While console and mobile gaming may be the ones that get all of the headlines today PC gaming has a far longer and more event-filled history. There’s even an argument that playing on a PC is an altogether more involving and intense experience thanks to the superb combination of visual and audio performance that the very best set-ups can deliver.
You might also be surprised to learn that PC gaming, in its most basic forms, has a far longer history than both the console or mobile. So here, in chronological order, are ten key milestones that have brought us to where we are today.
1952. Alexander Douglas invents OXO
Nearly 70 years ago a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge devised what was arguably the first ever PC game. OXO was a simple version of tic-tac-toe, or noughts and crosses as it was called at the time. The machine that it was played on was called the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) and was one of the first computers capable of storing information in its memory.
1962. Spacewar takes off
A decade later mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invented a game that was to be a forerunner of 1980s favourites like Asteroids and Missile Command. As the name suggests, the object is to win a battle between two spaceships which had limited fuel and torpedoes on board. The game went on to make history when it featured in first ever video game tournament held at Stanford University in 1972.
1981. Ultima 1 released
While RPGs are commonplace today, when Ultima 1 was released in 1981 it created a whole new genre which many other games developers were quick to follow. The game involves a quest to find and destroy the “Gem of Immortality” which is being used to enslave the people of Sosaria. The player is cast as “The Stranger” who has to pass many trials on the way to success.
1987. The first EGA video card
When the Enhanced Graphics Card was first introduced by IBM to replace the CGA in its PCs it was a leap forward transformed the complexity of the images that could be shown on screen as well as the range of colours that could be accurately displayed. So PC video games would never look the same again!
1993. Doom is released
Just as Ultima 1 heralded the birth of the RPG, DOOM did the same for the first-person shooter gaming. Needless to say, it also spawned a whole franchise. Among the ways that it broke the mould was with its 3D graphics, multiplayer functionality and the ability of players to make additions and changes to the game through the DOOM Wad format. Its popularity is so great that over 10 million copies have been sold worldwide
2002. First online poker games introduced
Considering the huge popularity that they have achieved today, it’s amazing to realise that it’s less than two decades ago that online poker games first started to gain popularity. Their development came hand in hand with the rise of the internet and since the early days there has been a steady increase in their sophistication and playability. Today many millions of people, from beginners to professionals, enjoy the chance to play online.
2003. Valve Corporation introduces Steam
The increasingly interconnected nature of the world meant that by 2003 the time was perfect for the Valve Corporation to launch Steam. It also came as a result of the difficulty they had, up until then, of releasing updates for games online. It quickly grew into a sharing platform and today is, a community gaming network which is estimated to have over 150 million users worldwide.
2011. Minecraft is released
For many, Minecraft is the ultimate sandbox game, challenging players to build their own personal worlds in different modes according to taste and appetite for difficulty. Where the developers were especially clever was in including educational elements in the game so many parents were supportive of their children playing the game. The other big hit with the same age-group, Fortnite, can’t boast the same educational credentials.
2015. GFinity opens the UK’s first dedicated eSports arena
With the explosion of eSports across the world it was never going to be long before a venue dedicated to them was launched. So in 2015 a joint venture between the entertainment company Vue and GFinity opened in London. The 600 seater venue was the first of many others to be opened since then. Now, as the popularity of eSports continues to grow and more and more professional teams compete for big money prizes it’s ironic that the previously online community is starting to attend the events in person.
2018. Virtual reality reaches the mainstream.
It was a long time coming, and there were a number of false dawns on the way, but 2018 was the year when PC gaming really started to move into a new dimension with virtual reality. Driving this was the arrival of relatively affordable headsets and developers starting to create games to take advantage of the tech.
So it looks like we’re heading into the next exciting phase of PC gaming which could almost be without limits. And when you consider just how far we’ve come since the days of OXO noughts and crosses one can only wonder just how much further we can go.