Video games make up the largest sector of the entertainment industry by far, generating more revenue than movies, music and theme parks combined. The industry has come a long way since its humble beginnings 50 years ago, when, on Oct. 15, 1971, a trade show in Chicago debuted the unforgettable game Computer Space. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

Delve into the history of video games and you’re likely to encounter a common explanation for why Computer Space failed to reach orbit. It’s a story of game maker overreach and confounded bar patrons. There’s just one problem: The story doesn’t hold water. University of California, Santa Cruz’s Noah Wardrip-Fruin reveals what he discovered about Computer Space’s inauspicious start while researching his latest book on video games.

  • The impact of global warming on Alaska’s bridges
  • One of the US’s biggest killers? Medical mistakes
  • Why shelves may still be empty come Christmas

  • Eric Smalley

    Science + Technology Editor

    Computer Space was innovative, but how was it to play? Ed Fries

    Computer Space launched the video game industry 50 years ago – here’s the real reason you probably haven’t heard of it

    Noah Wardrip-Fruin, University of California, Santa Cruz

    The game that launched today’s massive video game industry was not a roaring success. The oft-told story of why turns out to be off the mark.


    Economy + Business

    Environment + Energy

    Science + Technology

    From our international editions