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Video Game / Computer Space

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Computer Space is the first commercially sold Arcade Game, created by Nolan Bushnell and released in November 1971. It's a one or two player version of Space War. Space War had previously been software running on $20,000 general-purpose hardware; Bushnell's innovation was to use cheap logic chips to create a machine specifically for playing this one game.

Some versions were one-player against two flying saucers, others were Player Versus Player. It's a simplified version of Space War, without the planet and gravity. Your ship fires One Bullet at a Time, and you can guide it by turning your ship. In one-player versions, if you score more points than the saucers at the end of 90 seconds, you get another 90 seconds of gameplay.

Bushnell created Computer Space at home, and sold the game to Nutting and Associates, a maker of mechanical coin-op games. It was not a success, because drunks in a bar couldn't understand how to play a game designed for college students. Bushnell left Nutting and founded his own company, Syzygy Corp., later Atari.

Notably, it has a brief cameo in Soylent Green as one of the expensive toys left behind in William Simonson's lavishly equipped apartment after his murder.

Computer Space provides examples of:

  • 2-D Space: Your spaceships can only move up, down, left and right around the screen.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: Missiles disappear at a certain distance.
  • Collision Damage: Destroys both you and the saucers, scoring a point for each of you.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The two player versions of Computer Space had their cabinets painted green. The one player ones were painted red, yellow, and blue.
  • Every Bullet is a Tracer: Your missiles and the enemy's are always visible.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: Probably the Ur-Example for an actual game. The game's flyer features a woman in a low-cut white gown (which is translucent enough her panties are visible) leaning on the cabinet. An alternate flyer goes a step further, featuring the same woman in another pose that has her showing some leg.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: No mention is given as to who you are, who the enemies are, why you're fighting, or where in space you are.
  • One Bullet at a Time: Everyone has to wait until their missile reaches maximum range and disappears to fire again. Even if you hit an enemy, because that doesn't destroy your missile!
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: All the spaceships explode with a single hit.
  • Player Versus Player: Some versions pit two player-controlled spaceships against each other.
  • Scoring Points: Players and computer-controlled saucers all score a point each time they destroy an enemy.
  • Timed Mission: 99 seconds to score more points than the saucers in one-player versions.
  • Wrap Around: In both versions, every ship that goes off the screen reappears on the other side.