Night Driver

Night DriverThe Game: You’re racing the Formula One circuit by the glow of your headlights alone – avoid the markers along the side of the road and other passing obstacles…if you can see them in time. (Atari, 1976)

Memories: Aside from the very cool cockpit cabinet of the sit-down version of Night Driver, there’s a reason why it earns a spot in video game history. Go ahead and see if you can guess what it is. Give up? It’s the first time that a representation of depth appeared in the graphics of a video game. Until this point, home and arcade video games had presented their playing fields as strictly two-dimensional spaces: they were seen from straight overhead, or from a side-on view.

This really didn’t affect how the game was played, mind you – it still adhered to the same dodge-everything play mechanics of an overhead-view driving game like Monaco GP, but as improbable as it seems in hindsight, this was the first step on the road to Pole Position. To Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom. To Zaxxon. To Ridge Racer. And everything that has followed.

Rob Fulop, one of the three designers who originally programmed the game for a small outfit called Micronetics before being hired away by Atari itself, later went on to program the Atari 4 quarters!VCS version of Night Driver. Fulop also coded home versions of – among other things – Missile Command, whose bestselling status was rewarded by the receipt of a certificate good for a free grocery store turkey, though Atari grossed millions on the cartridge. Perhaps not surprisingly, Fulop packed his bags and later went to work for Imagic.

About Earl Green

I'm the webmaster and creator of and its video game museum "sub-site", Phosphor Dot Fossils.
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