A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES

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A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF CLASSIC ARCADE GAMES
A LOOK AT
THE HISTORY
OF CLASSIC
ARCADE GAMES
FROM PONG, PAC-MAN, CENTIPEDE, GALAGA, GALAXIAN, SPACE INVADERS
W
e all have memories of growing up with
that favorite arcade game that we used
to always play at the arcade stores. Some
of us have probably even waited in line
to play that 25 cent arcade game. I know I have
always looked around in between couches to find
some change to go to the arcade store to play my
favorite game. The convenience of home gaming
that are available today in everyones homes were
not easily available growing up.Arcade games
from the past are absolutely nothing like the
games we see these days. I’m sure people that are
now growing up will never know that experience I
have experienced during my childhood years.
Technology in gaming has spoiled us so badly
over the years. The beauty of where it all began is
being faded away and put to storage. However,
these classic retro arcade games are what
everyone really needs to appreciate. If we did not
have these early stages of games in our history, all
the PC, PS3, PSP, XBOX, Nintendo Wii and etc,
will not be of any existence today.
Retro classic arcade games from 1970s to
1980s are now being considered as the “golden
age” of video arcade games. In every point there
is a history behind how everything started off. You
may consider this being the beginning stages and
stepping stone of what has evolved over the
history in time of the gaming technology we have
out there today. The graphics were not as crisp
and clear, but rather very pixelated. All characters
and graphics were created using raster images
due to the screen it was being displayed on. We
didn’t have HD and 4K display like we have now,
so images definitely were not crisp or sharp at all.
The color usage we1 re not very vibrant and
colorful either. Most of the color were based on
RGB color scheme and it was the first time being
used in interactive gaming, so you can only
imagine.
Now lets go way back in history and learn
about where gaming all began. The foundation of
the first video games that were created by using
early CRT (Cathode Rays Tube) technology, based
in US missile defense systems developed in the
late 1940s1. So what are Cathode Ray Tubes? They
are basically specialized vacuum tubes in which
images are produced when an electron beam
strikes a phosphorescent surface2. These are what
were used to display pictures not only in arcade
screens, but also a range of displays. Displays like
television sets, computers, automated teller
machines, video game machines, video cameras,
vmonitors, oscilloscopes and radar displays all
contain cathode-ray tubes2. There are newer
technology developments like LCD, plasma
display, and even OLED that all use the CRT
technology. The phosphor screens using multiple
beams of electrons have allowed CRTs to display
millions of colors2. The tube is constantly being
scanned repetitively over and over, which then
creates a fixed pattern also known as raster
images or bitmap2. An image is produced by
controlling the intensity of each of the three
electron beams, one for each additive primary
color (red, green, and blue)2. Hence, the first use
of RGB colors in arcade games.
There were many gaming companies that
had begun get incorporated over time. Due to the
success of many arcade games, the competition
was on. Some of these companies are still around
today and some have became a part of gaming
history. Some of the major gaming companies that
played a major role in the early development of
the gaming industry during the golden era were
companies Atari, Bally/Midway Manufacturing
Company, Capcom, Cenimatronics, Konami,
Nintendo, Sega, SNK, Taito, and Williams. A lot
of games during this time were first developed in
Japan and then later given distribution rights to
companies in Europe and North America. This is
why you would see multiples arcade cabinets of
the same games but under different company
labels. There were being replicated and
developed in Japan, Europe, and North America
versions. Video games started to appear in
supermarkets, restaurants, bars, pubs, liquor
stores, gas stations, bowling alleys storefronts, and
many other retail establishments looking for extra
income and customer traffic1.
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Atari, Inc. and Namco were the two most
successful arcade game companies of the golden
age era. Atari was a US-based firm that first
introduced video games into arcades1 and Namco
is a company based in Japan. These two
companies wrestled for the number one slots in
American video arcades for several years1. It was
due to their enormous success in the early video
gaming industry, dozens of game developers
jumped into the development and manufacturing
of video games1.
No video game company has made a
bigger impact than Atari. Atari is known as the
company that started the video game industry and
the only company with interests in all three
industry sectors: home gaming, arcade gaming,
and computer gaming7. Atari was founded in June
1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney7. After
witnessing a video table tennis demonstration
Magnavox’s new Odyssey in May 1972, Bushnell
came up with the idea for PONG7.
PONG took everyone by surprise and
became one of the first commercial successful coin
operated computer games was PONG. PONG was
developed by Atari, Inc. in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell
and Ted Dabney. This was a tennis sports video
most historically significant titles in video game
history, and the starting point of the "arcade
phenomenon" and of digital out-of-home
entertainment1. PONG, which had an immediate
success, resulting in around 19,000 PONG
machines sold2. Soon after PONG entered the one
year old video game market, numerous companies
copied the game (an easy task as it was built with
simple electronic chips and a regular TV set)2.
PONG marked a new beginning of a new
era and this was the first arcade to be marketed
out to the public. They were being put into a few
bars in the public community. PONG’s success
spawned a number of sequels, including Barrel
PONG in 1972 and PONG Doubles in 1972, both
by Atari, and even a company called Nutting
Associates copied PONG and released Computer
Space Ball that same year7. There were a release
of over two dozen arcade video games, most of
which were copies or variations of PONG7. Along
the same time, they were also creating additional
features to the game like adding paddles and
renaming the sports video games by adding
hockey, tennis, or soccer versus just having a
simple ball just bouncing back and forth.
