From the 1970s table-tennis game “Pong” to the fast-paced, total-immersion of modern-day hits like “Call of Duty”, a new show retracing the four-decade history of the video game opened Thursday in Paris.
Visitors can try their hand at some 80 titles at the show, “Game Story”, which runs until January at the capital’s Grand Palais and examines the history of gaming from its humble roots to today’s ultra-sophisticated, 3D titles.
“We are only just starting to do what was done for the film world in the 1960s,” explained Jerome Neutres, special advisor to the Grand Palais. “We are no longer throwing the copies away. Instead we are sorting them, studying them, and beginning to get a sense of video game history.”
That history kicks off with the trail-blazing “Pong” — a single bouncing dot and two white lines to replicate a table-tennis match — which made a name for the computer manufacturer Atari and kickstarted the console boom.
Throughout the early 1980s Atari rolled out a string of hits, from “Pac-Man” to “Space Invaders”, as computer gaming found its way into millions of homes.
By the end of the decade, the gaming boom had sparked a proliferation of rival consoles, with the emergence of now-iconic games such as “Donkey Kong”, “Mario”, and “Sonic the Hedgehog”.
Finally, the show illustrates the revolution in gaming in the past decade, both in terms of graphics and gameplay, arriving at fully immersive games that let the player control a game with their whole body.
Over time the technology has also fed off, and fed into other, older media like films or graphic art, the exhibition argues.
“Videogames became part of society, and there’s always been movement in both directions,” explained Jean-Baptiste Clais, one of the show’s curators. “Videogames are influenced by cinema, cartoons and television, and in return videogames exert their own influence on those other media.”
For historical context, games are shown alongside everyday objects from the same period, each on the console it was designed for, with the oldest beamed onto cathode ray tube TVs, to recreate the original gaming sensations.