History page 1
These immortal words glow below the vast darkness of space. Silently, two flying saucers hover and coast across the stars, waiting for their next victim. Plunk in a quarter and you are pitted against these villains in the very first installment of a long saga of space combat games that have filled every bar, bowling alley, and video arcade across North America for the past three decades
"A simulated space battle that pits computer-guided saucers against a rocketship that you control."
The game is Computer Space, the very first coin-operated arcade video game. It is important to distinguish this term and this game and its place in history. Why? Because Computer Space is one of the landmark beginnings of the video game industry we know today. It is the grandfather machine to all the great arcade cabinets of the golden age of video arcades spanning from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s. When you think of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, or Dragon’s Lair, this was where it all began. However, Computer Space was not the first video game, nor was it the first coin operated video game, nor was it even a success. So how can a funky looking cabinet housing a failed concept for a game claim to be the origin of the industry that spawned Q*Bert and Mario?
What follows is an interesting journey to the dawn of the video game industry.
Like any good archeology investigation, we need to know where we should be starting in history. Games have been with us since the dawn of early civilization but we need not go back to the Roman Empire for the purposes of our discussion on video games.
When most people consider where the video game industry began, they generally think it started with Pong. Certainly Pong was a tremendous success and because it was so popular, its creator company Atari went on to create other great games and consoles whose descendants are seen in most households today.
But Pong was the second attempt. The first machine to try coin operated video gaming in public venues was actually Computer Space. Yet Computer Space was itself a second attempt at an earlier game. And prior to either of these, other games were already being played on video displays. In fact, our journey begins with a game being played on a screen that doesn’t even qualify as video at all.