All of you have already seen or played video-games but a long time ago, it did not exist !
Before computers got strong enough to allow heavy games to run, games were running on dedicated hardware called “arcade machines”. They still exist today, but the context isn’t really the same. In fact, back in the days, having a personal computer was a luxury not that many people could afford, and even with that there weren’t many games available.
So, if you wanted to flush your head for the time of an evening, you could go to an arcade and play games, like the ones I will now present to you. S
While there are many games, I chose to focus solely here on some of the most “popular” and “widely spread”. What I mean is that even if some games are considered popular in some countries, it may not be the case worldwide.(For instance, some games were extremely popular in Japan, while European people had never heard about them.
The Arcade principle
Visualize an automated cash dispenser, put 2 joysticks, and some buttons on it, and you have your arcade machine.
On these machines there was only one single game running at the time, all the time. No internet access, only one game, engraved on the internal chips.
At that time, it wasn’t a one-time purchase to play… You had to pay every time you started a game. Yes, EVERY TIME. And the average price was about 50 cents, for about 5 minutes of gameplay !
The only satisfaction you could have when playing was if you completed the game (which was near to impossible), or if you beat the high-scores, in which case you could add your own Nickname to the high-scores, stored on the machine and displayed when nobody played, as long as nobody else beat your score.
Today they still exist, but they aren’t the most used hardware anymore. In fact, we mostly use computers or consoles, which are able to run several games and only cost the price of the console plus the game one.
The first time society was introduced to video game violence (press sources).
The goal of Pong is stupidly-numb: Send back that ball. Players have a paddle they use to make the ball bounce. It’s 2 dimensions only, so the easiest strategy is just to be aligned with the ball.
It can be played against an other player or an AI, depending on the platform.
On many videos you can see that people can’t manage even simple moves. Well,it’s partly because it used to be played with really hard-to-use buttons that you must turn left or right, with an extremely high sensitivity…
This game was a huge success with its simple concept : Kill them all.
Dozens of aliens are moving from left to right, then right to left, and go down one level each time they touch a border. Every time you kill an alien, the others move faster. The bonus ? They also shoot projectiles at you, which instantly kills you if they touch you (well, at least they only move down and don’t have such a complex behavior).
You only have 1 ship to defend the earth, able to shoot one projectile at a time, and 3 lives.
Even today, it’s still one of the best solo games. The goal is to eat every tiny point (pac-gums) on the map, without touching the ghosts.
You can eat the bigger “gums”, which will allow you to eat ghosts for a limited time. If you manage to eat the 4 ghosts before the end of the timer, you’ll get an extra life.
Controls are simply made with a lone joystick.
What’s pretty interesting is that the original name of this game was “Puckman”, but they decided to change its name to avoid people replacing the P with an F.
A more advanced gameplay, with elaborated levels. In this game, you must kill all the monsters by throwing a bubble (out of your mouth) at them, and then jumping on them. Randomly or when you kill an enemy, bonuses will appear on the level, which gives you extra points when you pick them.
You will proceed to the next level once you’ve killed all enemies in the level.
It’s a colorful game, and while many other arcade games are just an infinite repetition of the same level with a difficulty increase, each levels of this game are original, and you can finish the game after the level 30!
The original game introduced the mechanics of putting same color items next to each other to destroy them. You’re playing tiny dinosaurs who must save their houses from weird “balls” coming from the sky. They can shoot one-color balls at a time, and every ten balls they shoot, all the balls go down.
This game is from the same game creator as Bubble Bobble, which explains why they have very similar graphics. This gameplay was recycled by several other “clones”, and the idea of putting together elements of the same color is still a game strategy that is widely used by game makers…
This is an other basic concept: You’re a ship, and you have to clear the space portion around you by shooting at (guess why they chose this name?) asteroids. When you destroy one, it splits into two parts half the size of the original asteroid until they reach a given size where they just …disappear.
Sometimes, aliens will come and try to destroy your ship, so you must also destroy them.
THE “Shoot-them-up”. Survive, shoot at everything you can, that’s it. All you have to do is move on the screen (which scrolls to the right automatically), and shoot at whatever comes next to you. You can get bonuses from monsters which will upgrade your ship, adding missiles, better standard shots, shields…
Before Bowser even existed, Donkey Kong was already attempting to separate Mario and his princess. This game is pretty hard when you don’t understand the gameplay as each level requires you to do a specific task to complete it. Anyway, the goal is the same in each level: save the princess from Donkey Kong.
This game was pretty popular, but strangely Donkey Kong and the other characters won’t appear in a common game for years. After this game, Mario will make several more apparitions, but this may be the topic of a future episode.
Galaxian & Galaga
Similar to Space Invaders, but a little bit more evolved, these games focus on defeating waves of enemies. This time, each enemy type has their own move pattern, their own attacks.
Galaxian is an older version of Galaga, with less advanced patterns, and less features. The most annoying point is also that in Galaxian, you can only shoot one bullet at a time, like in Space Invaders.
In Galaga, the player can also recover lives in-game when one of its ships has been captured if he destroys the enemy which captured it.
The fun fact is that Namco (the game editor) also included Galaxian in some of its games for PlayStation. It starts during the loading screens, letting the player wait for the console to finish loading while playing.
(Bonus) Dragon’s lair
This game is well known to be a REALLY hard game. It takes the form of a cartoon in which you’re attempting to save the princess. Each time you enter a new room, you’ll have to press specific buttons at an insane speed (<0.5s) to continue the game, else you’ll instantly die.
It’s more a “must-have-seen” game than a “must-have-played” game, as you’ll certainly stop playing after a few tries on the first level, but I found it interesting to describe, because it really shows how easy today’s games have become.
What’s next ?
Next episode will be focused on videogame series !