The Game: It’s quite simple, really. You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth… it’s all over. (Atari, 1980)
Memories: Is there actually any history to this game that you don’t already know? Space Invaders was what Combat and Super Breakout weren’t – namely, the Atari 2600‘s equivalent of a killer app: a home version of an arcade game that had reached a critical mass of public recognition, even among non-video-game fans. People bought the then-expensive 2600 console just to play this game.
The home versions of such games as Asteroids and Pac-Man still waiting in the wings, and Space Invaders is a pretty good example of a 2600 title done very well – there’s a little bit of sprite flicker, but not enough to ruin the game, and the sound effects are perfect (right down to the earth-shattering fart sound that signifies the player’s death). The graphics are different from the arcade version, but considering how fancy video game visuals weren’t back then…who cared? Who even noticed? Atari’s Space Invaders replaced the Taito/Midway version in popularity…and home video game consoles were here to stay.