Brief History of Video Games as a Digital Art Medium

Video game is an art form. It’s easy to get lost in the snobbery of treating video games as simple playtime leisure but if observed objectively, it truly is an art. Since its birth of 1950, video games have evolved and revolutionized itself repeatedly. And Video Game graphics have truly come a long way as well. We are reaching the point of passing The Uncanny Valley, the point where digital art seamlessly becomes interchangeable with real life. What this effect this will have long term is unknown, only that we are witnessing a birth of something truly spectacular.

The very first video game that was created was Bertie the Brain. Developed by Josef Kates, the game was a digital game of tic-tac-toe played again the computer. The groundbreaking game featured graphics of simple X and O’s with grids marking the grids of the game board. Such simple graphics was certainly not taken seriously as an art form but nonetheless, it was a technical achievement that was revolutionary.

The domain of video games was only a feasibility in Universities or commercial computer labs and still out of reach of every day consumers. It wasn’t until 1970s when the cost of computers drastically decreased when video games for the masses became a possibility.

One of the earliest and most memorable video games was Pong. A digital game of ping pong is the succinct way of capturing this simple game of bouncing balls between two lines on opposite sides. Pong represented the dawn of two dimensional graphics. It was as basic as can be, but to early adopters of video gamers, it represented something even bigger than simple pixelated 2-D.

It wasn’t until when Nintendo, now a video gaming behemoth, introduced NES that the video gaming exploded into the consumer space. With memorable characters like Mario and Dong King Kong, the arts in video games graduated from simple lines to recognizable lumps of pixels that we all have come to love and associate with.

all video game characters from Nintendo shown here

As the processing powers of computers increased at its exponential rate and the cost of computing hardware down, adoption of computers have become explosive since the late 80s. This also coincided with developments of 3-D video games. John Carmack of ID Software created Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, which made 3D games incredibly popular. Since then, the popular video game consoles like X-Box and Playstation have been furthering the developments of Video Games as an art.

Now in 2016, we have what are essentially small computers in our pockets. With such tremendous computing power comes the ability to run games that would’ve required heavy computers to process. Today’s smartphone games graphically are almost on par with what the top of the line PCs were able to produce just 5 years ago and it is catching up fast.

All this computing powers just means more ways for video game artists to further their craft and show what they are capable of. What was once a pipe dream for video game artists (earning a living or a career from producing video game arts) are becoming a reality.

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