You started out playing the Atari 2600? That’s nothing. Oh, you started even earlier, perhaps with an Odyssey2 or even the original Odyssey? Get out of here. Today, I had the privilege of playing what is sometimes considered to be the very first video game ever— Spacewar!. The experience took place during a live demo of a restored, 45 year old, DEC PDP-1 computer at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, USA.
I had always heard the tales of this program but never paid them much mind. How good could such a game possibly be? I was roundly impressed when I saw it in action. I was one volunteer who got to demo the game for the crowd. The other player and I had makeshift controller boxes with 5 buttons– one for rotating left, one for rotating right, one for activating the thrusters, one for firing, and one for an emergency hyperspace jump. The goal is to take out the other ship. However, there is more to the game. There is a gravity center (sun) in the middle of the screen and both ships must take that into account and not get sucked in. Further, you will eventually run out of fuel and ammunition. Be advised.
I read now that there are many modern incarnations of that same game, following the exact same thread. However, as I type this, it occurred to me that one of my favorite NES games was somewhat inspired by this same concept, or at least the control scheme — Solar Jetman.
In Solar Jetman, you pilot a pod around different planets, collecting necessities and goodies. You rotate the ship and thrust while taking gravity into account. It’s all very unintuitive when you have a gamepad at your disposal. Maybe my Solar Jetman experience had something to do with why I got the hang of Spacewar! so quickly.
The first video game ever? Arguably. However, Google for the “story of mel” to read an epic tale about one Mel Kaye. According to that story, Mel had programmed blackjack on a few different business-oriented computers. The story seems to take place in the late 1950s. Spacewar! originated in 1962.
But who’s counting? Anyway, I think I’ll propose to MobyGames that PDP-1 be added as a platform.