The Golden Age of Arcade Games

Hey Fellas,

The golden age of the Arcade Games began with2 key moments:

  1. The invention of the first arcade machine in 1971,
  2. The release of Space Invaders in 1978.

The late 70’s and early 80’s were the days where these games prospered. After a decade of success, the popularity of this type of games started to decline. One of the causes was new generations of personal computers and video game consoles that sapped interest from arcades.

Today playing Arcade Games is considered retro and the very basic computer graphics that were used back then and very simple and intuitive controllers and dynamics of the games are a fun alternative for the ultra-realistic and complex games that are made nowadays.

I played a few games to their examine the layout and game mechanics:

  1. Lunar Lander (Atari)

First Atari game to use vector graphics; most machines were converted to Asteroids before release. The goal is to land your spaceship on moon without crashing it. Aspects like altitude, speed and fuel influence your actions.

The graphics of the game are very simple. Only black and white, simples lines and text. I really like the simplicity of the environment. The lunar landscape is composed only by a white line.

The gameplay on the other hand is really hard. I had a hard time figuring out how to balance my player and did not succeed in landing. 🙁


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2. Dig Dug (Namco & Atari):

Rated the sixth most popular coin-operated video game of all time. Rated the sixth most popular coin-operated video game of all time. The objective of Dig Dug is to eliminate underground-dwelling monsters by either inflating them with an air pump until they explode, or by dropping rocks on them. More points will be awarded for exploding an enemy further down in the dirt (the levels are color-coded).

The controller is simple: You use the arrows to move around and a button to attack the enemies. The more levels you accomplish the harder the game gets, but the mechanics are always the same.

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3. Pengo (Sega):

A maze game set in an environment full of ice blocks, which can be used by the player’s penguin, who can slide them to attack enemies. If an enemy reaches you, you die.

I really enjoyed playing this one and, even though it is still pretty simple, I think it has the most complex mechanics among the 3 games I played. That is because you can mess around with the environment to attach your enemies. Walls from the maze suddenly become blocks you can smash your enemies with and by doing so, you change the whole dynamics of the maze.

You make it to the next level by killing all the enemies around yourself. The more you progress, the “smarter” the enemies get.

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Besides changing levels, your progress is also counted in a score (points):

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After examining the characteristics of the games, I found out that there are a few elements in common between most of them:

  1. Simple controller commands (arrow keys to move around and one or two buttons);
  2. Dynamics that are easy to understand and that usually don’t change from level to level;
  3. One player, many enemies;
  4. Many lives;
  5. Score counter to compare your results among other players.

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