Video Games in ’60s vs. Today

by Drew Hendricks

In the 1960s video games were very different than they are today.Video game systems were much simpler and the games for them were less complex. The first video game that was made popular in the 1960s was Pong. It was 1966 when the first video game was designed by a man named Ralph Baer. He built seven prototypes that each played multiple video games.

The first game to be designed by Ralph Baer was called Chase Game, and consisted of a pair of squares that chased each other around the screen. It was a two-player game where one player could control each square. Before he designed this game, he kept a record of four different games he felt could be played on a video game system. The games were divided into the categories of board games, chasing games, sports games and action games. Players had a choice of tennis, ping-pong, volleyball and handball games.

In 1968, Baer and a co-worker built a prototype called the Brown Box, which allowed people to play target shot games and Ball & Paddle games. The Brown Box was considered the first ever video game console. Baer also built Corndog, the first video game that could be played on a television set. Brown Box was later purchased by the Magnavox company and the first batch was released to consumers in 1972. Magnavox renamed it the Odyssey. 

Unlike modern day game systems, the Odyssey did not use processors. Instead it used circuits that were hardwired, as well as D-cells. The game cartridges had just a few wires that would communicate with the needed components in the video game console. These consoles were able to support games that could be played by multiple people simultaneously. At that time, players had to make note of their own scores in the game, because the console did not have the ability to handle keeping and displaying each person’s score.

Today’s video game consoles provide a rich soundtrack and stunning graphics, but in the days of the Brown Box, game consoles had primitive graphics and no sound. Lines and white dots were the only graphics to be found in the games designed for the Brown Box. Due to the lack of graphics built into the game, the company included clear screen overlays which players could put on their TV screen to have a colored background. Games such as table tennis did not require a background, but many games did. The overlays were available for TV screens that were 23-25 inches long and for screens that were 18-21 inches long.

Video games of today include text when it is needed. However, the video games of the 1960s did not have elaborate texts because the technology to support them had not been discovered yet. This means that certain video games came with game cards, much like a board game would. The six game cards that came with the system included Table Tennis, Simon Says, Tennis, Hockey & Football, Cat and Mouse, Submarine and Roulette. Score cards were also included with each game so scores could be kept manually because the console did not have the ability to save game progress.

When compared to the Brown Box, the game consoles of today (PlayStation 3, XBox 360, etc) are super-advanced technology. All of today’s game consoles support realistic looking graphics and sound effects game designers of the 1960s could only dream of. Today, players can customize game characters, choose their own weapons and even use his or her body as the game controller. Today’s consoles contain a hard drive and, in some cases, a WIFI connection that allows players to interact with other players all over the world. The PlayStation 3 uses a cell processor to power the console and comes with 256MB of RAM.

Popular video games today fall into the categories of action, role-playing, strategy and simulation. Video games are much more advanced than they were in the past and they are a lot more interactive as well. Most games have dozens, if not hundreds of levels to keep players coming back for more. This is drastically different than the video games of the 1960s. Popular games of today include the Resident Evil series, Grand Theft Auto and Counterstrike. These games can be played on most consoles available today.

These days, the various game consoles available serve as competition for each other. This competition did not consist in the 1960s because the Maganvox Odyssey was the only console available until Atari came along.


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