Think you know about this history of video games? Well, if you're reading Gamasutra, you probably do, but sister educational site Game Career Guide
has a detailed history of the game biz written by Crystal Dynamics' Jason Weesner, as part of "the events, products, and trends that would eventually help define the modern video game designer".
Weesner's entertaining article has an intro that should appeal to all video game veterans, too:
"At 822 Orange Avenue in Coronado, California there's a nondescript dry cleaner sitting next to an abandoned, art deco movie theatre. The theatre has been dark and closed for over a decade and the property owners would rather let it rot than consider allowing somebody to invest a respectable money and time into making it special again. To say the magic is gone from these places is a gross understatement.
But, it wasn't always like this. If we were jump into a time machine and dial up a blue skies and sunshine week in the summer of 1982, we'll find quite a different scene. The Village theatre is showing a double feature of the Road Warrior and Escape From New York and Ed's Model & Hobby Shop is open for business next door.
Because of Internet commerce, mega-stores, and the resulting slow death of small business, stepping into Ed's Model Shop has no real equivalent / comparison to any place today. Part of the Model shop is indeed models: Revell, Airfix, and AMT, but beyond this there are shelves of Dungeons & Dragons modules and player's guides: the Village Of Hommlet, the Monster Manual, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Deities & Demigods (the illegal Cthulu version), etc. On a nearby counter are several rotating racks filled with Ral Partha lead ogres and orcs and umber hulks.
This probably sounds likes one of today's hobby shops, but there's something more to this place. Scattered around the store floor and huddled in a dark back room are a wide assortment of arcade video games and pinball: William's Black Knight, Namco Pac Man and Galaga, Atari Battlezone, and even the good old black and white Space Invaders with the color overlay. But, wait. There's more.
On a nearby wall are a variety of games for the Apple 2 (the predominant home computer at the time), Atari 400/800, and IBM PC: Akalabeth (Lord British's precursor to Ultima), Raster Blaster (awesome pinball simulator), Temple Of Apshai (Early RPG similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest), Avalon Hill strategy games (conversions from their board games), and Wizardry are in cardboard boxes or zip lock bags with photocopied manuals.
This is where the history of the modern video game designer starts; somewhere toward the end of the 1970's and the early 1980's at the nexus of four significant trends: the popularity of traditional roleplaying and strategy games, the success of arcade video games, the boom in affordable home computing, and the market saturation of home consoles like the Atari 2600. The following quick jaunt through videogame history is not meant to be too comprehensive, but pay attention to the different landmarks and events because they'll be referenced in all the articles to come!"
You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature on the subject
to check out further in-depth discussion of the game industry's multiple stages of being (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).