NOT the world’s first video game

The ‘world’s first’ stories have been shared online for years, they’re usually no more than just a picture with the claim that what it depicts is the first of it’s kind.
They rarely add any more information, even the most basic bit of background is left out and the questions from followers are ignored.
There are even social media accounts that post nothing but these claims, often not caring about if they are factual, only gathering as many followers and retweets as possible before they start posting sponsored messages or sell the account.
Don’t retweet or follow them.

This is one of those pictures, it claims to show the world’s first video game.
It doesn’t.

This photo shows a recreation of the 1958 game ‘tennis for two’ on the Telefunken RA 742 analogue computer from 1970, a demonstration that you can see here;

The game ‘Tennis for two‘ is old, it was created in 1958 by physicist William Higginbotham who used an oscilloscope connected to an analogical computer.
This is what it looked like at the time;

Using an modern re-enactment on an 1970s computer to illustrate an 1950s game without mentioning it is a bit iffy, but ‘Tennis for two’ is also not the world’s first computer game.
The game can claim a few firsts, for instance it may be the first game purely designed for fun, not as a demonstration, research, etc.

It is difficult to track down the world’s first ever video game, the definition of video game has changed over the decades and is still debatable but the first games that used a screen and a computer in the early 1950s were little tests, experiments and were being made and played in labs, often without people making notes or publicising their findings.
So we have to rely, as always on what was made public.

In 1940 at the 1939 New York World’s Fair the Nimatron was presented, it allowed visitors to play the game of Nim on a computer but it didn’t use a screen and thus doesn’t fit some definitions of video games.

Bertie the Brain allowed people to play tic-tac-toe and was especially built for the 1950 Canadian National Exhibition by Dr. Josef Kates.
Until we find an earlier game that fits the current definition, we can call this the world’s first video game, technically.

In 1951, at the festival of Britain, members of the public could play a game of NIM on the Nimrod computer but this version also didn’t involve a screen.

In 1952 Arthur Samuel managed to program the game draughts (AKA checkers) for the IBM 701 and chess followed soon afterwards.
In the same year Alexander S. Douglas created OXO, which was another game of tic-tac-toe.
Around the same time Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student Oliver Aberth created a game with the goal of bouncing a ball into a hole.

In 1954 William Brown and Ted Lewis programmed a pool game but also mostly for demonstration purposes at their university.

So although we can possibly claim that ‘Tennis for two’ was the first video game developed purely for entertainment, not as a demonstration or gimmick, it still was not the world’s first ever video game.


Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.

If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.

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