Everything non-gamers need to know for Video Games Day | Digital Culture | DW | 08.07.2016
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Digital Culture

Everything non-gamers need to know for Video Games Day

It doesn't matter if you're a nostalgic fan of old school arcade games or a professional player reaching for the millions: As gamers celebrate Video Games Day on July 8, here are some facts you need to know.

Some 35 million Germans play video games, according to the Interactive Software Federation. That's almost half of the entire population of the country.

The offer is just as diversified as the players: There are the simple, somewhat brainless games for mobile devides, where chickens need to be fed and corn fields are harvested, or the Wii party games, where players get together to sing, dance, jump or play tennis. And of course, there are the online strategy games that connect gamers from around the world, with graphics almost as realistic as live action movies.

The first computer game was developed in 1946. The initial games were programmed by researchers that had access to the huge computers of American universities. The success story of video games is intertwined with the development of computer technology.

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As cheaper televisions hit the market in the 1970s, it allowed what would become known as "video games" to spread out as well. Coin-operated machines, with games such as "Pong," "Space Invaders" or "Asteroids," found their way into supermarkets, gas stations, movie theaters and fast food joints.

At the end of the decade, the first home game consoles were launched - and they quickly became a hit.

From one level to the next

Game consoles faced serious competition with the new personal computers released in the 80s. As new games were developed for the PC, the market for consoles kept shrinking, until Japan's Nintendo released the since unmatched bestseller, "Mario Bros." The jumping and running plumbers laid the groundwork for a whole era of gaming, with the genre called "platform game."

The complexity of games increased as 3D graphics were introduced, both on consoles and on PCs. The virtual worlds of the 90s became a lot more realistic; the plots of the games were much more exciting.

Gamescom 2014, Foto: Henning Kaiser/dpa

Presentation of a gaming console at the Gamescom in Cologne in 2014

Professionals on board

The Internet allowed a whole new experience for games to emerge. Instead of playing alone, games could be played by several people in different locations simultaneously. Strategy and war games such as "World of Warcraft" or "League of Legends" became especially popular, allowing players to complete immerse themselves in the virtual worlds.

These games even started organizing social events. For example, during Oktoberfest in Munich, "World of Warcraft" players are invited to put down their weapons for a day in order to drink an imaginary beer instead.

Some players have become so absorbed by these games that they are considered addicts. There are now specialized treatment centers for them, especially in Asia.

Professional players are literally part of a different league. What became known as esports started with the first video games, but the first professional leagues emerged in the 90s. In 1997, the first professional tournament was held in the US. Three years later, the first World Cyber Games took place in South Korea.

The history and art behind these games can be celebrated all year long, but there are two official days to indulge in gaming. Video Games Day is on July 8, whereas the US also has its National Video Games Day on September 12.

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