We Take Fun Seriously: The Creation of the Video Game Industry in the United States

Anne McDivitt

Advisor: Michael O'Malley, PhD, Department of History and Art History

Committee Members: Sam Lebovic, Meredith Lair

Merten Hall, #1204
April 27, 2018, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM


The story of the early video game industry is one of fundamental tensions. The short time period in which the US dominated the production of video games pitted creativity and fun vs profit, 1960s counter-culture lifestyle vs traditional business practice, and patriarchy vs feminism. The beginnings of the video game industry involved a form of a counter-cultural business model, including a leisurely and casual atmosphere focused on fun and creativity, and video game makers actively pushed back against a traditional business culture, sometimes to the detriment of profits. Although there were attempts to incorporate women and market towards them as players, the creation of video games originated in a culture gendered strongly male, and the industry continues to struggle with gender relations in the workplace and with the strongly male demographic that the industry perceives as its main market. The early 1980s saw a blip of hope that the counter-cultural industry would begin to include women, but after the crash of 1983, this free-wheeling freedom of the industry ended along with the beginnings of the inclusion of women. This project begins with US dominance of the industry and ends with the internationalization of the business. While some of the tropes and concepts remain entrenched from the early period, the United States no longer had the same influence that they once had during the 1970s and 1980s.