Space Invaders: What It Was, It is Not

by Staff & Contributors on January 16, 2015

in Gaming, The 80s

Do you miss Space Invaders? I don’t. Did you ever get to grips with Asteroids? I did. Those games were just awesome back in the day, but have you tried playing them recently? They’re both available online so you don’t have to miss them if you don’t want to.

In fairness, Asteroids is still a great arcade game, but Space Invaders? How did that ever get so big? Playing it now is the digital equivalent of chewing on a pair of old boots.

Games on screens have certainly come a long way since Space Invaders first hit our screens. It turns out it was going to be a tank game before Star Wars and Close Encounters made space sexy.

image via scalleja

Times Change

Now, of course, we are able to play in ways that barely seemed possible back in the day. Space Invaders was actually launched in the US in 1979 – two years after Star Wars’ release, which therefore makes it officially part of the 1980s. Back then the idea that we could challenge people thousands of miles away and download games of blackjack, slots, poker or any one of hundreds of other games and play for real cash would have seemed like it was just a far-flung figment of George Lucas’ imagination. The advantages of playing online – whatever the game – are so obvious it seems crazy to think that it took as long as it did for us to get around to making it happen.


There are some things that George was maybe a bit fanciful about. The idea that we could go to war with something like a lightsaber was obviously a bit romantic. I mean, really. If you can find a way to zip around the galaxy willy-nilly, you’re not going to need to get up close and personal with the bad guys are you? No matter how handy it might be for plotting purposes.

It’s the same with games. We don’t really need to get up close and personal anymore. In that sense maybe we are all that one step closer to the Jedi. If you substitute your browser for an innate telepathic ability and the means to transmit matter through time and space, there really isn’t that much to choose between us. You could call it a process of jedification.

It’s not just play

Of course, as any Jedi worth his or her salt would tell you, all play and no work leads very quickly to a bad place. We’ve all seen how that plays out. There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned application, hard work and self-sacrifice. Play is a part-time activity.

That doesn’t take away from how wooden and clunky Space Invaders feels when you play it today. Maybe part of the original appeal was that it appeared in bars and places that were innately social. Playing the game was one thing – but back in the day what was just as vital was seeing who was any good at it. Nobody actually owned a console back then.

Do you remember, we had to hustle round to put coins in a slot to play? I kinda miss that.

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