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Spacewar! - 1st Video Game & More at the Museum of the Moving Image

Spacewar! - 1st Video Game

While a medium that is veritably in its infancy, video games have simultaneously undergone much change and yet remained very much the same. What has undeniably undergone the most change is how we play our games.

Most people look to Pong as the first major debut of video games, a communal experience that set the tone of gaming as grounded in arcades, before things shifted to home console, and home consoles shifted to personal tablets and smart phone games.  But what many people don’t realize is that video games had a far more humble beginning 50 years ago.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first video game, Spacewar!, the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Avenue, New York) presents Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off from December 15, 2012 to March 3, 2013

The exhibit features a playable model of the original PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1) computer running Spacewar! just as it looked when it was made by MIT eggheads in 1961.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will present special programs, including talks with video game pioneers, hackathons, tours and workshops for student groups, and classes, camps, and design jams for children, teens, and families.

The exhibit also charts the evolution in gaming and across platforms and features a who’s who of playable games:

  • Spacewar! (1961–62), PDP-1 replica
  • Computer Space (1971), arcade
  • Space Wars (1977), arcade
  • Asteroids (1979), arcade
  • Space Invaders (1979), arcade
  • Missile Command (1980), arcade
  • Battlezone (1980), arcade
  • Defender (1980), arcade
  • Yar's Revenge (1981), Atari 2600
  • Planet Zeon (1982), Tomytronic
  • Tempest (1982), arcade
  • Star Wars (1983), arcade
  • Galaxy Force II (1988), arcade
  • Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991),Game Boy
  • Galaga ‘91 (1991), Game Gear
  • Star Fox (1993), Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Vertical Force (1995), Virtual Boy
  • Portal (2007), PS3
  • Osmos (2009), iPad
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010), Wii
  • Halo 4 (2012), Xbox 360

Spacewar! set much of the tone for games to come, being not only the first video game, but also the first ”homebrew” and veered gaming towards it’s predilection for sci-fi motifs. Many people take for granted that emulators and ports allow people to play “vintage” games, but this rarely means games prior to Nintendo’s NES.

Much of gaming history is tied to these tactile experiences with machines simply because of the way they were built and programmed, not to mention the controls that the machines used. While most people consider gaming a "digital" experience, it is also an extremely tactile one.

To be able to play Spacewar! along with many other classic games is a rare treat and a great way to get some perspective on the evolution of gaming, technology, and the human connections between them.

To learn more, go to:

Spacewar! Video Games Blast Off
December 15–March 3, 2013

The Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue
New York, NY 11106

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