A brief history of video games

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 3, 2008

Los Angeles Times
1961: Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Steve Russell creates Spacewar, considered the first interactive computer game.
1972: Magnavox sells the first home video game system, a TV console invented by Ralph Baer called Odyssey.
1972: Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney start Atari Inc. and hire Al Alcorn, who creates Pong. Their first arcade machine, set up in a bar in Sunnyvale, Calif., shuts down within days because its coin box is stuffed full of quarters.
1976: Bushnell sells Atari to Warner Communications Inc. for $28 million.
1978: Space Invaders invades America. Created in Japan, the arcade game is imported to the U.S. by Midway, then a division of Bally Technologies Inc.
1980: Namco releases Pac-Man.
1981: Nintendo creates Donkey Kong. The game, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, features a protagonist who saves his girlfriend from a gorilla. Nintendo’s American employees name the mustachioed character Mario, after their office landlord.
1984: Major companies including Mattel exit the industry after suffering heavy losses. Warner sells Atari after reporting an annual loss of $586 million, largely from the games business.
1985: Russian programmer Alex Pajitnov creates Tetris.
1989: Nintendo invents the Game Boy hand-held system.
1993: Id Software releases Doom, created by John Carmack, a developer who pioneered the use of a nearly three-dimensional perspective in first-person shooter games.
1994: Sony Corp. sells its first PlayStation in Japan and introduces the game console in the United States a year later.
1997: Dave Jones develops Grand Theft Auto, which spawns a billion-dollar franchise and public controversy over violence and sex in video games.
2000: Will Wright creates The Sims, in which players create virtual worlds and fill them with virtual inhabitants. The franchise goes on to sell more than 100 million copies worldwide.
2001: Microsoft Inc., which makes computer games, challenges the console market with its Xbox system.
2002: Microsoft launches Xbox Live, an online gaming service connected to its console.
2006: Nintendo launches the Wii console, which lets players move their characters by waving controllers in the air. It becomes a hit with teenage boys and senior citizens alike.
2007: Annual video game sales surpass those of the music industry for the first time.
Sources: Gamespot, Los Angeles Times research