Like the earliest examples of books and film, the earliest computer games were defined by the limits of their technology. Games such as Tennis for Two (eventually re-envisioned as Pong) and Spacewar! used monochrome sprites that could be modulated via console-style controls; when graphics had to make the jump to home-based consoles, they became blocky and pixelated, recognizable only by the game’s title and box art.
WHEN IT COMES to truly iconic touchstones of fantasy and sci-fi, Dungeons and Dragons is in a plane of its own. After four-plus decades of existence, the cultural significance of its universe is rivaled by only a small handful of other heavy hitters like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Its early design and aesthetics borrowed liberally from Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, pulp novels and comics, and of course Tolkien, but its DNA – its “source code” – were the rigorous rulesets of the strategic wargaming community, which preceded it by decades.