When did we first come up with the idea of video games? You know, the name “video game”…not like Pong and shit. We know when that happened. Well thanks to the folks at the Video Game History Foundation, we have a chance to check out the history of the name “video game”.
The article in question calls back to a July 1976 article for the Associated Press written about a new arcade game reporter Wendy Walker saw children playing in a shopping mall. This arcade game was Exidy’s Death Race, featuring player cars that scored points by running over grelims, which Walker thought were people.
Walker’s article about the strange arcade game spread across the nation like wildfire, appearing in over 100 newspapers in a week, and with no standard as to what to call these strange gremlin-killing box machines that the kids played, newspapers came up with their own names.
The results are fantastic.
For starters, we have a couple of normal names: electronic games, computer games, slot games, and the like. You know, standard stuff.
Then, we get some ones that were clearly just kind of pushed out of the editing room because the deadline was fast approaching.
“Hey Frank, what is this game?”
“Eh, I dunno, one of them fancy poolhall thrills. Just print it.”
Then, we get to the people who were really selling it. I mean, really selling it. They wanted the equivalent of clickbait or else were just straight-up crazy for some sort of name. Check out the local Death Murder Game, says newpaper.
Eventually, Walker’s article inspired the names of “video game” and “arcade game”, which, by the advent of Space Invaders, would become so commonplace that they needed no sensationalist explanation. Everyone knew what they were.
To see the transition of names in a scramble to understand something new laid out as in the Video Game History Foundation article is fascination, both from the perspective of gaming history and journalistic history. As the article notes, if there had been one slight change in history, we might be calling video games poolhall thrills or slot games…or videogames. We should all be thankful that history swayed us from such a dystopian future, and while you’re out there feeling thankful, be sure to check out the original article from the Video Game History Foundation. There’s plenty of winners amidst those old newspaper screenshots.