Competitive gaming has exploded in popularity over the past decade, as tournaments & events continue to break records each year. So far, single games like Counterstrike have given out over $100 million in tournament prize money, and the viewership numbers of some events are enough to rival that of the NFL Superbowl! But when and where exactly did eSports start? The answer may surprise you, as the first recorded event considered as competitive gaming stretches all the way back to 1972, almost 40 years ago! Here is some interesting information on the very first eSports event in history; “Intergalactic Spacewar! Olympics”.
Background on ISO
The Spacewar! Olympics was hosted in the Artificial Intelligence laboratory at Stanford University in 1972. It consisted of 24 players who fought for the chance to win an annual subscription to the Rolling Stone magazine – which is quite the step down from the massive million-dollar pay-outs we’re used to today!
Spacewar! was developed in 1962 by Steve Russell and several other developers. Considered the world’s first digital computer game, it was named one of the top ten computer games of all time by the New York Times in 2007.
How to Play?
The game involved players fighting against each other in an arena style match. The fight featured two human controlled spaceships battling it out whilst traversing the gravitational pull of a star.
Each ship contained a limited supply of weaponry and fuel, so players needed to implement effective strategies to land successful torpedo hits onto their enemy’s ship. Common tactics included the use of the hyperspace feature to avoid danger.
Considering that the game took place in 1972, it’s obvious that the technology used back then would make a 2010 Nokia look pretty advanced!
Using the labs only PDP-10 computer, they hosted a five-man free for all and a team-based event. Initially the game was controlled by switches on the PDP-1, which was then remodelled by Bob Saunders when he added the gamepad to improve functionality.
Right now, the game is still available to play on PDP-1 at the computer History Museum in Mountain View California!
The team game was won by winners Slim Tovar & Robert E. Maas, along with Bruce Baumgart who took home the free for all challenge. Both parties won a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone!
This event paved the way for the eSports industry as we know it today, and it’s crazy to look back on the level of progress that has been made since it began.