Space Invaders is the very apex of retro videogaming; as a cultural and technological revolution, its timeless appeal has permeated the wider public consciousness, and today its iconic characters are recognised the world over as universally synonymous with videogames.
The titular Space Invaders begin the game in formation at the top of the screen, while the player controls a mobile planetary defence laser on the ground, bunkered down behind destructible cover. The fleet zigzags downwards, shooting at the player, who must avoid the incoming lasers while returning fire, and obliterate the aliens before they reach Earth.
Space Invaders features a number of key gameplay elements which helped define it as a groundbreaker in the industry. The Invaders’ bombardment will slowly erode the cover available to the player, eventually forcing them to rely purely on their reflexes to avoid being destroyed. The game also features a then-revolutionary difficulty curve; as more aliens are eliminated, the surviving enemies increase their speed and rate of fire, until the final Invaders become nimble, deadly adversaries that are almost impossible to hit. Finally, Space Invaders was instrumental in popularizing the use of a high score, as well as a saving system, giving players a sense of progress and achievement, rather than a perpetually looping game.
Its difficulty curve, highly praised by critics, was originally the result of a bug – the system initially didn’t have the processing power to render the enemies at their correct speeds. As more were eliminated from the screen, there became fewer moving characters to slow down the hardware, resulting in the game gradually building up to its intended speed. This once unintentional feature became a hallmark of Space Invaders, and a milestone in gaming.
Shortly after it came out in 1978, the game proved to be an immediate hit; it’s often credited with ending the videogame market crash that almost killed the industry. Space Invaders was innovative in all senses, introducing brand new styles and techniques to the videogaming world. It’s the combination of these that endows the game with an ageless prestige, and why it continues to dominate the retro videogame market.
We at the Games Room Company have always had a great appreciation for video games, ever since the first commercial video game (Computer Space) was released back in 1971. We were one of the first companies to bring over TAITO’s Space Invaders to the UK, quickly going on to supply pubs all over the country. Our founder, Reginald Waldersmith, was a particularly avid fan of Atari’s Pong, describing it as being “quite as fun as real tennis, and not nearly as exhausting”. We have proudly continued his fondness for retro video games, and much of our inventory includes games we’ve manufactured ourselves.