For many people Space Invaders would have been their first real encounter with an arcade videogame. Â Games such as Pong and Space War may predate Space Invaders but its the alien shooting game that arguably got the popularity of videogames kick started when it first appeared in 1978. Â It was created by Tomohiro Nishikado and produced by arcade game manufacturer Taito.
The premise of the game is pretty simple – destroy all the Space Invaders! Â You control a lone tank at the bottom of the screen that can move left and right and fire shots vertically upwards. Â At the top of the screen are five rows of alien invaders who march from side to side across the screen, moving down a little every time they reach the screen edge. Â The aliens fire every so often at you, so you must dodge their attacks. Â To aid you in this there are four barriers to block their bombs, but every time they take a hit a little bit of the barrier gets destroyed, so they don’t hold out forever.
If you managed to wipe out all the aliens before they reached the bottom of the screen then you would be presented with a new wave of them, moving slightly faster than before. Â You could also get bonus points for shooting the alien mothership that moved horizontally across the top of the screen every so often. Â The motherships arrival was accompanied by a freaky woo-woo-woo sound, designed to put you off just as you were trying to dodge an alien attack.
The game was originally made with black and white graphics, but over the years was gradually upgraded. Â Firstly colour was added by sticking cellophane strips to the TV screen which tinted the still black and white graphics different colours, the obvious problem with this being that objects changed colour as they made their way down the screen. Â Eventually a proper colour monitor was added to the machine, when it became cost effective to do so.
Space Invaders was so immensely popular in Japan when it first hit arcades that there was a shortage of 100 Yen coins for a time, as most of them had been pumped into the machines by eager gamers. Â It’s still a fun game even today, and chances are if you venture into a seaside arcade or visit a travelling funfair you’ll still find a Space Invaders machine sat in the corner somewhere, ready to pull in unsuspecting passers by for just one more go.