Video game #20: Defender (1980)
Of all the quarters I dropped in the arcade, I probably lost more in a futile attempt to master Defender, an intense space shooter where you were the only line of defense between little pixel people and the aliens that wanted to abduct them. Once, in fact, I burned through an entire week’s allowance in less than an hour on this damn thing. Clearly I had a problem—WITH HITTING THE TARGET.
To be fair, Defender was probably the fastest and most complicated video game out at the time — relentless and requiring meticulous hand/eye coordination, especially when it came to shooting a flying saucer without hitting the human it carried and then catching said human before they hit the ground at terminal velocity. It was this challenge that kept me — and millions of other players who made it an arcade smash — coming back.
While I never got particularly good at Defender it’s still an all-time favorite, and the sound of the ship’s blaster and the digital chirp of the aliens as they snatched up yet another hapless earthling is seared into my skull.