Video Game #5: Space Wars (1977) aka Spacewar! (1962)
Want to determine once and for all if an Imperial Star Destroyer can beat the USS Enterprise? Want to play THE original video game? You can do both with what is considered by many to be the very first digital game: Spacewar! Created in 1962 to showcase the computing power of the PDP-1 computer, Spacewar! is credited with helping to close many a sale of the expensive mainframe. Object? Blow up your opponent. While popular with programmers, the game was never available to the public.*
One of those programmers, Nolan Bushnell, who would eventually go on to found Atari, was inspired by Spacewar! to build the first commercial video game a decade later: Computer Space. Alas, in spite of its cool futuristic cabinet (which made a cameo in 1973’s “Soylent Green“), Computer Space wasn’t much fun to play.
What was fun? Space Wars, the commercial version of the PDP-1 game. Released in 1977 in the wake of Star Wars, the programmers creating the game had the brilliant idea, and presence of mind, to update the appearance of the two ship to look like those in Star Wars and Star Trek. And a star was born.
Talk about simple: the ships were composed of a handful of vector lines, moving against a black screen with a few dots on it for stars, and a circle in the middle representing the sun. And yet this simple setup produced one of the greatest games ever. Object? Blow up your opponent. Don’t fall into the sun. Really. That was it.
Honestly though, if its your brother’s ship you’re annihilating, what more do you need?
* Until now. Last year, someone emulated the original Spacewar! game and put it online. Enjoy.