The third issue of Root & STEM explores the role games play in our lives. What do games teach us about the world around us—and why does representation in gaming matter? These are the kinds of questions our guest contributors explore in this issue.
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Playing games is essential to everyone and has been for millennia. For 99.9 per cent of the time we’ve been playing games as a species, they have been unplugged. That changed in the 1900s with early mechanical games that eventually added electricity, and then again when games went digital in the 1970s. The electronic game industry took flight when the 1977 “Holy Trinity” was introduced to the world: the TRS-80, Commodore PET, and Apple II. Soon after, the computer game industry was born.
The earliest video games had no deep thoughts about what kind of character you played—the resolution was so low you couldn’t tell. Game design in the 1980s was more focused on screen layouts, action and setting. If you look at all the biggest hits of the ’80s, you’ll see a lot of abstract characterizations: Pac-Man, Defender, Lode Runner, Choplifter, and lots of tanks, planes and spaceships. There were few humans on the screen, and those that did appear were made up of so few pixels that you filled in the gaps yourself. The little pixel-person on the screen could be anyone you wanted them to be. Read more.