Video Arcade Games

Games that were (and are) available in commercial arcades, motel and hotel game rooms, fast food restaurants, gas stations, malls, bowling alleys, and a host of other places - are many and varied. Van Burnham documents many of these games in the book Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001, 450p.

Space Invaders

Because of storage limitations, the Museum collection includes only one video arcade game, but from time to time has "rented" video arcade games for exhibits. One of the earliest and most popular was "Space Invaders".

The stand-alone coin-operated arcade version was developed in 1978 by Taito a Japanese game company and licensed for use throughout the world. It has been suggested that this game changed the future of the electronic gaming industry. In fact, Van Burnham reports that the game caused a coin shortage in Japan when it first appeared and this shortage affected the Japanese economy at the time.

Encased in the cabinet and behind the colorful glass facade were a number of computer components. On the monitor screen, a squadron of 55 alien space ships "moved down" the screen toward "Earth". The player's task was to defend "Earth" by destroying the invading ships. The player controlled a lone ship (at the bottom of the screen) which was protected by 4 Bunkers. A sound track within the machine produced sounds of the space encounter with the noise of fired lasers, exploding ships, and the like.

The player controls included 5 buttons, used for moving the defending ship to the left or the right and firing a laser controlled missile. (A counter top version of the game included a "joystick" to position and fire the missiles.) As the player destroyed the invading ships, the remaining ones picked up speed and "moved down" the screen at a faster pace.

A scoring area on the screen indicated the points that were awarded to the player as the enemy ships were destroyed. One version of the game enabled players to insert coins and compete with one another for high score.

As the game became more popular, various "spin-offs" could be found in the arcades. Eventually, a home version for use as a TV Console game was produced by Atari.

Last update May 23, 2007