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The most important arcade games of the 80s  

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As gamers sit down to play Quake4, Doom 3 or even Angry Birds, there must be times when they wonder how did video games become so popular? While the 80's were not responsible for the invention of video games, it can take credit for putting a video game in nearly every milkbar or laundromat across the developed world. With new games appearing every few months, it was a crazy time - and the fad culture of the 80's lapped it up. To date, Pacman still remains the biggest selling arcade game of all time and in the US, the early 80's saw a turnover that has never been matched. Sadly, an over-production of games that didn't capture player's imagination, plus the rise of home consoles and computers caused the wheels to fall by the mid-late 80s. The companies that developed many of the games were picked up for next to nothing a decade later. Atari was sold to Hasbros Interactive (1998) and then picked up by Infogrames (2003).

Even the great pinball manfacturer, Williams, ceased production in 1999. The company was also responsible for the classic arcade games Defender and Joust, while inventing "multiball" with the groundbreaking Firepower. So what are the most significant games of the 80's?

Space Invaders

Space Invaders
1: Space Invaders
Most people would laugh at the graphics of Space Invaders - but over 30 years ago it was revolutionary. To demonstrate the impact of this game consider the fact that it also spawned a short-lived pop group Player One, with the album Game Over, and worldwide hit with the single Space Invaders. Until Space Invaders "landed" (one of the marketing terms of the time, the other being "Are Here") arcade games only appeared at funparks and circuses. While most games gave you a time limit before stopping, Space Invaders could be played until your fingers blistered. Don't be fooled by the green colour - the game is monochrome. It was very common in the 80's to stick coloured plastic on the monitor to give the effect of colour. Some games had rows of different colours by the same technique. Later on Space Invaders II was released which had improved colour, graphics and gameplay. There is also huge list of clones and variations which all tried to cash in on Space Invaders' popularity. Technically, Space Invaders was released in the late 70s, but eighty-eightynine considers that 79 is part of the 80's.

2: Puckman (Pacman)
This Japanese game was given a name change before being released onto the US market. Apparently the developers were worried that a little careful alteration to the artwork on the cabinets would change the P to F - given the target market of teenage boys, this would be a tempting bit of vandalism too hard to resist. So it was changed to Pacman, and it went on to be the biggest selling arcade game of all time. With the advent of PCs, it is unlikely that it will ever lose its crown. Pacman was one of the first games to bring in meaningful artificial intelligence to an arcade game. Other aspects that clinched Pacman's popularity were the use of vibrant colours instead of plastic coated monochrome screens, "kooky" sound affects and general silliness that made it fun.

Pac Man

The original Puckman.
Pac Man 3: Asteroids
It is hard to believe from looking at this screen grab that this was a highly addictive and popular game. One of the first successful "Vector graphics" games, this 2D arcade shooter has many of the elements present in recent PC games. In essence there were two main types of opponents: rocks and space ships. As you shot the larger asteroids, they broke down into smaller, more numerous ones. An occasional flying saucer would come out shooting and a number of strategies could be implemented to drastically change the gameplay. This was the first real "fly through space and shoot things before they shoot back" games. It was followed by the less successful Asteroids Deluxe.

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