"Gaming is the first form of computational technology most of us ever handled … Games taught us principles of interaction and screen responsiveness, about coordination between hand and eye, how to type, how to sit, how to look at a screen."

- Video game historian and educator Laine Nooney.

The scope of games' influence on human culture will likely never be fully understood -- but that won't stop people from trying.

The Atlantic's latest feature on the topic is particularly interesting, because it rounds up comments from a number of game industry luminaries about how computer games in the '80s may have directly shaped modern internet culture by, among other things, getting scores of people comfortable interacting with computers.

"I think the fact that computers were primarily used to play games really helped to get people to accept that computers were good and helpful devices," veteran game designer John Romero told The Atlantic."Instead of the negative portrayals of them in the ‘60s and ‘70s in movies."

Laine Nooney, an experienced researcher and educator who often speaks about the history of technology and video games, makes what proves to be the feature's cornerstone argument: as personal computers grew small enough to be brought into peoples' homes, it was often video games that brought people to those machines and accultured them to interacting with a screen.

"I strongly believe that games have been largely underrated in the spread of what we might think of as our ‘orientation’ toward computing," Nooney told The Atlantic. “In the span of less that 20 years, many Americans went from having never seen a computer to interacting with these machines in many facets of their daily lives."

Later in the feature, game industry veterans like Adventure creator Warren Robinett and Pinball Construction Set (pictured) maker Bill Budge share corroborating anecdotes; Budge, for example, notes that when he went to work at Google he discovered many engineers at the company had been inspired to pursue careers in tech because they'd played his game on the Apple II as children.

You can find that story and many more in the full feature, published today to The Atlantic's website.

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