The History of Block Breaking Game Machines
As everyone knows the first arcade games always involved destruction. From Asteroids through to Space Invaders there was a definite theme of blowing things up and killing enemies who were in turn intent on your own annihilation. However, this all changed when the first two player arcade game was developed, which of course was the famous groundbreaking game of Pong, created by Atari in 1972. This game was in fact a copy of a game from the Magnavox Odyssey, one of the world's first ever video consoles, which introduced players to a game of ‘Electronic Ping Pong' which could be played on small rotational paddles.
The First Brick Breaking Games
Once Pong had become a worldwide success Atari began to ask if there was a way to create the same gaming sensation with a one player game. As a result Breakout was created in 1976, a game where the player controlled a similar cursor to that in Pong, but would have to bounce a ball off a wall of different coloured bricks. Once each brick had been hit it would be destroyed, revealing more bricks behind it for the player to hit. When the player had destroyed all the bricks they'd either win the game or move up a level.
This game evolved into such games as Super-Breakout, the first successor to the original that allowed more game modes, and Breakout 2000, a game created for the ill-fated Jaguar console, that allowed the player to play the original game of Breakout in 3D. The 2D version probably reached it's zenith with the amazing Arkanoid cabinet that came out sometime around 1986, allowing the player to control a paddle trying to make it's escape from a dying star-ship. Over the years Arkanoid is perhaps the version of this game that's both best remembered and has best endured, still providing players with a credible gaming experience.
Tetris Breaks Onto The Scene
No! I needed a straight one!
We'd have to wait until 1984 however until we encountered the king of block breaking games, Tetris to appear. The game was created by Russian scientist and mathematician, Alexey Pajitnov, who created it whilst working for the Soviet Government. The game, which takes its name from the ‘four unit' blocks (tetrominoes) and Tennis, the sport that Pajitnov loosely based the game upon. Tetris involved players making a solid line with no gaps or breaks across a pit which various blocks would drop into. On successful completion of a line, the game would erase the line from the game allowing more space for more blocks to drop into. On completion of a number of lines the game would go up levels and increase in speed. This was the first game that utilised the construction of combinations of blocks in order to destroy them and erase them from the game. Tetris was released to massive acclaim from the public, however the game's creator, Pajitnov was never really successfully remunerated for his work in financial terms as the game was so generic many companies managed to steal the idea from him and market it. The Soviet government however always argued that any proceeds for Pajitnov work should belong to them as they employed him at the time of the game's creation.
Tetris started a massive explosion in the number of block based puzzle games on the market. Games like Konami's Plotting and Atari's Klax both involved the collection of similar types of blocks in order to remove them from a grid. However, it was Sega's Columns, created in 1989 by Jay Geertsen that formed the basis for the exploding symbol slot games that are so well loved today, as well as games like Bejewelled, which are growing in popularity with a new generation of mobile smart-phone gamers. Columns required the player to drop small rods made up of three jewels into a pit in a similar fashion to Tetris. Similar blocks would need to be made to line up across these small rods in order for the player to form combinations. Then, when the player did create a combination, the similar jewels would explode. The difference between this game and Tetris was that Columns used a kind of gravity to pull down jewels that were previously above the exploded jewels into the empty spaces. This would then allow new combinations to form, which was the exciting new development behind the success of Columns.
Games now have moved on from the 2D masterpieces that we loved so much during the 1980s and 1990s to complex, immersive environments that could almost represent the real world. However, many of the evolutionary steps created by the boom in computer gaming haven't been forgotten, instead they're making their way onto gambling games like Da Vinci Diamonds.