Welcome to the second episode in my weekly series I plan to post every Sunday where I take a look at games listed in the book, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. If you missed last week's blog you can find it here and if you're interested in purchasing the book, you can find it here.

For devoted gamers as well as those interested in groundbreaking graphic design, this is the first, most comprehensive, and only critical guide ever published to video games. The video game has arrived as entertainment and as an art form. This is the first serious critical evaluation ever published of the best video games and is a testament to the medium's innovativeness and increasing emphasis on aesthetics. Organized chronologically and for all platforms (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, etc.) and covering all genres from the bold (Grand Theft Auto and Halo) and dark (Resident Evil and Silent Hill) to the spiritual (Final Fantasy) and whimsical (Legend of Zelda), the book traces the video game from the rough early days of Pong to the latest visual fantasia.

Picking up where I left off, I'm still in video games from the 1970s - a time when the video game industry was in the earliest stages of its existence and still relatively new; a time when being a gamer wasn't as cool and common as it is now; a time when the only exposure some people had to video games was going to the local arcade or getting computer time at a school or university.

6. Space Invaders

"Space Invaders is an arcade video game designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, and released in 1978. It was originally manufactured and sold by Taito in Japan, and was later licensed for production in the United States by the Midway division of Bally. Space Invaders is one of the earliest shooting games and the aim is to defeat waves of aliens with a laser cannon to earn as many points as possible. In designing the game, Nishikado drew inspiration from popular media: Breakout, The War of the Worlds, and Star Wars. It was one of the forerunners of modern video gaming and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry (see golden age of video arcade games). When first released, Space Invaders was very successful. Following its release, the game caused a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan and grossed US$2 billion worldwide by 1982." -Wikipedia

Who hasn't heard of Space Invaders, I mean really? It has to rank right up there with Pac Man and Donkey Kong as one of the most recognized video games ever. I've played it in the arcade and on the Atari 2600 (and still have it on Atari 5200, copyright 1982), and really the differences were minimal since the game was fairly rudimentary. Pretty much everything was the same color (there might have been 3 different colors max) and the controls were simple - move left or right + a fire button. Now that I think about it, Space Invaders might be one of the first games that really instilled a sense of panic and if you've played it, no doubt you know why. You have to shoot all the aliens before they reach you or you'll lose the round or at least that life. After they drop down so far and you have almost all of the bad guys killed off, they start to speed up and it gets harder...but the real panic came when you had one guy left and he is zipping left to right and you're trying to shoot him before he gets you.

7. Adventure

"Adventure is a 1979 video game for the Atari 2600 video game console and is considered the first action-adventure game. Its creator, Warren Robinett, introduced the first widely-known Easter egg to the gaming world. Adventure was published by the console's developer, Atari, Inc. It was inspired by a computer text game, Colossal Cave Adventure, created by Will Crowther and later modified by Don Woods. Despite discouragement from his boss at Atari who said it could not be done, game designer Warren Robinett created a graphic game loosely based on the text game. Atari's Adventure went on to sell a million copies, making it the seventh bestselling Atari 2600 game." -Wikipedia

We've reached the first game (of many, I'm sure) I haven't played, so my homework assignment between now and next Sunday is to see if I can find a Java version or an emulator for this game so I can give it a shot. I'll give you an update next week. I'm a bit surprised it's the 7th bestselling Atari 2600 game and I haven't played it since that was my first real console and we had a fair amount of games for it. Looking at the graphics, doesn't look like I was missing out on much. I know the Atari 2600 didn't have cutting edge graphics, especially by today's standards, but boy oh boy this looks really basic. At least it has cool cover art. Anyway, stay tuned and I'll let you know what I find out about the game or whether I have to add it to my "Haven't Played" list...(I found a website where I can play it - I just haven't tried it yet.)

8. Asteroids

"Asteroids is a video arcade game released in November 1979 by Atari Inc. It was one of the most popular and influential games of the Golden Age of Arcade Games, selling 70,000 arcade cabinets. Asteroids uses a vector display and a two-dimensional view that wraps around in both screen axes. The player controls a spaceship in an asteroid field which is periodically traversed by flying saucers. The object of the game is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while not colliding with either, or being hit by the saucers' counter-fire." -Wikipedia

Finally, back to games I do know. Who doesn't know Asteroids? It's a big brother (or is it little sister) to Space Invaders and is every bit as popular. Truth be told, I wasn't a big Asteroids fan. I remember playing this game in a couple different arcades, but haven't played it at home (as far I recall). You have to realize I was just a wee lad when this game came out, and I remember playing it and not being very good at it. Part of the problem was I liked to use the thrust too much. I'd get that ship flying across the screen, barreling out of control and imploding myself on any number of the asteroids. I remember my brother trying to tell me to stay in the same place, pivot around and only use the thrust as a last resort, but I always managed to result to using the "when in doubt, go all out" philosophy. Played it, just didn't like it...mostly because I sucked at it. And who couldn't forget the reference to Asteroids in National Lampoon's Vacation.

Rusty: Hey, ya' got Pac Man?

Cousin Dale: No.

Rusty: Ya' got Space Invaders?

Cousin Dale: Nope.

Rusty: Ya' got Asteroids?

Cousin Dale: Naw, but my dad does. Can't even sit on the toilet some days.


9. Galaxian

"Galaxian is an arcade game developed by Namco in October 1979. It was published by Namco in Japan and was imported to North America by Midway that December. A fixed shooter-style game in which the player controls a spaceship at the bottom of the screen and shoots enemies descending in various directions, it was designed to compete with the successful earlier game Space Invaders. The game was highly popular upon its release, and has been a focus of competitive gaming ever since. It spawned a successful sequel, Galaga, in 1981, and the lesser known Gaplus in 1984, as well as many later ports and adaptations." -Wikipedia

Ah, another great arcade game, but another one that I'm not a big fan of. I am not the most coordinated person, nor do I have the quickest reflexes...both traits that are required to play Galaxian. You have to be able to move around, dodge incoming bullets and bad guys, but be able to shoot them too. I do have some fond memories of this game, or at least watching people play it. If you ever witnessed someone who is really good play it as they take out wave after wave of bad guys as soon as they appear from the left or right, it's truly amazing to watch. It also has one of the most memorable sound tracks of any of the classics, and reminds me of the old arcades whenever I hear it, or things that sound like it (like the intro to the Robot in the Corner podcast).

10. Lunar Lander

"Lunar Lander is an arcade game released by Atari, Inc. in 1979, which uses a vector monitor to display vector graphics. Although not particularly successful, the vector-graphics generator of the arcade game was also the impetus for Atari's most successful coin-operated game: Asteroids. The object of the Lunar Lander game is to pilot a lunar landing module to a safe touchdown on the moon. Approximately 4,830 units were produced." -Wikipedia

Apparently there were a few different variants of this game, and I can't say for certain that I've played any of them...so, just to be sure I'm going to add it to my list to research this week. Just looking at the screenshots, I can't see how this would be entertaining for very long, but I don't want to pass judgement until I've played it first. Wish me luck.

Well, that concludes this week's episode, but also finishes up the 1970's. All in all, the results weren't that bad. There were 10 games from this era, and I only have two to look up - Adventure and Lunar Lander. Thanks for reading, and if you've played Adventure, Lunar Lander, or even any of the others, feel free to share your experiences.