- The History Of Video Games And The Military
by Christian Beekman, https://taskandpurpose.com/
Today, some of the most popular video games involve military-inspired imagery and gameplay. The juggernaut first person-shooter series Call of Duty has sold almost 200 million copies as of July 2014. A look at the game database of Giant Bomb reveals nearly 1,000 titles with a “modern military” setting. But the relationship between the commercial games industry and the American military establishment goes deeper than simple inspiration.
The U.S. military’s first involvement with any type of electronic gaming was more of a happy accident than anything else. During the 1950s, Brookhaven National Laboratory had several early computers, designed to crunch the numbers on ballistic missile trajectories. In an attempt to garner interest from bored visitors to the lab, an enterprising physicist named William Higinbotham took one of these computers, hooked it up to oscilloscope, and created a small physics-based game dubbed Tennis For Two. Though the game had no real involvement from any military organization, the computer technology pioneered by the Department of Defense in the wake of World War II played a crucial role in bringing the game to life.
Thirty years later, the military was getting directly involved. One the first links between a commercial game company and a military agency occurred during the arcade game frenzy of the early 1980s. One of the more popular games at the time was Atari’s Battlezone, a tank game with eerie green wireframe graphics. The Army Training Doctrine and Command, aka TRADOC, wanted Atari to turn its sci-fi shooter into a training simulator for the Army’s latest infantry fighting vehicle, the M2 Bradley. Two Army Battlezone prototypes were eventually produced, but no Bradley crewman ever trained on the system. Still, it was an early signifier of how the mainstream games industry and the military would collaborate in the future.