The year is 1978 and video games are big money. A Japanese company called Taito releases an arcade shooter called Space Invaders (スペースインベーダー Supēsu Inbēdā) and nothing would ever be the same again. Designer by Tomohiro Nishikado drew inspiration from pop culture of the time including previous arcade hit Break Out, Star Wars and War of the Worlds! It's also been said that inspiration came to Nishikado after having a dream about children being attacked by aliens while waiting for Santa Claus! That sounds like it would make a pretty wicked movie, actually.
The Space Invaders cabinet could be found just about everywhere in Japan, and specialty arcades containing nothing but the game emerged. By the end of 1978, over 100,000 machines were installed and had made over $600,000 dollars! That was in the first year and in Japan only! It's said that there was a shortage of 100-yen coins, but to be honest, I don't know if it's true. Depends on the source.....though it does sound a bit fishy to me....unless arcade owners were pocketing all the money.
Space Invaders was one of the very first video games I played as a child on the family Atari 2600. I spent hours upon hours blasting away at the encroaching star beasts. Back in the day, a single cartridge would claim that it held 112 different games! These were variants on the game....invaders shooting back, no shields, invisible invaders, etc. The invisible variant was the most frustrating and difficult of the variants. The invaders were completely invisible until one was struck and destroyed....then you were given the briefest of glimpses of the remaining foes.
I can't even begin to count how many times Space Invaders was ported to different computers and consoles, let alone cloned. I must have owned the game on just about every platform...Commodore 64, NES, GameBoy, PC and I even have a clever remake/reboot for the XBOX 360 called Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, which gives you a 3D perspective and amps up the difficulty significantly.
Space Invaders has infiltrated itself into every facet of pop culture as well. I recently listened to an episode of the Retro Gaming Roundup podcast in which there was a massive debate about who the first video game mascot was: Pacman or The Space Invader. To be honest, it's a tough call. The Space Invader can be seen on countless amounts of merchandise: Ice cub trays, furniture, bumper stickers, there are even Space Invader sex toys!
There is also talks of a Space Invader movie in the works! You might think that's far fetched, but they did manage to make a rather amusing movie out of the Battleship boardgame. Yeah, I liked Battleship! So there!
If you've never played Space Invaders, which I can't imagine is many of you, then you've at least heard of it. You can play it online for free and it is very easy to get for any console that you own, current or retro. You wanna show off your video game chops? I'll see you out on the battlefield blasting extra-terrestrial baddies!