Esports and retro gaming aren’t really something many people would put in the same category. Esports are predominately known for encompassing the latest modern games, such as Fortnite or Call of Duty, or Dota 2. On the other hand, retro gaming is all about, well, retro games. These two couldn’t seem further apart, in that sense.

However, you’d be mistaken if you were to think that they were entirely separate entities. After all, eSports have been around for decades, in one form or another. So, in an effort to showcase how retro gaming and eSports are connected, we’re going to take a bit of a trip into eSports history and look at the very first eSports event on record.

The Spacewar Is Here

Okay, so, the first thing you might be wondering is why I’m sitting here, talking about a Spacewar. Well, there is a reason for it. Spacewar is a so-called space combat game where you control one of two ships; the Needle and the Wedge. Your opponent controls the other ship, and the two of you have to battle it out in an effort to shoot each other down.

One of the coolest aspects of Spacewar, at the time, was the fact that the game used Newtonian physics. This meant that your ships would continue to move, even after you stop making them move. This would simulate the idea that the ships were actually in space.

Oh, and you may notice that I am using the past tense a lot whilst talking about Spacewar. That’s because it came out in 1962!

The Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics

In 1972, at Stanford University, a group of keen students decided that they wanted to take part in a tournament for Spacewar, now already a classic in its own right. They came together to put on a tournament where the grand prize was a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone.

To make sure the tournament was as fair as possible, a bunch of rules were put into effect. These ranged from players having limited missiles to having a set amount of fuel they were allowed to use.

These rules added a sense of strategy and skill to the game that otherwise wouldn’t have been necessary to win. Because of this, the tournament would actually reward the “best” Spacewar player in the tournament. Reflexes and careful, reactive strategy were rewarded with a victory, and practice was needed in order to succeed. Thus, it was the birthplace of modern eSports, with everything from the Dota 2 International to the Call of Duty World League Championship owing their existence to this one little event.

The Spacewar Olympic Champion Gets Crowned

And so, on the 19th of October, 1972, the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics opened to the world… Or at least, to the few people at Stanford University who came to be a part of it. The tournament was a five-man free-for-all where all of the participants battled it out to determine the best of the best!

After the dust had settled, the missiles were fired and the fuel spent, only one could come out on top for the singles and team tournaments. For the singles tournament, that person was Bruce Baumgart. For the team tournament, it was the team of Tovar and Robert E. Maas. As mentioned earlier, that meant that they each got a year’s subscription to the Rolling Stone magazine.

The Birth of A New Culture

Whilst the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics didn’t pull in a crowd of thousands, it was the start of a brand new take on gaming; competitive gaming. It sparked off the idea that games could be a tournament-based competition with prizes. That, in turn, sort of led to the creation of the Space Invaders Championship of 1980, run by Atari themselves!

The Space Invaders Championship gained an audience of around 10,000 people, making it the first spectator eSports event. But even so, the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics started it all. It created a new culture around gaming that would flourish and grow over the decades, turning into a true phenomenon in modern times.

And That’s All Folks

That was an overview of the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics, the very first eSports tournament of all time. Whilst it wasn’t exactly a huge spectator event, it certainly did get the ball rolling in terms of competitive gaming.

Would you have been interested in taking part in the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics? Let me know in the comments below!