Retro Game Story: The Origins of the Term “Video Game”


The term “video game” is now in common use, and it seems to have always existed in our vocabularies. But that’s wrong. The story has it that it was first used in March 1973 by journalist Ed Adlum, in the Cash Box magazine, when he first called “video games” the new wave of entertainment machines that were invading arcades. These new games, in fact, were somehow placed in a new category, separated from Juke Boxes, Flippers and electromechanical games. Before then, even if it seems strange, it was not known how the hell to call these objects and, even on the official advertisements, it was all a flourishing of more or less fanciful terminologies like TV Games, Skill Games, Electronic Television Games, Video Reaction Games and worse going.

PubblicitĂ  del videogioco Pong anni 70 su Retro-Game.it

There is however a twist in the whole story: if Adlum was the first to have formalized the term using it in public, there is a person who used it for at least a year before, without even noticing it. This is Nolan Bushnell, father of Atari, who in a working communication with Bally dated July 1972 (when the company was still called Syzygy) refers to his products calling them “video game”. He, interviewed recently, did not even remember it (perhaps also because he is old today) but this letter is the first historical testimony of the use of this term.

Lettera di Nolan Bushnell Atari alla Bally dove appare per la prima volta il termine video game