Video games are so popular today that I don’t have to add anything regarding that. They are literally everywhere around us. eSports is the future of gaming and it’s just the matter of time when we’ll have eSports Olympic games. And it all started not so long time ago.
Spacewar! is considered to be the one of the first computer game ever. Even if it wasn’t the first, then it definitely was the most influential at its time. It was developed in 1962, by young MIT computer scientist Steve Russell for the PDP-1 computer. OS used on PDP was the first one that allowed two users to use the same machine at the time. Two human players played against each other, operating two ships on the screen. The goal was to destroy your opponent’s ship using photon torpedoes. There were few catches that were on your way to complete your mission:
- Limited number of torpedoes
- Limited fuel
- A star that was pulling your ship with its gravity.
It was not only cool as a video game, but it also implemented some game mechanics that made gameplay more challenging and cleared the way for games to come.
Allan Acron was 24 when Pong was released. Nolan Bushnell (yes, that’s the same guy that also founded Chuck E. Cheese’s) was Atari co-founder and Pong was the result of the training exercise ha assigned to Allan. It’s also worth to mention that Nolan Bushnell was an engineering student at Stanford University, where he met Spacewar!, game programming and Steve Russell himself. Everything after that is a history.
For those who maybe haven’t met Pong in so far, it was the first arcade sports game ever. Generally, it was a 2D simulation of table tennis. Players controlled pedals and moved them up and down in order to prevent the ball from falling off the table. The goal was to reach 11 points before the opponent does it.
Space Invaders (1978)
Yup, at this age, computer guys dreamed a lot about space. Star Trek: The Original Series was filmed in 1966 and 1978 was the year before the first Star Trek movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was filmed. The first Star Wars movie (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) was filmed just a year earlier. SF, at least in pop culture had been yet to become popular.
Space Invaders, by Tomohiro Nishikado, helped that cause at least a little. This game became so popular that it’s still part of the pop culture today.
Gameplay was relatively straightforward. Five rows of aliens would come your way. Your task was to prevent them reaching the bottom of the screen and you had only a cannon at your disposal. Only a cannon with unlimited ammo 😊 You could move cannon left and right. And shoot, of course 😊
Asteroids is another Atari’s space shooter video game and it was inspired by Spacewar!. Lyle Rains, Ed Logg, and Dominic Walsh thought it would be very cool to fly around the space and shoot asteroids and UFOs and they definitely were right. It became one of the most popular arcade games of its time.
Toru Iwatani was a 25 years old video game designer in 1980 when he developed Pac-Man for Namco.
The gameplay was pretty simple, but still very catchy. Pac-Man should collect dots (actually Pac-Dots) on the level that was actually a maze. Ghosts – Blinky, Clyde, Inky, and Pinky were also in the maze and their task was to prevent Pac-Man from his task. He could only run unless he eats one of the special Pac-Dots (Power Pallets). Then they would run.
It was 1984. USSR and USA both had thousands of nukes ready to be detonated at any time. Espionage and stealing technology from each other’s was almost a hobby. In 1984 the Электроника (Electronika) factory from Voronezh produced the Электроника 60 terminal computer which was the copy of LSI-11 produced by the DAC (Digital Equipment Corporation) from Maynard in Massachusetts.
At the same time Электроника 60 was introduced, a 28 year old AI engineer Алексе́й Леони́дович Па́житнов (Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov) worked on testing new hardware. He preferred to do it so be creating video games. The result of one such testing changed the gaming world forever. Электроника 60 had a text-only display so he had to create a text-based game. He used shapes, like [ and ], that were available to create four-square blocks called Tetriminos, and other graphic elements.
Tetriminos would appear randomly on the top of the screen and then fall down. The player could rotate them by 90 degrees and move them left and right. The goal was to “fill” the horizontal lines with squares and when that happens line would disappear and thus make more place and the game could continue. If the player would remove 4 lines with 1 Tetrimino he would “achieve” tetris. This was only possible with the I Tetrimino. After scoring a certain number of points, the player would advance to the next level were Tetriminos would move faster. The game ends when the table is so filled with Tetriminos that new Tetrimino can’t fall on the table.
Although the game idea is pretty simple it was, and still is, very addictive. It was very popular in the USSR and then it started the trip around the world.
Almost two years after the Tetris was created it found its’ way to the West via the Budapest, Hungary. There were big problems regarding the copyrights, licensing and legal rights, but versions for many different computers and consoles were soon released: Amiga (1987), Atari ST (1987), Spectrum (1988), Commodore 64 (1988), Nintendo Game Boy (1990), NES (1990), etc. And yes, new versions are still coming these days.
And now, the stamps….
Today we’ll take a look at two stamp sheets/series related to the video games. Although some of the video games mentioned before are not on these stamps, I had to mention them because they are simply too important for the video game history.
On 14.12.2005, France Post (La Poste) issued stamp sheet named Heroes of the video games (Héros des jeux video) with 10 popular video game characters and video games.
Prince of Persia, Rayman,
Lara Croft, Spyro,
Donkey Kong, Les Sims
Copyright© 2005 La Poste. All Rights Reserved.
Personally, I find this sheet as one of the most beautiful sheets or series devoted to video games only.
The second sheet/series we’ll take a look today was issued in Ireland on 16.10.2014. We’ll find four well-known video games on these sheets. We’ve already mentioned two of them earlier, but I guess you can recognize the remaining two characters as well.
Pac-Man, Space Invaders,
Sonic The Hedgehog, Mario
Copyright© 2014 An Post. All Rights Reserved.
This is just a first article in this series so please forgive me, I haven’t talked much about other games and characters that were present on these stamps. I think that some of them deserve to have the whole article for themselves (nudge, nudge: Mario), so please stay tuned for more.
Continue reading: Comics on Stamps: Italian Comics
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