Steve Jobs: Accidental Video Games Visionary

Apple's co-founder exerted a huge influence over video games, and he wasn't even trying.

This story originally appeared on CNET.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died Wednesday, October 5, 2011, after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56. Jobs resigned his post as Apple CEO in August 2011 and was elected chairman of Apple's board of directors. The company's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, took over as CEO. The one thing that all video game visionaries have in common is that they all set out to make something about video games better. From the guys who came up with the whole concept in the first place, to all of the auteurs, artists, storytellers, and technologists who have followed, they've all set about to make the experience of playing video games better. To make them more fun. To make them easier to understand, and more enjoyable to interact with.

All of them except one.

Steve Jobs has arguably had more of an impact on the way video games are consumed in recent years than any other figure in technology--but as far as I can tell, it was almost entirely by accident.

"Later, with the release of the Apple II in 1977, he helped usher in a golden age of video games…"
Sure, Jobs had some history in the space; he took a job at Atari as a technician in the mid-'70s, but this was because he was looking for money to fund a spiritual retreat to India. Later, with the release of the Apple II in 1977, he helped usher in a golden age of video games by providing a platform for the explosion of creativity that came in the early '80s: Bubble Bobble, Beach Head, Boulder Dash, Choplifter, F-15 Strike Eagle, Hacker, Hardball!, Karateka, King's Quest, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, Leisure Suit Larry, Lode Runner, Might & Magic, The Oregon Trail, Raid Over Moscow, Skyfox, Ultima, Wizardry, Zork. So many games that so many of us remember fondly, and all of them made possible because of the Apple II and Jobs.

His greatest contribution, though, came with the introduction of the iPhone (and iPod Touch) in 2007. Though none of us anticipated the impact it would have at the time, it has changed an entire industry and brought interactive entertainment into the hands of people who were previously indifferent to or intimidated by anything other than Minesweeper or Chess on their PC.

The elegance and instinctive nature of its user interface has made it instantly accessible to young and old alike, and with that it has opened the minds of millions to the joys of simple pleasures like Bejeweled, Bookworm, and Words With Friends. From there, it led them to the delights of more complex games like Fieldrunners, Plants vs. Zombies, Contre Jour, or World of Goo.

And then of course, there's the big one: Angry Birds. The iPhone, and by association Jobs, ushered in the most unexpected pop cultural megahit of the 21st century. The bird-flinging physics puzzler would never have become the ubiquitous experience that it has become today without its start on iOS.

Of the 250 million people who own iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches right now, more than half of them play games. That means the iOS platform is already nipping at the heels of the Nintendo DS in terms of engaged audience, and it's not showing any signs of slowing down.

Just one of many apsects of Steve Jobs' legacy.

"I've never seen people forge such a deeply personal connection with a device than I have with the iPhone…"
I've been playing video games for 30 years, and writing about them for 20. I've never seen people forge such a deeply personal connection with a device than I have with the iPhone, and now more recently the iPad. My own kids, ages six and eight, have been around video games since the day they were born. My wife and I allow them to play games only on the weekends, and even then for only an hour or so. Do they choose games on the Wii, the PlayStation 3, or the Xbox 360? Rarely. Nine times out of 10, their go-to device is the iPad. They display an unusual degree of reverence and respect for it. It's the only device they'll share without fighting, and it has become the most popular companion on road trips and vacations. They instinctively know how to use it and have never once had to ask how to start a game or interact with something. They play games with each other, with us, and with their grandparents, and we all get the same kind of enjoyment from it.

Few devices in the history of video games have been able to bring people together and remove both technical and social barriers to enjoyment. For that, whether they indulge in iOS gaming or not, all gamers owe Jobs a debt of gratitude.

His influence on how we interact with technology will be missed.

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Discussion

20 comments
Granpire
Granpire

@baystatethrashr Ah, but I have, and again, I'm still not impressed. Graphically, it is impressive, but it stops about there. Sword slashes offer a few cheap thrills, but it gets old quickly. I agree that it(iPhone/iPod gaming) is full of potential, and it likely will get better with time, but I'm still kind of skeptical about controls. I can never get into touch controls for action games, so that leaves strategy games and racers. Also, I know my opinion doesn't represent the majority of gamers', but I don't like the philosophy that portable games should be styled for portables. I like larger stories that draw me in and fight to keep me there. Not quick pick-up-and-play titles, these bore me to death.

jwhdavison
jwhdavison staff

If the rumors are to be believed, he was quite disdainful of videogames. All the more incredible that his vision for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad had such a profound effect on game design. Good UI is good UI though...and games need that as much as anything.

