Game space

First video game inspired by a computer screen, ‘Space War’: NPR

Steve Russell was the main creator of Space war! at MIT in 1961 – the project was one of the first digital video games. He tells Robert Siegel how he came up with the idea of ​​fighting spaceships as a way to use a given computer.



ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We have occasionally chatted with inventors about what inspired their creations. Today, a computer scientist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Fifty-one years ago, one of the first digital video games was born from his imagination.

STEVE RUSSELL: My name is Steve Russell, sometimes known as Slug. In 1961, I was working for the MIT Artificial Intelligence Project, and a new computer was donated to MIT by its manufacturer, the Digital Equipment Corporation. And it was all transistorized, so it was relatively reliable, and it had a CRT screen on it. CRT is the acronym for cathode ray tube, the tube used before the arrival of flat screens for television. And it was also developed a lot during WWII for radar.

So I thought it was interesting and a couple of things made it even more interesting. One was Professor Marvin Minsky who wrote a little program that displayed three dots on the screen, and they influenced each other and generated a sort of kaleidoscope display. It was interesting for an hour or two, but after a while you realize that eventually it all broke down into a random pattern. So I started talking about the idea that a better demonstration was needed.

And the space race was highly publicized at the time. And so I started talking about the idea of ​​a spacecraft trainer who would teach people how to fly a spacecraft. And what I launched was a display that showed two spaceships on the screen, and there were random stars in the background. To add some motivation to learn how to fly a spaceship, we added torpedoes, and we consciously designed it to be a game.

We called it “Space War!” And when it all worked out, I decided that was pretty good, so I added an exclamation point.

SIEGEL: This is Steve Russell, creator of “Space War!” one of the first digital video games. It was created for the public at the 1962 Science Open House at MIT.

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