Video Games

Some Weird Facts You Can Pretend You Already Knew About Video Games

So, you think you know about video games...


So, you think you know about video games. Well, you probably do. They're hugely popular, after all, and cater to as wide a variety of tastes as can be found in the real world. In fact, video games have become an extension (and enhancement) of the real world, allowing people to communicate, interact, share fantasies, and test their skills.

Given how ubiquitous games have become, you can't fail to impress by dropping a few of the following facts at the next virtual party you attend.

What was the first video game?

Arguably the first video game produced, depending on how you define the term, was Spacewar!. It appeared in 1961 and allowed two players to battle each other while avoiding a star's gravitational field. While the game came too early to be commercialized, it inspired later games, including Asteroids. It was also the starting point for the first commercially sold, coin-operated videogame: Computer Space.

So why do I remember that piece of shit Pong game?

Joi Ito

We weren't ready for Spacewar!

What's the big deal about Space Invaders?

It was really the first video game almost everybody liked. It actually revived the young video game industry after a lot of people got bored with the new but not yet intriguing curiosity in 1977.

What made video games controversial?

Leisure Suit Larry
Leisure Suit Larry/YouTube

People need a reason? Anyway, it definitely happened by the time Leisure Suit Larry brought crude graphics and clever plotting about a hopeless horndog to the personal computer (the game has since been rebooted).

When did video games start playing a role on the political scene?

The milestone there may well have been the raid on Steve Jackson Games over the Secret Service's complete misunderstanding of what the word "hacking" means. The fiasco helped inspire the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

What in hell happened to my company's computer network every time the boss stepped out of the office in the 1990s?

That was your IT department playing Command and Conquer over connections that weren't quite ready for global warfare. Whoops.

What makes video gaming so…absorbing?

Video games have created their own imaginary worlds since the early days of development. In the beginning, they often riffed off of role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Today, with much more computing power and three-dimensional graphics, massively multiplayer online games can create any kind of world the users want. That can mean very specific fantasy or historical settings, or free-form do-it-yourself worlds of the kind that became so popular with Second Life. The worlds are so detailed that the virtual money in them has sometimes become convertible to real cash.

Second Life
Linden Lab

Do video games screw you up?

We certainly hope so. But the truth is that, while anything can be overdone or abused, there's evidence that gaming can help improve memory, judgment, multitasking, and other mental skills. Just step outside every now and then.

NEXT: Should Women Who Have Had an Abortion Feel Guilty About It?

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  1. How about a nice game of chess?

    1. Too complicated, how about “Ants in the pants”?

    2. Chess is boring and repetitive. Play go.

      1. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out

    3. Sure you don’t want to play Global Thermonucler War?

  2. If you’re trying to play leisure suit Larry, the answer to the age check question is ‘Spirow Agnew’

    1. With both ‘w’s?

    2. Two important tips I remember from Leisure Suit Larry: ALWAYS use the condom and DON’T flush the toilet in the bar.

  3. A Jehovah’s Witness just came to my door advocating for world government.

    “Why do we need one? Is it possible? Who is qualified to rule?”

    I was polite.

    (Yes, I realize the implication is the kingdom of heaven on earth)

    JW is post millennial, right? Establish the 1000 year kingdom of heaven on earth and then Jesus returns?

    1. If by “post millennial” you mean post 1000 AD, then yeah; they were founded in 1931.

      1. I haven’t brushed up on my eschatology in a while, but I believe that when SG says post-millennial, he means “crazy.”

    2. Sorry I’m not giving them money to keep me out of Hell.

      1. That’s the Catholics. JWs don’t believe in hell.

  4. Former central banker experiences a sudden outbreak of common sense:

    Former Bundesbank Vice-President Recommends Gold, Says Current Economic System is “Pure Fiction”


    The problem is the monetary model itself. That is, the printing of paper currency without real backing and the multiplier by which the commercial banks can expand credit-uncontrolled without prior savings. Stark recommended allocating part of this fictional savings to investment in traditional “safe havens” such as gold or silver.

    1. Somebody give this guy a microphone. If only people could hear his wisdom, we’d all be saved.

    2. What a reactionary. Everyone knows that economic stability can only exist when both a creditor and a borrower are able to stake a claim to the same wealth by means of counterfeiting.

      QE-fucking-D, libertardians.

      1. I bow to your superior sarc.

    3. If respected people come out and openly say that the fantasy bursts and the monetary collapse happens much sooner and more rapidly.

