Over 1.2 Billion people enjoy this activity around the world today. This addicting activity has been around since 1972 and is still enjoyed to this day. What might this be? Video games! Video games started around the early 70’s when the Atari was introduced. The Atari is the father of video games and started a new era of technology. Chances are, your parents played the Atari themselves. The Atari game system made video games what they are today, and without the amazing Nolan Bushnell, we would not have Chuck E Cheese or the $100 Billion dollar video game industry we know today.
In his younger years, Bushnell was like any other kid who liked rockets and inventing gadgets. Bushnell nearly burnt down his parents garage with a rocket powered roller blade (Lemelson-MIT Program). Nolan Bushnell graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in the 60’s from Utah State University, and the University of Utah College of Engineering. In 1972, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney created a company under the name of “Atari”. Bushnell was fascinated by the idea of having people pay money to play a game and potentially win a prize. Bushnell worked at an amusement park in his early years as a high school and college student. Bushnell learned how to get a crowd of people to become interested in a game, and have them want to play it over and over. These skills helped Bushnell create the Chuck E. Cheese franchise, and expand the Atari company.
The Atari was made to be a system all families could enjoy. At a price of $200 in the 70’s, or $800 today, families could have their own mini arcade system that was able to be used as many times as the user wanted. The first game made for the Atari is “Pong’, a 2d tennis style game where each user deflects the ball off their paddle to the other side of the screen. This game is what started the multi-Billion dollar gaming industry we know today. The Video Game industry is one of the most profitable in the world today. Video games offer a sense of community among kids and are a common conversation topic. Bushnell created three more simple strategy games that came with the console, along with two joysticks and the console itself. Many people don’t know the name Nolan Bushnell, but chances are your life is changed because of this man.
Nolan Bushnell was successful enough with the Atari 2600 Gaming console, but also created a booming franchise we all know today as Chuck E. Cheese. Almost every kid in the United States has had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and if you haven’t, there’s a great chance you know someone that has. Using Bushnell’s skills that he acquired during his time working at amusement parks, he created a place where kids could play video games, eat pizza, and win prizes. Kids became addicted to the games and prizes available at these establishments, making them beg their parents to return for more fun. Bushnell also used this franchise to help promote the Atari 2600 by making some of the games available as winnable prizes. This simple strategy made the company worth over $950 Million and is continuing to grow.
Nolan Bushnell is the father of video games and created the multi-billion dollar industry we know today. Bushnell is not a name people hear and automatically associate with the video game industry, but it should be. Bushnell inspired millions of people to create games and systems of their own, and without him, we might not have such technology available to the average family. Bushnell gave us countless hours of childhood fun, and should be known for his contribution to today’s world of technology.
Article by Joel Hamersley & Video by Hannah Dardano
Edwards, Benj. “The Untold Story of Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell’s Visionary 1980s Tech Incubator.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 17 Feb. 2017, www.fastcompany.com/3068135/the-untold-story-of-atari-founder-nolan-bushnells-visionary-1980s-tech-incubator.
“Lemelson-MIT Program.” Edmund Cartwright | Lemelson-MIT Program, lemelson.mit.edu/resources/nolan-bushnell.
Loftus, Jamie. “A History of Chuck E. Cheese’s Animatronic Band.” Motherboard, Motherboard, 25 Aug. 2017, motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/9kkn7y/a-history-of-chuck-e-cheeses-animatronic-band.
“Who Made America.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/bushnell_hi.html.