Atari - 1980
Machine: Arcade, and many others
Genre: Character Shooter
This is the first game to be designed by a woman and it was Atari's second biggest hit after Asteroids. It doesn't utilise Atari's trademark vector graphics but it does swap the old joystick in favour of a trackball. One of the really interesting things about Centipede was that it proved to be hugely popular with females showing that video games had a cross-gender appeal. After all, what is the point of an art form if it only appeals to one sector of society?
The game itself was a progression from Space Invaders, but rather more colourful and certainly more frenetic. You are confronted by a screen full of mushrooms. At the top left of the screen a centipede starts to snake (wrong genus, I know) it's way down towards you. As it runs into mushrooms, it moves down one space closer to you, causing it's motion to become more erratic. As you shoot the segments of the centipede, it breaks into smaller centipedes for you to deal with. If that isn't enough there are other creepy-crawly threats that jump around trying to kill you, like spiders and fleas. The game is really fast paced but certainly more laid back than it's predecessors, which might well account for the popularity it enjoyed with girls. One of the key differences with this game was the addition of the trackball that controlled your movements; rather than being trapped at the bottom of the screen, you were permitted a degree of freedom in your movements. Obviously these seem to be trifling improvements but do you remember how mind blowing 3-D gameplay was in the late 1990s? Atari were the one of the early pioneers of this industry: Centipede is a testament to this.
Bubbaray 05 Mar '03
MAME - Search Google for the ROM file, use mouse control to best emulate the trackball.
Play Online - At Atari's official arcade site.
Wikipedia's Centipede page - Lots of great information.