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Ask GR Anything is a weekly Q%26A column that answers questions submitted by readers (as well as questions we’re particularly curious about ourselves). Got a burning question about games or the industry? Ask us in the comments below and you may just get it answered!
This week, we recognize the efforts of ForestFire55, who has been persistently asking the same question for about a month and a half. And curse us for not understanding the genius of it all. He/she asked a few questions about the “firsts” of video gaming, and it has opened our eyes to an entire new category of Ask GR Anything. So this will be the first edition of “firsts,” and hopefully we’ll be able to delve into some other categories soon enough.
This time we’re delving into first-person shooters, fighting games, and the history of 3D games to try to find an origin point. In future installments, we’ll be looking for the first horror games, the first sports games, and – in the most adorable request we’ve ever received – the first games the GR crew ever reviewed.
This one is easy, right? Wolfenstein 3D. Wrong, smarty pants! Wolfenstein is a Johnny-come-lately compared to the genre’s real pioneers. The very first first-person shooter seems to have been Maze War, way back in 1973. Believe it or not, that’s just one year after the arcade release of Pong.
Above: Maze War was incredibly simplistic, but everything starts somewhere. It took 20 years to get from this to Doom
In Maze War you’d wander around a 3D dungeon, moving from tile to tile and turning 90 degrees at a time trying to get out. You were also able to shoot other players, which appeared to you as little eyeball monsters. It was played on the outrageously old-school Xerox Star 8010. Yes, “Xerox.” That’s how old it is.
The genre didn’t evolve much for a while after that. The lack of processing power made 3D first-person games more of a novelty than a legitimate option for game designers. Until 1992 when Wolfenstein 3D was released (and Doom one year later.) Since then, the genre has been in a constant state of steady advancement. From Quake and Unreal Tournament all the way up to Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3.
First fighting game
As with first-person shooters, the fighting genre has a bit of a storied history. And similar to the FPS, most know-it-alls will shout out “Yie Ar Kung-Fu” when asked what the first-ever fighting game was. And yet again, the roots of the genre were laid over a decade before it was ever popularized.
Above: Heavyweight Champ was likely the first fighting game, but it had none of the novelties (like special moves) that would eventually make the genre great
The very first fighting game on record was 1976’s Heavyweight Champ, an arcade boxing game developed by Sega. The neat thing about this game is that its controls were actually inside two boxing gloves attached to the arcade cabinet. However, it was a very long time before anybody actually gave a crap about punching someone else on a horizontal plane.
It was Karate Champ, in 1984, that resurrected the genre, and brought it some fame in arcades. After that came a succession of other popular games that made fighters the jewel of the arcade. The Way of the Exploding Fist came shortly after Karate Champ, but didn’t advance the formula much. Yie Ar Kung-Fu was the first to feature fighters with distinct styles, and Street Fighter was the first to implement secret special moves.
First 3D game
The lineage of 3D video games is extremely hard to map. Some games in the early 1980s used a sort of pseudo-3D method by manipulation 2D graphics to give the impression of 3D. So your definition of the first game will vary depending on your definition of 3D. For our money, the first 3D game available was the ever-famous Battlezone (1980) which used wire-frame graphics to immerse the player in a smoothly explorable 3D environment.
Two years after that, Pole Position brought “3D” graphics to the racing genre. Then came the explosion of popularity as games like Antarctic Adventure, Congo Bongo and I, Robot came out in 1983. So the next time someone tries to tell you that Super Mario 64 was the first 3D game (or that Street Fighter was the first fighting game), you have our full permission to destroy them with knowledge.
Submit your own questions in the comments (or Tweet them to @sciencegroen) and we may tackle them in a future Ask GR Anything.