5 Contributions of Video Games to Technology

Technology and video games have always gone hand in hand. As proof, we’ll look at five ways video games have helped the tech industry.

People often say that Nintendo’s Kristian Wilson said a certain quote about video games, but it was actually a joke from comedian Marcus Brigstocke. This phrase is very popular on the Internet, and we have probably all seen it and agree with what he says at some point:

The phrase was meant as a joke, but it shows that video games do not have to be used as a synonym for something that harms the education or development of children or wastes our time. Today, video games are used in schools as a new way of teaching children. They are also used in rehabilitation therapy and, thanks to gamification and serious games, they have been incorporated into other processes as well.

Video games have had an effect in many different areas, and not just in the entertainment industry. In fact, the technology industry has grown thanks to the help that video games have given it. You might think that the relationship is the other way around, that technology comes first and then video games. Yet in this unique relationship, we have seen devices and technologies that everyone uses today first used in video games and other electronic entertainment.

To give you an idea of ​​what video games have done for technology, let’s take a few minutes to look at five of their contributions:

The first interfaces: ESDAC and the game of tic tac toe

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the first computers were being built, video games played an important role in making it easier to read the output of a program or test the first artificial intelligence algorithms.

Before Xerox Alto, these early computers did not have a graphical user interface, so results had to be printed on long strips of paper or displayed with glossy images. Alexander “Sandy” Shafto Douglas, a doctoral student at Cambridge University, began work on his doctoral thesis in 1952 in the Laboratory of Mathematics. He wanted to learn more about how people and machines work together.

In this laboratory the ESDAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) was elaborated. This was a special place for testing, and Alexander Douglas thought that he could create a game in which a person and a computer would play against each other to learn more about how humans and machines interact. Douglas also thought that the computer input and output needed to be improved to make the game “simpler”. To do this, he used a telephone dial as the input device and an oscilloscope screen to display the output.

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This game, which was called OXO, was one of the first video games ever made. It was an experiment for ESDAC that allowed a computer with vacuum tubes to play the game “tic tac toe” against a human using one of the first artificial intelligence algorithms ever put into a computer.

Chess, supercomputing and artificial intelligence

Even before computers were invented, the game of chess was always tied to algorithms. Between 1910 and 1912, Leonardo Torres Quevedo made an electromechanical machine called El Ajedrecista that could play chess against a person.

In the 1950s, Claude Shannon wrote one of the first books on how to program a computer to play chess. Alan Turing also wrote algorithms for playing chess in 1950, hoping to use them on the Manchester Mark I computer. However, he was unable to test them and had to wait until Garry Kasparov interpreted them at Alan Turing’s centenary party in 2012. to see them in action.

Surely, the chess games between Garry Kasparov and the Deep Blue supercomputer are the ones most people remember (and its successor Deeper Blue). Deep Blue was a supercomputer that IBM built in 1996 to show the world what it could technically do. It consisted of 30 RS/6000 nodes, each with 30 120 MHz P2SC processors and 480 VLSI processors that were designed to evaluate chess moves. The system could remember 4,000 moves and the games of 700,000 chess grandmasters. At that time, it was ranked 259 among the most powerful computers.

In February 1996 the first tournament between Kasparov and Deep Blue was held. Although Deep Blue could do 200 million position calculations per second, Kasparov surpassed it. Three of the six games were won by the chess grandmaster, two were tied, and the supercomputer only won one of the games.

Since Deep Blue, more and more systems have been created that test artificial intelligence algorithms in chess to see if they can beat grandmasters. Deep Fritz continues to be a reference in this field, and today we can even find robots that can play rapid games against chess grandmasters. This shows how games can have an effect in the field of artificial intelligence.

Space war! and the spirit of MIT hackers

In the 1960s, the first commercial computers began to be sold. They quickly became the most valuable pieces of equipment at places like MIT. In 1960, MIT obtained a PDP-1 computer. Many students who were also interested in the technology used it to work on their own projects, fueling the so-called “hacker spirit” at MIT.

In 1961, Steve “Slug” Russell, Martin “Shag” Graetz, and Wayne Wiitanen, none of whom were MIT students, learned about the PDP-1 computer and how it had been used to perform trigonometric calculations. Based on this code, the three decided to spend 200 hours making a game featuring two spaceships that were affected by the gravity of a nearby star and had to shoot and spin with the force of their engines.

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This is Spacewar! came to be. It was finished in 1962 and became the basis for many other fans and early MIT hackers to work on and improve upon. The code was available to anyone who wanted it, and in the end, it would go beyond MIT. Other research centers would also make changes and improvements to the game.

Because of how much this game changed hacker culture and the industry at the time, Digital Equipment, the company that made the PDP-1, created Spacewar! a standard part of all newer PDP-1 computers and later models such as the PDP-10 and PDP-11.

gesture control

Leap Motion is part of a new generation of devices that allow us to control our computers without a mouse. We just gesture in the air to do this.

There are more and more research projects and commercial products that try to bring us closer to gesture control and make it easier for us to use everyday systems. Video games have also had a great impact on this technology. We don’t have to go far because devices like the Wiimote and Kinect are good examples (named after the control controller for the Nintendo Wii console).

Both the Wiimote and the Kinect have changed the way we play video games, but the Kinect may have had the biggest impact because it has gone beyond the world of video games and is now used in many research projects and commercial systems for gesture and artificial control. vision.

3D graphics

The first 3D graphics appeared in the 1960s and were used in simulations. However, video games have also had a great impact on this technology.

Maze War was one of the first 3D video games. It was also the first first-person shooter game ever made. This game was created by Steve Colley in 1973 for the Imlac PDS-1 computer. It became very popular because its code was open source and could be used on Xerox Alto (and Xerox Star) or early Macs. This first 3D game is especially interesting because its creator, Steve Colley, later worked with NASA to make the Mars Exploration Rover and its 3D rendering system.

Other games that used 3D graphics for the first time included Tailgunner (1979), Battlezone (1980), Indianapolis 500 (1989), Hard Drivin’ (1989), and Alpha Waves (1990). However, I, Atari Robot (1983), which was the first game to use three-dimensional polygon graphics, was probably one of the most important.

Video games have not only made 3D graphics and virtual reality more accessible to the general public, but have also been a driving force behind the development of increasingly powerful hardware. In the golden age of cartridge consoles, games like Nintendo’s Star Fox had a coprocessor called the “mythical Super FX chip” that gave the console more graphic power. In the late 1990s, gamers saved for a long time to buy a graphics card for their PC made by the now-defunct company 3dfx so they could get the most out of gaming graphics at the time.

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The graphic capabilities of our mobile devices are getting better and better. For example, tablets have graphics chips that allow us to play games with 3D graphics and lots of detail. In the desktop market, when a new processor or graphics chip comes out, games that are optimized for it come out at the same time. This is just one more way to show that video game companies and hardware companies are on the same path.

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