A light gun is a pointing device for computers and a control device for arcade and video games.
Modern screen-based light guns work by building a sensor into the gun itself, and the on-screen target(s) emit light rather than the gun. The first light gun of this type was used on the MIT Whirlwind computer.
The light gun and its descendant, the light pen, are now rarely used as pointing devices due largely to the popularity of the mouse and changes in monitor display technology—conventional light guns only work with CRT monitors.
The first light guns appeared in the 1930s, following the development of light-sensing vacuum tubes. It was not long before the technology began appearing in arcade shooting games, beginning with the Seeburg Ray-O-Lite in 1936. These early light gun games, like modern laser tag, used small targets (usually moving) onto which a light-sensing tube was mounted; the player used a gun (usually a rifle) that emitted a beam of light when the trigger was pulled. If the beam struck the target, a "hit" was scored.
Use in video games
The video game light gun is typically modeled on a ballistic weapon (usually a pistol) and is used for targeting objects on a video screen. With force feedback, the light gun can also simulate the recoil of the weapon.
Light guns are very popular in arcade games, but had not caught on as well in the home video game console market until after the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Sega Master System (SMS), Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) systems and Atari XEGS. Nevertheless, many home 'Pong' systems of the 70s included a pistol or gun for shooting simple targets on screen.
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