eSports History: How it all began
If you think eSports has only been around for a few years, you’re wrong! The cornerstone of video games was already laid in the 50s and with it the competition on PC or console. Only the technological progress at the end of the 90s made video games suitable for the masses. Increasingly better hardware, graphics and the expansion of the Internet around the world have helped cybersports develop into a major sport.
The 50s: The age of computers begins
The early days of competitive computer games date back to 1952. At that time, computer scientist Alexander Shafto Douglas was working on his doctoral thesis on the interaction between humans and computers in Cambridge and came up with the idea of implementing the game “XOX” – better known to us as “Tic-Tac-Toe” or “Three Wins” – as a computer game. However, the human always played against the computer and could only determine who started.
The first actual multiplayer game was presented in 1958 by the then head of “Instrumentation Higinbotham” at the open day. It was called “Tennis for Two” and allowed two people to play against each other. The game was played with an early form of the joystick, which allowed players to hit the ball over the net and adjust its trajectory. Today, this title is considered by many to be the birth of eSports.
The 60s: the beginning of eSports history
It would be a few years before the first eSports-like tournament would exist. The space game “Spacewar!” had already been written in 1962 on a PDP-10 computer by computer scientist Steve Russel and some colleagues like Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen of the “Tech Model Railroad Club” at MIT. In it, two players play against each other with one spaceship each. Interestingly, the spaceships already had a limited supply of fuel and ammunition and had to fight against the gravitational field of a planet.
It is considered the world’s first digital computer game and was named one of the ten most important computer games of all time by the New York Times in 2007. But on October 19, 1972, the time had finally come: the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University hosted the world’s first eSports tournament, the “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics.” Twenty-four players met on this day to compete in “Spacewar! Incidentally, the winner at the time received a year’s subscription to “Rolling Stones” magazine. The circle of people playing the early games was still limited to universities and similar institutions, since they had the technical facilities.