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First sports game, Tennis for Two, recreated

Video game historian Raiford Guins has penned a blog post outlining how a new version of Tennis For Two, one of the first games ever made, has been built and put on display at The Strong Museum of Play located in Rochester, New York.

This is more impressive than many recreations of early games, says Guins in his blog post, because Tennis for Two was built with an oscilloscope and an analog computer, set up at at the Brookhaven National Laboratory for a visitors day at the federal lab. This visitors day occurred on October 15, 1958 and was very probably the first time many of the attendees had ever tried a video game.

The game wasn’t even called Tennis for Two originally, with the title retroactively applied once people realised that video games were a thing, and there would be more of them. It’s one of the first games ever created, predating 1962’s Spacewar! by several years.

This version of the game isn’t the original and it’s not a copy of the original — because no one thought it was a big deal and so they didn’t keep solid notes and dismantled the original after the visitors day — but Guins suggests this recreation is a valuable addition to the museum’s collection because it gives attendees an idea of what the first games made purely for entertainment were like.

"The story of Tennis for Two extends much further than its original 1958 installation. We will never experience the ‘original’ Tennis For Two. Even by 1959, it was different than the unnamed version displayed the first year, with a larger oscilloscope and the title ‘Computer Tennis,’" writes Guins.

"The versions created in 1997, 2008, and 2015 extended the living biography of Tennis For Two, broadening its reach from a series of Visitor’s Days at a federal institution to a temporary exhibition at a public museum."

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