History of Videogames
Part Two: The 1980s
From Introduction to Game
Thanks to Frans Mäyrä & SAGE Publications
1980s: Learning the Lexicon
1980s are remembered as “the culture of
selfishness” and carried contradictions – the
decade that brought prosperity and
computers to homes was also the decade of
Chernobyl and AIDS.
1980s: Introducing Adventure,
Characters and Fiction in Games
From 1970 to 1980 the total recreation
expenditures in the US more than doubled.
Games profited from evolving technology by
providing more complex digital
The 1980s introduced fictional storytelling
and character elements to mainstream digital
Pac-Man as a Pop Phenomenon
Pac-Man (Namco, 1980) was originally
designed by Toru Iwatani, and in Japan
it was called „Puck Man‟.
Designed to appeal to a wide audience,
also females - one of the all-time most
Consciously avoided references to
killing and war in its shell (imagery,
The main character was
designed to illustrate the
game‟s main activity: eating.
Chasing and escaping while
navigating is the other main
Four ghost characters were
differentiated by their colour
and style of movement (which
also gave them personality).
The ghosts‟ animated eyes
showed their direction of
Image credits: Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org.
“I was interested in
developing a game for the
female game enthusiast.
Rather than developing the
character first, I started out
with the concept of eating and
focused on the Japanese
word „taberu‟ which means to
eat. The actual figure of Pac-
Man came about as I was
having pizza for lunch.”
Pac-Man game design: arcade cabinet (US version, published by
Play a Pac-Man clone online:
Image credits: The International Arcade Museum, www.klov.com.
Game Genre Systems
Game genre can be based on the game‟s
shell or iconography („space game‟) or its
interactivity (type of action: a „shooter
From a descriptive linguistics perspective,
genre terminology needs to be recognised
by players to be truly useful.
Game genres are constantly being named
and renamed by players, experts and
game media: living game cultures are in a
state of flux.
Genre of Pac-Man
If action and iconography decides the genre, Pac-
Man can be called an „eating game‟.
Many classic board games are based on „eating‟
other player‟s game pieces.
Perhaps more importantly, Pac-Man is a „maze
game‟: labyrinth navigation is a central feature.
The dynamics of chase increase the difficulty:
player needs to multi-task in real time while
navigating the maze.
By the early 1980s, there was already an
entire generation (shikaku sedai, the visual
generation) living immersed in Anime and
Manga in Japan.
Japanese popular culture influenced digital
The Japanese games enhanced the
gameplay experience by introducing
recognisable characters, exploration-inviting
places and rudimentary storylines to motivate
Donkey Kong (1981)
Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, Donkey Kong
included cut scenes (short non-interactive
sequences or movies) to advance the plot.
The villain of the game is the ape, which
escapes with „Jumpman‟s‟ girlfriend and the
player is faced with the task of winning her
Jumpman would later be known as Mario, the
most famous game character of all time.
The game narrative progresses through four
different game screens with different building
platforms to climb - making this the archetypal
Donkey Kong Art
Donkey Kong arcade cabin, screenshots
Play a Donkey Kong clone online:
Image credits: The International Arcade Museum, www.klov.com.
Legacy of Donkey Kong
From the starting screen of escaping ape to
the final screen with Jumpman rescuing the
lady, Donkey Kong was able to convey an
The story progressed as a reward to
successful player action - a solution that many
games have replicated since then.
Many later Mario series games had similar
features to Donkey Kong: sideways-depicted
jumping landscapes, and „rescue the lady‟
Popularity of Mario
The game designer of the Mario games (Shigeru
Miyamoto) has become the most celebrated of all
time - known also for the Legend of Zelda series.
More than 200 games with Mario characters have
been published, selling nearly 200 million copies
Relating to their popularity, Mario games have
generally been well-designed: their high
playability includes clear goals, immediate
rewards from the successful use of game
controls, enjoyable visual and audio design, and a
„sense of magic‟ permeating their fictional
More Depth of Character: RPGs
First tabletop RPGs (like Dungeon &
Dragons, 1974) had their roots in miniature
Typically RPG games involve the creation of
a character with various attributes, such as
strength and intelligence.
A game master (GM) will present the
challenges of an adventure to players, who
take on the roles of their player characters
(PCs) during the adventure.
Early Computer Games: Text
Early computer games often relied on text
and typing rather than graphics and audio.
The earliest text adventure game was
ADVENT (1975-76), programmed by Will
Growther and Don Woods.
Infocom produced famous games like Zork
(1977-1980), and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to
the Galaxy (1984).
EXAMPLE OF A TEXT ADVENTURE
An alternative to text description was to use the
computer monitor to draw images by using text
Famous games of this type: Angband,
Hack/NetHack, Moria, Rogue.
Known as ASCII graphics, these games only
relied on basic letters and numbers (ASCII
characters) to display the game world.
Rogue-like games often featured randomly
generated dungeons, adding to their replay
Typical Rogue-like Interface
------ - Wall
|....| ############ # Unlit hallway
|....| # # . Lit area
|.$..+######## # $ Some quantity of gold
|....| # ---+--- + A door
------ # |.....| | Wall
# |.!...| ! A magic potion
# |..@..| @ The adventurer
---- # |.....|
|..| #######+..D..| D A dragon
|<.+### # |.....| < Stairs to the previous level
---- # # |.?...| ? A magic scroll
Adventure Game Types
Several distinctly different types of games with „adventure‟ elements
Taking two key features, interaction temporality and the consistency
of game world, the following table can be constructed:
Game Genre Interaction Game World Example
Action RPGs Real time Random Diablo (1996)
Interactive Fiction Turn-based Pre-scripted Zork (1980)
Platform Games Real time Pre-scripted Donkey Kong
Roguelike Games Turn-based Random NetHack (1985-
Contemporary games are often „action adventures‟, featuring both
real-time interaction as well as interlinking puzzle structures.
Ultima RPG Series
Richard Garriott started
the design of computer
games while still at
His first published game
was called Akalabeth
(1979), made for Apple II
Akalabeth screen (Image
His Ultima series of
computer RPGs is credit, Wikipedia, www.wikipe
considered the longest dia.org)
running RPG franchise.
Ultima IV: Game with Thematic
The fourth game in the Ultima series
represented an attempt to go beyond hack-
and-slash battles or straightforward puzzles.
The game follows the main character’s
struggle to understand the Eight Virtues
and reach Avatarhood.
The player can become engrossed in the
fiction and ethical dilemmas, but it is also
possible to face Ultima IV as „just a game‟.
Ultima IV Art
Ultima IV screenshots; install and play original Ultima IV
for DOS or XU4 remake from
Image credits: Origin/Electronic Arts; source: www.mobygames.com.
aka Lord British
Richard Allen Garriott (born
July 4, 1961) is an English-
developer and entrepreneur.
Also an avid magician.
Quotes A.C. Clark “Any
advanced in indistinguishable