Today, the digital world is filled with an incredible amount of games. With just one tap, you can download everything from arcade classics to online casino games, immerse yourself in lifelike simulations in virtual reality or shoot up everything from evil nazis to invading aliens in front of a computer. But there are a few games that, even though they are old and dated, still rank high among the preferences of gamers, and serve as an inspiration for developers and artists all over the world.
One of them is Space Invaders, a Taito classic released more than 40 years ago that still shows up in the most unexpected places to this day.
Pop culture had a bit of a “space moment” around the time Space Invaders was first released. It was 1978, the year when the last Jedi knight in a galaxy far far away has already made his debut on the silver screen, and benevolent aliens have already visited Earth, communicating by colour, music, and the Kodály method.
Space Invaders was released in this world burning in a space fever with its simple gameplay, and alien theme. Actually, it wasn’t meant to be a game where you shoot alien invaders. Developer Tomohiro Nishikado originally wanted to use tanks or planes – but Taito banned human targets from its games around that time, so he chose aliens and made history.
Nishikado revealed that developing the game was a struggle. He was limited by the hardware of those times – he had to build a customized computer to run it. He also designed the game’s visuals and sounds.
The end result was a massive hit in Japan first – then in the entire world. In a few months after its release, players would queue for hours to play the game and a large number of orders created a backlog Taito could hardly keep up with. Ultimately, Midway licensed the game, launching cabinets featuring it in the US – to great success.
Space Invaders is credited as one of the games that were instrumental in jumpstarting the home console industry – when the home video game business, built around Pong clones, inevitably failed, Atari licensed Space Invaders (the first time an arcade game was licensed for home consoles) pushed it back into the green.
The pixelated aliens from Space Invaders are, to this day, some of the most recognizable products of the golden age of the arcade. They have inspired everything from logos to apparel, and even show up on pavements and walls.
And the game itself never went out of style, inspiring countless sequels, remakes, and reimaginations. The original game was released on pretty much every platform, and is even headed into the future, with Space Invaders AR (which is still a working title) being developed by Square Enix Montréal as we speak.
Space Invaders was a phenomenon that grew beyond arcades and consoles – it truly changed the world.