TimeFrame
TimeFrame

Steve Jobs influened video games? The man didn't even like video games... sigh..

true_gamer007
true_gamer007

Some people are born to be great. If we can manage to learn even a bit from their struggles and excellent display of work, we can certainly find ourselves a lot more successful. I'll remember him not only for what gadgets he has innovated but for his struggle n never-say-die attitude which took apple from ground to the eternal sky. Mr. Jobs, RIP n thank you for being such an inspiration.

Meracalos
Meracalos

"I've never seen people forge such a deeply personal connection with a device than I have with the iPhone…" true

RobinHood911
RobinHood911

The world will never forget Steve Jobs as the living legend that he was. The world can never forgive him for passing away. Rest in Peace Steve Jobs, you've inspired the next generation, and those who would change the world as you have. Shedding tears for Steve Jobs is not an abomination, it is a sign that you knew what he did for the world. It is a truth, that you realize that there never was anyone like him, and may never be again.

baystatethrashr
baystatethrashr

@Granpire Clearly you have never played Infinity Blade... iOS gaming is still in it's infancy, we've seen some decent stuff in the last 3 years but I think it's going to start picking real soon (in the hardcore games market) especially with AAA developers like Epic and Bungie making games for iOS now. In all honesty though the games on the iPhone aren't made for you. They're for people who don't play video games, who are looking for something to do on the commute to work and you know what, I love playing a little bit of Doodle Jump or Angry Birds on my way to work in the morning.

Granpire
Granpire

I'd be ashamed to raise my own kids with that level of quality of games. Just saying. I'd rather set my standards a little higher than iPod touch games, and I've made this clear before. Perhaps if Apple ever actually set some quality standards for their games, or started making something themselves, I would be impressed with the quality of iPhone games.

ryzrocks
ryzrocks

Steve Jobs set the stepping stone for us to innovate and make a better future so I salute thee because you were the only man brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it...You will always be a legend because unlike artists that died, you actually did something to make the world a better place to live in :D

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

It's sad that he died, and his influence cannot be questioned... but what we can question is; as gamers, are we happy with the influence that's he's had? I.E. are we happy with the direction that devices like iPhone and iPad have pushed games in? Ask that of any of the casual or non-gamers, and they'll likely say they are very happy - after all, they have a nice new hobby with a shiny device to enjoy. But ask most [not all, but most] seasoned gamers, and you'll get a very different response, almost hostile. So the next question here then is; as most of us on here are in the seasoned gamers category, do we think that the fact we've played more games for longer means our opinions on such things are more valid, more "correct", than the countering views of the non and casual gamers? I read a lot on here who seem to think like this, like their experience with games counts for something more than just it's value as experience, so that their opinions on the industry are the only ones that matter.

heznave
heznave

@OuroborosChoked Whats with the hostility man? Steve Jobs died and he wrote an article about the influence of Apple products which is indisputable and you're pissed about it? Go play some video games and relax...

aamir69
aamir69

God Bless You as you have done a huge favor to mankind with your intelligence and brilliance

itchyflop
itchyflop

@raphaelcoelho15 couldn't have put it better myself.

OuroborosChoked
OuroborosChoked

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

raphaelcoelho15
raphaelcoelho15

Now, what's gonna happen without him? R.I.P. Steve Jobs, we will always miss you

DMLSLAT
DMLSLAT

I've played a lot of great games. Many of them are extremely big and complex, but when I started playing gaming on my iPhone it reminded me that games don't have to be that way to be fun. And that's the point of games. So I agree: Steve Jobs innovated in the video game market just like he did in the markets of computers, phones, MP3 players, and tablets. Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs.

Sparten1009
Sparten1009

"Death is the destination we all share, no one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be because death is very likely the single best invention of life." - Steve Jobs

Sparten1009
Sparten1009

"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me ... Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me." -Steve Jobs

Sparten1009
Sparten1009

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” - Steve Jobs

Sparten1009
Sparten1009

R.I.P My true inspiration in life. R.I.P Steve Jobs #iSad