The Game: Apparently, the exterminating business is getting more dangerous. In the course of trying to wipe out some vermin, you find yourself on the defensive – any of them can kill you simply by touching you. Fleas drop from the top of the screen, leaving bothersome mushrooms in their way. Scorpions periodically poison the mushrooms, making them impossible to destroy. And a pesky spider is always dancing around the screen. (Atari, 1980)
Memories: I was never that hot on Centipede, but this is mainly due to the fact that its trakball controller pretty much ensured that I sucked at this game. But many people just loved it. With the benefit of hindsight, and slightly better hand-eye coordination, I can now see why.
Centipede also has the distinction of helping female game designers slither through the glass ceiling. It was the first successful arcade game to be co-designed by a woman – in this case Atari’s Dona Bailey.
In 1982, Atari introduced Millipede, a game which changed several of the basic elements of Centipede, adding new enemies such as mosquitos and inchworms, and adding such new weapons as DDT (can you tell it was 1982? DDT was our friend!). Millipede also clearly defined the limits of the area in which your on-screen representative can move, but this wasn’t necessarily a good thing – you and that area were almost the same color.
Centipede was a reasonably easy game to translate to home systems, and since it was one of Atari’s in-house originals, it was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, 400, 800…you name it. Centipede also appeared in the Microsoft Arcade package, Atari Arcade’s Greatest Hits for the Playstation, and an emulation appeared on the updated Playstation version of Centipede as well. Though Millipede was translated to some home systems around the time of its release, those home versions quickly disappeared in the home video game industry’s crash.