Martin Graetz, Steve Russell & Wayne Wiitanen

18 August 1962


Martin Graetz, Steve Russell, Wayne Wiitanen Massachusetts Institute Of Technology, 1962 / USA / Selected By Henry Lowood / Courtesy of Computer History Museum, California

Created by a group of technicians and students at MIT in the early 1960s, and intended as a demonstration of the capabilities of an early industrial computing system – the PDP-1 “mini” computer from Digital Equipment Corporation – “Spacewar!” is considered the first computer game. These original “hackers” – members of MIT’s Tech Model Railroad Club – had the novel idea of using a computer for play. Considered the quintessential action game, “Spacewar!” gives players spaceships to control and torpedoes to fire against one another, all set against an accurate map of the star system. The game not only pushed the limits of what a computer at the time could do, but also established the idea of a computer game as something competitive and multi-player. Foreshadowing the way game designers today make code available to players for improvements, the “Spacewar!” creators left their code in a drawer next to the terminal for anyone to work on whenever they felt inclined.