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Space Invaders - Taito 1978

OK, we all know that Spacewars and Pong came first, but Space Invaders was the game that turned video-gaming into a global teen sensation. Produced by Taito in Japan and licensed by Midway in the US and Europe, Space Invaders was a considerable advance from the first, basic games, introducing computer-controlled enemies, waves, lives and high scores.

Your time on the machine - and therefore your opportunity to prove your mettle - wasn't determined by a number of shots or a set time limit, but by your own skill. Waves of aliens, cruising steadily right then down, left then down, would just keep on coming. As long as you were fast enough to fend them off, you could just keep on playing.

Space Invaders' big secret wasn't just the killer combination of alien invaders and video-game violence, but that it was simple to pick up while having a level of strategic depth to keep players coming back for hours. The amateur could stick to one spot, hide beneath the bunker and clear a wave or two, but the skilled player knew how and when to move, how to use the bunkers to best effect, and how often to shoot the UFO at the top of the screen if you wanted to achieve the biggest high score.

In a way, Space Invaders invented the hardcore gamer. Sure, your Dad could play Pong, but could he clear the last alien in the tenth wave?

Nearly 30 years on, Space Invaders still stands as a sort of short-hand for video gaming as a whole, even if it's used in a sniffy "do you mean you play Space Invaders?" sort of way. It's hopelessly primitive now, but still oddly compelling: a surfire sign of a classic.

Mention: The score you got for hitting the UFO was generated from the number of shots you had made in the current wave.

Don't mention: The alien's cunning invasion tactics. "Send out the next wave - same ranks, same manoeuvres, but make it a little bit faster this time round."

David Ritko

October 22, 2014, 8:50 pm

Did you say Space Invaders? http://youtu.be/VczbbiRmDik

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