Non-games have existed since the early days of video games, although there hasn't been a specific term for them. One of the first examples is Atari's 1977 Surround, a two-player snake game for the Atari 2600, which contains a free-form drawing mode called "Video Graffiti." Later examples are Jaron Lanier's Alien Garden (Epyx, 1982) and Moondust (Creative Software, 1983), Worms? (one of the 1983 launch titles from Electronic Arts), I, Robot (Atari, 1983), which features a special "ungame mode" called "Doodle City," and Jeff Minter's Psychedelia (Llamasoft, 1984), which is an interactive light synthesizer.
Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set (Electronic Arts, 1983) popularized software where building something is more entertaining than playing the finished product. To a lesser extent, some games became construction sets through the inclusion of level editors, like Doug Smith's Lode Runner (Broderbund, 1983), Ron Rosen's Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory (Datamost 1984), and John Anderson's Rally Speedway (Adventure International, 1983). Other more proper construction sets followed, such as EA's Adventure Construction Set (1984) and Racing Destruction Set (1985).
In January 1984,
Joel Gluck presented a simple toy called Bounce in his game design column in ANALOG Computing. Bounce lets users draw low-resolution lines, then release a disc that leaves a permanent trail as it moves across the screen, making patterns as it reflects off of obstacles. The program is specifically designed not to have goals or scorekeeping, other than what's in the user's head. Bounce was revisited several times in ANALOG, including a version which allows multiple discs.
The 1989 simulation game SimCity was called a software toy by its creator Will Wright, since there is no ultimate objective in the main game (scenarios with objectives existed in some incarnations of the game, such as Sim City 2000, but these were not the focus).
Non-games have been particularly successful on the Nintendo DS and Wii platforms, where a broad range of Japanese titles have appealed to a growing number of casual gamers.