I have a degree in modern history from Pembroke College, Oxford. History - mainly military and art history - continues to be a hobby and I have given several lectures on the history of computer games. This is a transcript of a speech I gave on the history of computer games at the Game Developers Conference Europe in the summer of 2001.

History of Computer Games

My main recommendation is that you take the time to explore old games. Every game I have mentioned today is available free on the Internet. There are links in the transcript on my website. I found it hugely entertaining. Also nostalgic. It reminded me about my own history – why I got into the games industry and a little bit why I got out. It’s nice to know that the industry has a history and that we are part of such a passionate and creative tradition.

Coming at this as a historian rather than a practitioner, it is interesting to see how games are classified and how they evolve over time. It is interesting to see turning points as one genre dies and another is born. It is fascinating to see how today’s developer faces problems that are similar to those faced by pioneers, even though games have increased in size twenty or thirty-fold in the last ten years. It’s interesting to see that there is rarely such a thing as a completely original idea: generally people evolve ideas and apply them to new situations and exploit new technology. There seems to be an informal canon of ‘great games’ but no real rigour has been applied to either the history of computer games or their classification and analysis. At this point I will use the academics cop-out: more work is required to explore these themes.

In conclusion, as the man said: “those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” So I look forward to giving the same lecture this time next year. Thank you.

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