Taito - 1978
Generation: 2 and on, and on, and on.
Machine: Arcade, and many others
Genre: Vehicle Shooter
This game launched an industry; it wasn't the first ever arcade game, but it was the first video game to become a household name. It originated in Japan, and was written by Toshihiro Nishikado for Taito (one of the most influential video game companies of all time) All you had to do was to shoot all of the aliens (forty-eight of them, spread across six rows) with your moveable laser gun (horizontal movement only) and avoid being shot yourself. You had three barriers between you and the aliens that provided a modicum of cover, but not much more. The invaders would slowly move down the screen towards you and every now and then a flying saucer would skid along the top of the screen; if you managed to shoot it, you got bonus points. After you cleared the screen of aliens, you would start again with a fresh batch of space invaders to shoot at. The main point of Space Invaders was to try and achieve as high a score as possible. There were maniacs out there who could achieve scores of unholy magnitude and Space Invaders was one of those games that elevated these people to mythical status.
In Japan the game was a huge phenomenon, even causing a shortage of 100 Yen coins. Some restaurants complained that people were only entering their premises to play Space Invaders, instead of eating their food. Taito rather craftily changed some of their machines into sit-down cocktail tables so you could play and sit down for a meal at the same time. The popularity of Space Invaders spread across the world and the subsequent appearance of the game on the Atari 2600 created a massive demand for Atari's home console.
Although crude by today's standards, this game is a thing of design perfection: simple, unfussy gameplay coupled with a beautifully designed look and excellent sound effects that still sound cool today. It is possible to play this game on Digital TV in the UK and it is fascinating to see people try it, especially those who have never played it before. The crucial thing about Space Invaders was that it truly exploited the video game medium. There is something fundamentally addictive about it, with level of difficulty pitched such that it does demand one more go. Of course, the game has no end other than achieving a high score, but that is not the point. Space Invaders is really a lesson about the way good games should be: simple, addictive and fun.
Bubbaray 24 Oct '02
Play online - A fansite with online version and other info.
Wikipedia's Space Invaders page - Lots of great information.