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Games Convention Online 2009

87-year-old video game pioneer Ralph H. Baer to attend exhibition of gaming history.


(31 July - 2 August 2009)

Leipzig, 17 June 2009

The GAMES CONVENTION ONLINE will witness an historic meeting between two legendary figures from the video and computer game past. The inventor of home video games Ralph H. Baer (87) and the inventor of online gaming Richard Bartle (49) will both come to Leipzig for the world's first trade show for browser, client and mobile games from 31 July to 2 August 2009. They open the exhibition "From Pong to Ping*. The History of Online Games". In this special show and in partnership with the Berlin Computer Game Museum, the Leipziger Messe recreates the development of digital games from their infancy to the present day - and does so both here in Leipzig and at the same time on the internet.

The evolution of games is closely linked with the names Baer and Bartle. The now 87-year-old video game pioneer Baer was the first to use a TV to play a game. As early as 1966, the German-born engineer had already designed the basics for a video game system to be linked to a TV and he registered the patent for it in 1968. This was the basis for the first home video game console "Odyssey", brought onto the market in 1972 by the US company Magnavox. In 1978 at Essex University in the UK, Richard Bartle and Roy Thrubshaw programmed the first online game MUD (Multi User Dungeon) - the forebear of today's mass roleplay games such as "World of Warcraft". The two students' fantasy adventure was not just a success on the university networks, but subsequently on the internet too, with multiple users able to play MUD together in real time.

Journey Through Time to the Origins of Online Gaming Worlds

Ralph H. Baer's "Brown Box" from 1968 marks the start of a retrospective of around 40 years of gaming history - an unassuming brown wooden box with control knobs and the prototype of the first home console. The apparatus steers three little chunks on the TV monitor - two rectangles moved up and down as rackets; a square symbolised the ball for this simple game of tennis.

Parallel to console development, the sixties saw the start of ARPANET, the predecessor of today's internet, born when the first electronic message was sent on 21 November 1969. "Almost from the outset, academics played via the new network, initially text-based e-mail games", says Andreas Lange, director of the Berlin Computer Game Museum. The first online game MUD was also completely without any visuals. The game world inspired by John R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was controlled by text entries only.

View into the "Game Workshop"

The "From Pong to Ping" exhibition tells the story of online gaming in four epochs, with their respective highlights. Visitors experience the atmosphere from the beginnings in the sixties and in the university milieu of the first online games. "We also show the private beginnings in hobby basements after 1983, the move up into teenagers' bedrooms thanks to the web as from 1993 and the start of the broadband era in 2000", explains Andreas Lange. The exhibition spans the years to the very latest browser games - internet games that can be played directly in the browser without needing additional software. For the versions known as Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) for thousands of gamers, German companies in particular were internationally one step ahead, according to Lange: "Up to now, the area of game development has been under-represented in Germany in comparison to its market strength. This is starting to change now, with German browser game companies taking off glob ally."

Open to the Whole World

Anyone not in Leipzig can still attend the exhibition wherever they are in the world - via the internet. "In a time frame created in cooperation with Ralph H. Baer, we make all the contents available online, as well as some games", as Andreas Lange has announced. Baer is providing digitised original documents especially for this project.

Background Ralph H. Baer

Born in Germany in 1922, Ralph H. Baer spent most of his childhood in Cologne. In 1938, he and his family fled from the Nazis to the USA where he trained as a television technician and made a career for himself in the arms industry. Baer holds 47 patents and is still active today as an inventor. In 2006, he was awarded the USA's "National Medal of Technology".

Background Richard Bartle

Richard Allen Bartle was born in England in 1960. He is an author ("Designing Virtual Worlds¿) and researcher, teaches as professor of computer game design at Essex University and acts as a consultant.

Background Computer Game Museum

The Computerspiele Museum im fjs e.V. in Berlin is dedicated to digital interactive entertainment culture and has staged 31 national and international exhibition projects since 1997 either independently or in partnership. It has Europe's largest collection of entertainment software and hardware which will form the basis for the planned reopening of the permanent exhibition that closed at the end of 2000. The museum is a member of the EU research project Keeping Emulation Environments Portable (KEEP), among other activities.

*Ping is a computer programme which enables a small unit of information to be sent from one computer to another and back again.

Contact for the Press:

Torsten Anke, Press Officer

Phone: +49 341 678-8198

Fax: +49 341 678-8182



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