The earliest computer games were made in pockets of isolation hard to imagine in today’s hyper-connected world. Like the first living organisms spawning and dying in countless dark seas before the right warm tide pool helped them thrive, early digital games were invented and lost and reinvented, over and over. Academic communities shared work at conferences and in journals; coworkers in industry computer labs swapped notes and code; but there wasn’t yet anything like the shared pool of ideas and experiments that would become so vital to future generations of gamemakers.
One of the earliest such communities had set up camp in 1972 at a small storefront in Menlo Park, California. The city sat at the nexus of Stanford technologists and Bay Area free-thinkers who would soon spark the computer revolution and the behemoths of Silicon Valley — but not just yet. The group who’d moved into the small retail space that year was called the People’s Computer Company, a nonprofit pursuing a dream that computers could and should be for everybody. No sign or plaque today marks the space, now an unassuming dry cleaning business, where many seeds of the personal computer revolution were planted.