Ralph Baer has passed away at the age of 92. Baer was known as the creator of video games, but he led an interesting life before that. He and his family escaped Germany during its Nazi rule and came to America. He learned technology through his own experimentation and got into radio. This led to him focus on engineering, and the creation of both the Brown Box prototype and the first home console ever — the Magnavox Odyssey. The Odyssey hit shelves in 1972, long before the Atari 2600 hit living rooms. In his 92 years, he was able to see gaming go from a theory to a media powerhouse. Gaming launches can now be bigger revenue-generators than big-budget movies, with plots that provoke thought and discussion.
The Odyssey hit shelves in 1972, long before the Atari 2600 hit living rooms. His invention of the light gun allowed devices like the Zapper to achieve a measure of success. The modern-day QTE owes not only a debt to Shenmue, but primarily to Baer. Simon Says was his creation, and long before Ryo Hazuki hit things in a particular sequence, kids across America smashed large, brightly-lit buttons.
The term “games” has gone from representing a niche to something that anyone at any income level or age can now enjoy. The rise of mobile gaming has broken down the price barriers, while the advent of browser-based gaming has allowed grandmothers and grandfathers who wouldn’t play anything resembling a game before to enjoy simple games. The industry is more diverse now than at any other point, and we’d like to think he’s proud of how much it has grown from its infancy while still paying homage to the early days. With devices like Flashback consoles being released, gaming’s history is as revered now as it ever was – and none of it would have happened without Ralph Baer blazing that trail. May he rest in peace.