Video gaming has gone from being a subculture to being a dominant cultural influence. Currently 97% of males and 94% of females under 18 years of age are video gamers. Many play in small amounts (an average of 18 hours per week), but some gamers report that they play 40 hours or more a week. By the age of 21, the average young person spends up to 10,000 hours playing video games (if you do the math, that’s just about as much time as they spend in a classroom during all of middle school and high school, assuming perfect attendance).

If these statistics surprise you, there’s more:

  • 2 out of 5 gamers are female
  • Some 65% of US households play video games (this includes both youth and adults).
  • The Mario Franchise is the most successful video game series ever, selling over 225 million games.

In January 1947, Thomas T. Goldsmith, then a professor of physics at Furman University, along with Estle Ray Mann, submitted a patent for a “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device,” which (According to the Wikipedia article on the topic), “Consisted of an analog device that allowed a user to control a vector-drawn dot on the screen to simulate a missile being fired at targets, which were drawings fixed to the screen.” This was the earliest known electronic game.

Three years later, in 1950, a programmer named Claude Shannon developed a chess-playing program. Then in 1951, the NIMROD computer, designed by Ferrenti International, an electrical engineering and equipment firm in the UK, became the first ever digital computer designed specifically to play a game. In 1952, the first computer game to utilize a digital graphical display, which played an archaic version of tic-tac-toe, was invented by Alexander S. Douglas.

From there, the invention and utilization of computer games became much more prevalent. Other games utilizing similar technologies, such as Mouse in the Maze in 1959, Spacewar in 1961, Odyssey in 1966, and later the well known game Pong in 1972. Following the development of a home version in 1975, Pong’s commercial success led other companies develop Pong clones, which eventually led to the beginning of what we know of today as the video game industry.

Since their beginnings in 1947 and onwards, video games have had a significant influence on popular culture. With the advent of online gaming in the 1970s and 1980s, the gaming culture has drastically increased in size and scope. The shift from console-based gaming to online games has allowed for the creation of entirely new genre of games called Massively-multiplayer Online Games (or MMORPG’s for short).

With these advances many theorists, from psychologists and sociologists alike, have been debating over the impact that these games have on culture, particularly youth culture. While some argue that video games are detrimental to the social development of children, still others argue that video games are actually quite helpful in the development of problem solving and other skills.

written by Chris Lloyd, CYS

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