How Video Games Changed the World

Synopsis: Charlie Brooker takes you on a journey through time to show the most influential video games on everyday life.
120 min



for years the domain of outsiders

and geeks, and people who look

a bit like owls.

Somewhere down the line,

gaming went mainstream

and now everyone plays them

18 hours a day, even George Alagiah.

And while that is a lie, games have

infiltrated popular culture

and fundamentally changed the way we

interact with the world.

Yes, really.

Now, tonight, I'll share

my personal,

possibly bull-headed selection of

the 25 most significant games that

ever there were, and we'll be

hearing from videogame insiders,

videogame likers, and some

reassuring, friendly, familiar faces

so easily spooked viewers don't

sh*t their own kidneys out

with terrified indignation.

We'll show you games that broke

out of the pixelated ghetto

and romped across

mainstream culture.

We'll see games that will make you

feel guilty, or make you cry,

or even introduced you

to your soulmate.

In fact, we'll show you nothing

less than how videogames

changed the world...

because that is the title,

so we have to.

Today, in 2013, games are almost

as commonplace as shoes.

Practically everyone plays them

in some form.

Even bacon replicant David Cameron

was reportedly addicted to the

jolly food slash 'em up

Fruit Ninja on the iPad.

But games weren't always as

graphically staggering,

painstakingly realistic,

or conceptually sophisticated

as they tend to be today.

No, they had to start somewhere.

Gaming's Big Bang happened in 1972

with the release of a simple

looking tennis simulator,

a game called Pong.

Pong, of course, was very simple.

You know, it begins with a black

screen, as all great moments do.

It's meant to be kind of table tennis

but it was like a moving white bar

that would go up and down,

and you could bounce

a ball from side to side.

But it was so limited,

so kind of basic in its function,

and yet, curiously, satisfying.

Pong wasn't the first videogame

but it was the first truly

successful one, and it contains

much of the same basic DNA as almost

every game that followed.

It was co-created by Atari founder

Nolan Bushnell

and programmer Allan Alcorn.

Without these two legendary figures,

there would be no videogames

industry at all.

I had completed the design and

we said, "Well, it plays pretty good,

"let's put it in a box and see

if anybody plays it."

And all it had was the name

Pong on it. There's no instructions,

there's just a coinmach.

And Nolan and I carried it over to

Andy Capp's Tavern,

put it on a barrel, and within

a short time, within a week or

so, the thing stopped working,

and so I went over to fix it...

That became full of quarters.

Yeah, I opened it up

and the quarters just gushed out,

filled my pockets with quarters

and came in the next day and said,

"Nolan, I think we've got...

Something is going on here."

And you go, "Hmm."

Pong was incredibly simple.

Everybody knows how to play

ping-pong. It was a very stylised

version of ping-pong on a TV.

The controls were simple,

just a knob each to move the paddle.

There was also hidden depth.

The power allowed the ball to come

off the bats in different angles,

depending on where you hit it,

so it introduced this whole

idea of skill and strategy, which is

really, really important.

Yes, it's hard to remember now,

but in 1972 this was cutting edge.

You know, I found the graphics

on Pong,

the little players, the little lines,

they moved quite smoothly,

it was quite impressive,

and the ball moved smoothly.

By ball, I mean square!

We didn't make the ball square

because we thought that

a square ball was cool.

It's the only way we could do it,

and so, you know, in some ways,

I'd say the first 10

years of the video game business,

we were always bumping right

up against the edge of the

technology that was allowed to us.

'You are watching

the most exciting game

'you'll ever see on your TV set.'

Technology may have held

the graphics, back but soon,

the rise of cheap microchips created

a wave of Pong-like imitators

you could plug in and enjoy in your

living room,

revolutionising home entertainment

at a stroke.

'Oops, a goal.'

Until Pong came along, you would

have to sit there and withstand

whatever the TV threw at you,

which in the '70s

was only a handful of channels.

It often meant a choice between

a documentary about bricks

or Jimmy Savile.

Now, suddenly, there was

a box you could plug directly

into your TV and take control.

At the time, the very idea of that

was mind-manglingly exciting.

That was the revelation,

the fact that you didn't feel

passive for the first time.

Not that you don't mind being

passive with TV,

but for the first time you were

doing something here that

translated into something over there

and that was kind of mind-blowing.

So I think it was just the miracle

of being in the TV and operating

something from your couch which was

the game changer for me.

I can remember gathering around it

with my whole family,

it was like the piano

in the 1940s or the Victorian era.

We all gathered around

and were amazed at this

idea of interacting with

the television screen.

Even though the graphics were

profoundly simple, there was

that sense that this was a whole new

thing that was happening.

Trad TV was clearly

so rattled by the obvious threat

posed by the technological

upstart, it made desperate

attempts to incorporate the new

enemy into its flagship

entertainment shows.

When Pong came out they tried to use

it as part of a live TV thing,

and I know I am not imagining this,

with Bruce Forsyth.

- Nice to see you to see you...

- Nice!

Well, what else could I say?

Bruce Forsyth had jumped ship from

BBC to ITV for a huge pay packet,

there was a huge story about that,

and ITV gave him

the whole of Saturday night.

And the competition they had,

they had people using a

voice-operated form of Pong.

I know I've seen this.

You're looking at me like I'm

hallucinating, but I have seen this.

Ladies and gentlemen, tele-tennis.

And even as a kid I was thinking,

"Wow, this really doesn't work."

In the years following Pong,

amusement arcades filled with

coin guzzling monoliths became

a common sight, but in 1978,

the success of one title

catapulted gaming out of the dark

and further into the mainstream.

This stark, bleak, humans vs aliens

fight-to-the-death quickly

hoovered up coins worldwide.

What Space Invaders did was it took

arcade machines out of those

arcades, out of bars and suddenly,

they were in restaurants

and cafes,

places where families could go.

I think it was the first

game that really did that.

It took games into the mainstream.

I can remember the first time

I saw Space Invaders.

It was at the Silver Blades

ice rink in Birmingham.

We were on a school trip,

on Thursday night,

and I remember seeing this game

and putting 10p in the slot and it

was like a revelation to me,

it was the most amazing experience.

And from then on in,

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Charlie Brooker

Charlton “Charlie” Brooker (born 3 March 1971) is an English humourist, critic, author, screenwriter, producer, and presenter. He is the creator of the anthology series Black Mirror. In addition to writing for programmes such as Black Mirror, Brass Eye, The 11 O'Clock Show and Nathan Barley, Brooker has presented a number of television shows, including Screenwipe, Gameswipe, Newswipe, Weekly Wipe, and 10 O'Clock Live. He also wrote a five-part horror drama, Dead Set. He has written comment pieces for The Guardian and is one of four creative directors of the production company Zeppotron. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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