Computer games: 40 years of fun

A London-based show will chronicle the history of the computer game since its birth in 1962 and will include vintage arcade games, rare kit and artwork
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The gaming industry will mark the 40th birthday of computer games at a London exhibition next year.

The "Game On" will be held at the Barbican Gallery, and will run between 16 May and 15 September 2002. The show will contain over 250 exhibits, and promises to explore the creativity and influence of computer games on contemporary culture. It will also attempt to forecast the future of computer gaming.

Conrad Bodman, resident curator at the Barbican, promises that the show will include plenty of interactive exhibits. "GameOn will identify key creative individuals involved in software design, and explain crucial developments in hardware technology from the primitive colossal computers of the early sixties to the GameCube," he said.

According to GameOn's organisers, the first computer game was called Spacewar. It was coded in 1962 by a programmer called Stephen Russell -- in collaboration with other researchers -- and ran on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-1 machine, an early computer that was one of the first to use a cathode-ray tube display and a keyboard. The game involved two players, who each controlled a spaceship and fired torpedoes at the other ship.

GameOn will be made up of a number of themed sections. These will include "early computer games" -- featuring Computer Space, which in 1971 was the first arcade game -- the "creative process of games" -- containing details of individuals who played important roles in the growth of the industry, and a section dedicated to computer game art.

Visitors will also be able to see rare consoles and handsets, and screenings of films with strong links to computer games -- such as Tron, The Matrix and Final Fantasy.

According to reports, Russell was inspired to write Spacewar by the writings of E.E. "Doc" Smith, the science fiction writer whose other claim to fame was that he was the first man to invent a method of getting powdered sugar to stick to doughnuts.

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