Space Invaders: How one arcade game became a global phenomenon - Gamestate

Space Invaders: How one arcade game became a global phenomenon

In the late 1970s, a Japanese game designer named Tomohiro Nishikado created a game that would become one of the most iconic video games in history. 

This arcade game, which involved players controlling a laser cannon at the bottom of the screen to shoot down alien invaders descending from above, became a worldwide sensation and set the standard for future arcade video games.

In this article, we will explore the history and impact of Space Invaders, from its creation to its lasting legacy in popular culture.

The Birth of Space Invaders

Tomohiro Nishikado was a game designer at Taito Corporation, a Japanese company specializing in arcade games. He got inspired to create Space Invaders after seeing a shooting game at an amusement park featuring moving targets that players could shoot with a light gun. 

Nishikado, however, wanted to create a game that was more accessible to a broader audience, so he came up with the idea of having the targets move toward the player instead. He also wanted to incorporate a science fiction theme, which led to the creation of the iconic alien invaders.

Nishikado faced numerous challenges during the development of Space Invaders, including technical limitations of the time. The hardware of the arcade machines was not powerful enough to render moving objects on the screen, so Nishikado had to devise a clever solution: he created a static image of the alien invaders. Then he used a grid pattern to move them across the screen. The illusion of movement resulted from this and enabled relatively simple hardware to play the game.

The gameplay 

The player controls a small spaceship that moves horizontally across the bottom of the screen. The objective is to shoot down the rows of alien invaders that descend from the top of the screen while avoiding their attacks.

The alien invaders move back and forth across the screen in formation, getting progressively faster as they descend. The player's spaceship can only move horizontally and fire a limited number of shots simultaneously. 

The game becomes more challenging as the player progresses through the levels, with faster-moving aliens and less time to react.

The player must also avoid the aliens' attacks, which consist of bombs dropped by the aliens as they move across the screen. If an alien bomb hits the player's spaceship, the game is over.

The game continues until the player successfully defeats all the aliens or the aliens reach the bottom of the screen and "invade" the player's territory, in which case the game is over.

The Rise of High Scores and Competitive Gaming

Space Invaders' innovative design led to a surge in competitive gaming, with players competing against each other for the highest score. 

The game's scoring system and leaderboard allowed players to track their progress and compare their scores with others, creating a sense of community and competition around the game.

The concept of high scores became a defining feature of arcade video games, with players striving to set new records and beat their friends' scores. The popularity of competitive gaming eventually led to the development of e-sports, a multi-billion dollar industry where professional gamers compete against each other in high-stakes tournaments.

Space Invaders Takes Over the World

Space Invaders was released in Japan in 1978 and immediately became a hit. Players enjoyed the simple yet addictive gameplay and the challenge of beating their high scores.

The success of Space Invaders soon spread beyond Japan. In 1979, when it launched in the United States and Europe, it became even more popular. 

The game's iconic design, which featured colorful aliens and a catchy soundtrack, helped it stand out from other arcade games of the time. Players would line up to play Space Invaders, eager to see if they could beat the high score set by the previous player.

Pushing the limits of gaming technology

The game's use of graphics, sound, and gameplay mechanics set a new standard for arcade video games and paved the way for future innovations in gaming technology.

One of the game's most notable features was its use of sprites, which allowed for smooth animation and movement of the aliens and laser cannon. The game also featured a simple yet effective sound design, with the aliens' distinctive "bleep" sounds becoming instantly recognizable to gamers worldwide.

The success of Space Invaders also led to advancements in gaming hardware. The game's popularity helped to spur the development of more advanced arcade cabinets with larger screens, better sound systems, and more powerful processors. 

This technology eventually made its way into home gaming consoles, with companies like Atari and Nintendo releasing consoles that brought arcade-quality gaming to the living room.

Paving the way for the evolution of gaming

The game inspired countless game designers and spawned a whole new genre of video games. The popularity of arcade games continued to rise, with titles like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Galaga becoming household names. 

As technology continued to evolve, so did the gaming industry. The graphics and gameplay of video games became more sophisticated, with new genres like role-playing games (RPGs) and first-person shooters (FPSs) emerging. Gaming became a multi-billion dollar industry, with major companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo competing for a market share.

However, despite the advancements in gaming technology, the simple yet addictive gameplay of Space Invaders still holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers. 

The game's enduring popularity has led to countless remakes and re-releases, allowing new generations of players to experience the thrill of shooting down alien invaders.

Space Invaders in Pop Culture

The impact of Space Invaders extends beyond the gaming industry, with the game becoming a cultural phenomenon. The iconic design of the game, with its colorful aliens and laser cannon, has been referenced and parodied in countless movies, T.V. shows, and other forms of media.

The 1982 movie "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" contains one of the most famous references to Space Invaders. The film shows Elliot, the young protagonist, playing a modified version of the game in which images of E.T. himself replace the alien invaders.

The popularity of Space Invaders has also led to numerous merchandise tie-ins. Stores and online stores offer T-shirts, mugs, keychains, and other products featuring the game's design. The game has even inspired its line of sneakers, with brands like Reebok and Puma creating limited-edition shoes featuring the iconic alien invaders.

Space Invaders' Enduring Legacy

Despite being released over four decades ago, Space Invaders continues to be a beloved classic of the gaming world. The game's simple yet addictive gameplay, iconic design, and lasting legacy have made it a cultural icon instantly recognizable to gamers and non-gamers alike.

The game's enduring legacy is a testament to the impact that it has had on the gaming industry and popular culture.

Space Invaders is a true classic of the gaming world, with a lasting legacy that has influenced the industry for over four decades. The game is a cultural icon that continues to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages and will continue to be a source of inspiration and innovation for future generations of game designers and developers as the gaming industry evolves.

Experience the design and addictive gameplay that led to a surge in competitive gaming and set a new standard for arcade video games. 

Join the community of players competing for high scores and relive the nostalgia of a game that still holds a special place in the hearts of many gamers.

Come and play the iconic video game Space Invaders at Gamestate!