In late 1961 and early 1962, the first video game—SpaceWar!—was coded on a mainframe at MIT. In 1966, Ralph Baer envisioned and began working on prototypes for video games that could be played at home. The Videogame Pioneers Initiative (VPI) offers a unique opportunity to tell the story of this new technology-based, creative industry in the words of its founders. Oral history preserves an individual’s recollection of successes, failures, and critical turning points, as well as the meaning they ascribe to these events, revealing an often-hidden side of invention and innovation.
In addition to collecting in-depth video oral history interviews, the VPI will ensure the long-term preservation of
- companion source code,
- original historical documents (including, for example, notebooks in which pioneers first sketched games),
- collections of software, graphics, and computer platforms, and
- key artifacts from first-generation video game inventors.
These materials will be available to historians, research scholars, and the public through a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and other museums and archives that focus on the history of technology and games. The VPI will fuel new research in this burgeoning field, underwrite novel publications, and enhance public awareness of the rich history of video games and their inventors.