First Computer Game?

I want to come up with a strict, unambiguous set of metrics to determine the world’s first implemented computer game. The history is messy, but I think my metrics will make things clear. There are lots of “one of the first” Wikipedia articles, but no definitive winner.

I will then use the metrics to determine the winner.


There’s a video or two linked over here which might be of interest: Stuart Brown (of the YouTube channel Ahoy) offers a well-researched exploration of the first video game according to various criteria. Of course, a video game is a slightly different animal from a computer game.


Let the flamewars begin!

On that topic, is there a Flamewars™ game?


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Here’s the details of the WOzFests I’m holding - feel free to join via Google Meet.

And I might even be able to have 10 attendees at WOzFest 22!

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hi Riley,
I hope you can come up with some metrics for defining what a computer is. That’s going to have a huge impact on your results.
When I was in high school back in the late 70’s just before the introduction of microcomputers into schools here, a couple of us argued that our programmable calculator fitted the definition of a computer. I had a National 4525 Scientist PR and my mate had a much more expensive HP 25 or similar calculator.
These had keyboards, displays and could be programmed which to us fitted the definition of a computer.
I know computers go back further than that to mainframes or valve based computers, so I think you’re going to have to figure out your metrics first, then that should determine what computer was first and I’d bet that had a game program on it of some description.
I don’t envy your task.
Mark C.

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Hi Mark,

My lowest level definition of a computer is any machine that is “Turing Complete.”

If it was built (which it wasn’t), Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” would have been Turing Complete. This was the 1830s.

This is important as it is a precise definition that we can start with, then argue about further additions. E.g. Is a stored program required? Does that game have to be able to run in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. is it playable)?

Some calculators would be Turing Complete I reckon. We’d have to look into it.

The earliest Turing Complete computer is something like Konrad Zuse’s Z3 (1941), but as it lacked a condition branch instruction, it was (is) only theoretically Turing Complete. It’s this sort of boundary that is interesting. The answer lies, I’m pretty sure, somewhere between 1941 and 1951.