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

From Joystick Nation

Another early game, sometimes called Hammurabi, sometimes called Kingdom, was fifty lines of BASIC code that crudely simulated a feudal domain. The game ran in yearlong cycles, and for each year you would tell it how many acres of grain you wanted to plant, what your tax rate was going to be, and a few authoritarian central planning fiats.

I first encountered the game around 1980 – before I even had a computer – in a book called “Basic Computer Games” by David Ahl, who was editor of Creative Computing. Other people may remember a similar game from the BBC Micro Welcome Pack.

I think this genre appeals because: 1) we’re all egomaniacs who think we can do a better job than our bosses and 2) because it is based on a model or approximation of the real world and we all think we know how that works; so like Pong, we don’t need a lot of training to understand the game mechanics.

These aspects: 1) vicarious experience and 2) real world modeling are important to a whole genre of games that includes driving, fighting and flight simulation as well as the games I am looking at here.

You can download the David Ahl version here. There is also an online version.