  5. Spacewars was pre-dated by 2 years with Tennis for Two by Higinbotham of Brookhaven Laboratories. It used an oscilloscope as the CRT. It was probably the first purpose-built computer game. My father saw it when he went there for some reason while working for AT&T.

  6. No love for Watch the Static from 1966?

  7. Our family bought its first home computer in 1987, and one of the first games my dad bought for it was Leisure Suit Larry. That screenshot is the first image from that game I’ve seen in probably 25 years, so thanks for the brief reverie, Mr. Tuccille.

    Definitely adult-themed, the game had a tongue-in-cheek “age check,” a series of multiple-choice questions you had to answer to be allowed into the game. One of them was, “Where do you have hair?”, with the correct answer being “Lots of places.”

  8. Just to clarify Steve Jackson Games is a publisher of paper role playing games. They may have had a BBS presence but they didn’t make video games

    1. Oh man, I missed that. Their BBS was the first one I ever logged in to. Since I was in Houston, and it was in Austin, I racked up a huge long phone bill without realizing it, and my mom was piiiiissed. For years after that, she would get all paranoid that I was going to get more charges, even when I was only connecting to BBSes in the same area code. Ah, memories.

      1. Another one here who got busted by their parents for long distance BBS charges. I got grounded and stuck with the bill. As it should be.

        I wasn’t into RPGs, but I remember my friends playing Car Wars and Gurps, among others.

    2. They didn’t at the time, true, so the claim’s inaccurate. But they do have a video game of their own now.

  9. No moar video game stories pleez!

  10. I remember playing wow and one of the warning screens during loading the game was to go outside. I thought it was kind of amusing.

    1. I remember trying to quit WOW and it not shutting off my credit card unless i filled out a byzantine questionnaire which kept kicking me to the start of the questionnaire asking over and over again if i was sure I wanted to quit.

      I was not amused.

  11. I played Portal for the first time last night.

    I got to chamber 14 in about 40 mins. then 14-17 had me up till 3AM.

    I did 17 this afternoon. Checked out the first part of 18 and decided to take a break when I got to the room with the bouncing balls, shooting turrets etc.. Too much for right now.

    But damn is that a good game. I know it won every award for everything ever, but I’m still surprised there haven’t been more things like this. Simple, original, engrossing, challenging without being ‘obtuse’. Also, the ‘style’ of the design is very soothing and encourages playing it. (compared to the nails-on-chalkboard effect of most ‘1st person survival shooters’)

    I think it would make a great game to help people ‘problem solve’. Its mostly very simple, and just requires patience; which I think is underappreciated in definitions of ‘intelligence’. The different between ‘smart’ and ‘idiot’ is often just a matter of ‘not quitting’ when your first thought turns out to be less than 100% correct. Often your first thought is ‘almost there’ but you missed one small part of how to apply it.

    1. Genius game. One of my favorite parts of its development story is that it grew out of a testing platform for valve’s physics engine.

      1. You can tell.

        It has the feel of a ‘developer’s playground’. also, the dark, sick sense of humor of a bored coder.

        I have recently learned it ‘gets weird’ near the end. I’m paused in chamber 18. I would rather do like 100 more ‘mini puzzles’ before having to deal with the ‘boss level’ stuff.

        1. OMG!!

          You have it finish it.

          You get the awesome AI spheres and of course the song at the end.

          THE CAKE IS REAL!!

          Just you know…it isn’t cake…just a really great ending.

          1. + 1 fish shaped cracker

    2. Portal is a brilliant game which makes anyone feel smart no matter how dumb they are.

      For example I finished the game and you know how stupid I am.

      But yeah the tasks seem so impossible and really make you feel like a genius when figure them out.

      Really great design work.

  12. Anyway, it definitely happened by the time Leisure Suit Larry brought crude graphics and clever plotting about a hopeless horndog to the personal computer


    Pretty sure the controversy started with Death Race.

    Which was a controversy a decade before Leisure Suit Larry.

    1. I remember playing that as a kid in a VFW in San Diego. I spent a lot of time in bars growing up because my mom would send me along with my dad whenever he went out drinking. This cunning plan backfired spectacularly; instead of my dad behaving respectably, I got to hang out with a wide variety of drunkards, hookers, and other low-life ne’er-do-wells at a very tender age. This may be why I turned into a libertarian woman…

      1. I played it at an RV park when my parents took me and my bros on a road trip across America. I think we were in Missouri or something. I was super young.

        I remember my mom talking about how controversial it was while she watched us play it.

        No idea why I turned into a libertarian woman.

        1. “No idea why I turned into a libertarian woman”

          brainwashing and sex-change surgery! ‘not remembering it’ is a sign of a job well done.

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