Gaming Innovation Database

Here’s something I haven’t stumbled on before – the Game Innovation Database.

It’s been around a while, so you may be familiar. In fact, it originally began in 2004, going through various incarnations and student teams, and for the last year has been a somewhat confusing, but rather intriguing Flash map.

I'm related to Napoleon!

It’s a family tree for innovations. The site states:

“The goal of the Game Innovation Database is to classify and record every innovation in the history of computer and video games, while displaying their relationship to one another. It is our belief that all innovations can be traced from a previous entry, much like a family tree. As such, each innovation has a parent, and the potential to inspire future growth, or children.”

So you pick an innovation, starting with the 1954 naughts and crosses game, OXO, and spin off from there. Or you can throw in a name into the search engine. It’s not about developer links, or game series, but the games that demonstrated an advancing innovation first, and those that led to this, and were born of it. Alongside the map, oodles of information appears in a text box on the left, with history, details, and screenshots. It’s a fascinating browse.

(Another interesting thing about it: Browse the site for a while, and then switch back to a regular, white-background website or Word doc, or similar. Man, that hurts.)


  1. Pidesco says:

    Positional audio seems to be missing. I believe Thief was the first to have this, but I could be wrong. Also, there isn’t a single innovation listed related to game narrative.

    Oh, and they’re forums are dead.

  2. Andrew says:

    Totally confusing the flash map – a database would be much more usable, and much more easy to see the information. Sure, it’s fine to have the 6-degrees of game innovation readily viewable, but it’s kinda useless :(

    However, hopefully it will improve in time!

  3. Matthew Gallant says:

    What an interesting project, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  4. Irish Al says:

    Kudos to them for recognising Maze War as the original multiplayer FPS, and not saying it was Doom like everyone else.

  5. roryok says:

    myself and a friend started up a more abstract version, based on the idea of creating a ‘western canon’ of games – ie: the games that any person should have played if that person wished to consider themselves ‘well read’ (or ‘well played’) in the games world.

    we only ever got as far as making a list of the games we intended to put on it, and posting one single entry (monkey island)

    Just out of interest, would anyone else be interested in contributing if we started it up again? Even just voting on what games should go in?

  6. Freelancepolice says:

    Was outlaw really the first sniper rifle in an FPS, shirly not

  7. Meat Circus says:

    @roryok: sounds like a good idea.

    Though, it needs to be strictly limited in number, otherwise you’ll end up simply including every game you ever played that you enjoyed, or didn’t enjoy with a good enough reason.

    What manner of “contribution” would you be after, a game nomination and a few paragraphs on why it should be immortalized in the gaming hall of fame?

  8. Schadenfreude says:

    I thought MDK traditionally got “first sniper rifle” but that was 3rd person. Outlaw is certainly the earliest FPS I ever played with a sniper rifle (Such an excellent game that).

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    MDK traditionally gets it. Can’t see any justification for it not to get the credit if it came first. You’re first-person when you’re sniping.


  10. Sean Noonan says:

    Seen this passed around a bit at work – it’s a shame it’s currently so undeveloped.

    I have always wondered who did the whole on screen Half-Life esque damage direction detection HUD markers first, or health that replenishes if a player was to avoid damage for long enough (ala Call of Duty)…

    Somebody answer these!

  11. roryok says:


    You’re right about the limit, i think the best way would be for us to take a vote on each entry, maybe have a poll for each new suggestion to decide if it should be added to the list.

    Yes, contribution would most likely be a paragraph or so on why you think the game should be included – i.e; something it did that was innovative or some reason that it was heavily influential on future games.

  12. Crispy says:

    Thanks for posting this. I lost it from my bookmarks a long time ago after seeing it on Gamasutra. Yes, that’s right, RPS is on a par with Gamasutra for newsworthiness. ;)

  13. Sum0 says:

    Ah, I remember a copy of PC Gamer from long, long ago that had an awesome poster like that which connected together 30 years of gaming from 1970-2000. (Ooh, great, I still have it!)

  14. Janek says:

    Was it a poster? I thought it was a booklet.

    But yes it did come to my mind too.

  15. Geoff says:

    OXO makes some really nice kitchen ware.

    On a serious note – I know you shun the consoles here, but man – Eternal Darkness credit for the sanity meter. That was such an excellent game mechanic. If they’re not going to make a sequel, then others need to start shamelessly copying that idea.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Janek: It was both. First month was the poster, second month was the booklet.

    Written by Jonathan Smith, who you’ll know best from his work on Lego Star Wars.

    (In fact, I believe he used the pair of them as his portfolio when he got his first designer job at Codemasters)


  17. Pod says:

    @roryok: Yes. I would love to see this.

    I still have my (very very battered) PC Gamer “game-o-history” poster. It’s ace, even if it is severly outdate.

    I think this site used to be a wiki, which would be a lot better than this flash non-sence. Also: As if Dues Ex was the first game with multiple paths and multiple endings. Blade Runner, for starters….

  18. John Walker says:

    Geoff: We don’t, don’t, don’t “shun” consoles. We all four love them lots to bits. This, however, is a PC gaming site, so we focus on PC games.

  19. Irish Al says:

    Laser Squad (ZX Spectrum et al) had a sniper rifle …