Why is today Video Games Day?

Why is today Video Games Day?
Sean Cleaver

By Sean Cleaver

September 12th 2017 at 9:40AM

You've probably received the marketing emails and promoted social media posts already. It's #videogamesday. But where did Video Games Day come from?

It’s a fair question, surely? At what point in the Gregorian calendar was September 12th declared by the town crier of Ravenholm to be ‘Video Games Day’ forever more? Is there a history behind it or is it just a neat thing made by companies in order to shift that troublesome mid-year stock?

In truth, we don’t know. Our internet research can’t seem to find a year that Video Games Day even started. It's not even on Wikipedia's list of holiday and observances days, which even includes Mindfulness Day, a day created by a book publisher in 2011 to raise awareness about, you've guessed it, mindfulness.

One website I found for a National Video Games Day recommends that: "you have plenty of snacks and your favourite games. Get your friends together for a marathon session! Friends, new games, retro games, munchies and beverages and you’re ready to go." 

Another website points out that: "the history of Video Games Day is really the history of the video game, and that history goes back much farther than most people imagine." Indeed the site goes onto mention Bertie the Brain playing Tic-Tac-Toe at the Canadian National Exhibition and the Nimrod computer at the 1951 Festival of Britain. But none of these explains where Video Games Day comes from. So what is it?

It certainly isn’t to honour the creation of the first ever video game. That is attributed to William Higinbotham, a physicist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, who created Tennis for Two with Robert Dvorak in October 1958. So that puts that anniversary out of the question.

Maybe it was another milestone in the history of gaming? Perhaps it could have been the start of video gaming’s entrance into the public mainstream with home consoles? Sadly, it isn’t. The first console, the Magnavox Odyssey was released in North America in August 1972.

Could it be the anniversary of the game that started it, the spiritual successor of Tennis for Two that eclipsed all others? Could it be Pong? Again, no. According to Wikipedia (sorry Harvard referencing), Pong was released on November 29th, 1972. It’s definitely not Pong.

This is all good history but maybe, in 2017, not something that would be a part of the mainstream consciousness of gamers and non-gamers alike. Something bigger is needed, something that changed games for everyone. Space Invaders!

Alas, no anniversaries here either. That was released in June and July 1978 in Japan and the US respectively. Could the Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom's arrival be celebrated? Nope, that was July 15th, 1983. It’s not even the arrival of Dizzy the anthropomorphic egg by the Oliver Twins, which arrived in June 1986. Or Tetris, which was released in June 1984.

Maybe I’m thinking a bit too literal to the history of video games development. Maybe it’s to do with the people behind it, notable heroes, whose birth is to be celebrated. Maybe there’s a developer or noted influencer who was born on this day, the same day as the legendary singer Barry White, the incomparable composer Hans Zimmer (who admittedly is the most connected thing to video games in this entire piece), famed US Comedian Louis CK or the magnificently named South Korean rapper, Rap Monster?

No.

I’ve gone through all the important release dates and there’s nothing. Maybe, just maybe, someone looked at us – gamers, developers, business leaders, marketers and noted morning ignorers addicted to Match-3 games – and thought we needed to come together. Maybe we needed a day that we could call our own, where we could take to our microphones, our tweets, our social media reach and share our passion, share our enjoyment of games and express everything we love about the medium.

Or maybe it’s just a hashtag designed to sell more stuff in a public and shareable way. Oh well. Happy Video Games Day everyone!