The success of PONG took of four years
and adapts to other releases from Atari’s arcade
games such as Outlaw, Night Driver, Super Breakout, Video Pinball, Asteroids, Battlezone, Missile
Command, Centipede, Warlords, and Pole
Position7. One early employee of Atari named
Steve Jobs wanted to create home computers and
Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney with PONG
game featuring simple 2D graphics. PONG quickly
became a huge hit and success that led to the
start of the modern video game industry as we
know of today1. PONG has been called one of the
Steve Jobs with Steve Wozniak at Atari
approached Bushnell with the prospect7. Although
Bushnell was not interested in Jobs’ approach, but
he was able to point him in the right direction to
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obtain funding. This is when Jobs co-founded a
company called Apple Computers7.
n 1980, Namco releases Puck-Man in Japan
by Toru Iwatani, who is the creator of this
game. He had originally named Pakku-Man,
Puck-Man. However, when it was distributed to
Bally/Midway in the United Sates, it was renamed
to Pac-Man. The decision to change the name to
Pac-Man was mainly because of the controversy
that stirring around. It was thought that vandals
might want to try to change the letter “P” in Puck
and change it to “F”, which would completely
change the innocent concept of the game and
corrupt totally corrupt it. Kids in the United States
often had the tendency to be more corrupt during
this time than any other place in the world. Bally/
Midway did not want to take the slightest chance
of this becoming a problem and had come up with
the idea to change the name to what is now
known as Pac-Man all around the world.
The name Pac-Man comes from the
Japanese term Paku-Paku, which means the sound
of munching.4 This is a Japanese slang word used
to describe the motion of ones mouth opening
and closing when they eat.5 You can imagine the
munching and crunching sound the character is
making when chomping on the pellets and totally
I
understand the concept behind the name of the
game.
Toru Iwatani has
also mentioned that
he designed the
Pac-Man character
to be in the simplest
character form as
possible, without any
features such as eyes
and limbs5. He also
mentioned that
rather than defining
the image of PacMan for the player,
he wanted to leave that to each player’s
imagination. 5 It has always been jokingly
mentioned in several interviews and articles with
Iwatani that the idea of Pac-Man was created when
he was eating a slice of pizza.4 He said this
comment was half true. He looked down at his
pizza after removing a slice, and wondered if the
shape could work as a video game character.8 He
claims the shape was simply a rounded version of
the Japanese word for mouth (kuchi).8 The next
step was to create Pac-Man’s enemies. Since the
game was supposed to appeal to the female
audience, Iwatani felt that the monsters had to be
cute some kind of way.9 He settled on colorful
“ghosts” that looked like mop heads with big
eyes. The maze, dots, and power pills came next.
It took just over a year to produce a working
prototype of the game.9 There were several
factors and a lot of planning that came to the
creation, foundation, and final formation of the
characters within the game.
It Iwatani’s efforts to
appeal to a wider
audience beyond the
typical demographics of
young boys and
teenagers eventually led
him to add elements of a
maze. Pac-Man’s appeal
went far beyond young
men; small kids and even
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their moms could all enjoy it.8 Iwatani has released
his sketches to the public in order to show the
process behind the possibly the most successful
arcade game out there.
Pac-Man was such a successful game that
the game itself entered into the mainstream
popular culture, and created what is now referred
to as “Pac-Mania”.1 It was not too far along when
every pizza parlor, supermarket, and drug store in
the Unites States had to have one in their store
fronts. Pac-Man became a quarter munching
machine all throughout the United States. The
machines were well worth the investment; in total
they raked in over a billion dollars worth of
quarters in the first year alone.8
the game as a sequel to Pac-Man, altering its
appearance to make it more in line with the
original.8 Now celebrated as one of the best
games ever designed, Ms. Pac-Man improved on
its predecessor in several key areas.8 First, the
character was less abstract, now sporting a bright
red bow, lipstick, and a beauty mark. Many critics
claim this change made the game more appealing
to women, though the game was popular with
men as well.8 The sequel also added new mazes,
new behavior for the ghosts, and new
intermissions concerned with the budding
relationship between Mr. and Ms. Pac-Man.8 Ms.
Pac-Man was widely admired by fans of the
original, many of whom concluded that it was
Pac-Man by Namco was awarded by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS as
“THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COIN OPERATED GAME”.8
Immensely popular in the US from its
original release to the present day, Pac-Man is
universally considered as one of the classics of the
video game medium, and virtually synonymous
with video games, and a important icon of the
1980s pop culture. It became an iconic character
that was put onto a lot of products and mass
marketed. Pac-Man eventually found his way onto
lunchboxes, breakfast cereal, Saturday morning
cartoons, a hit song, toys, and pretty, much
anything else that could be affixed with his image
and sold in a store8. Pac-Man became a truly
global social phenomenon that also inspired an
animated television series and a top-ten hit single,
and Pac-Man, along with other popular video
arcade games from the Golden Era are often cited
as an identifying cultural experience of both
Generation X and late-born Baby Boomers alike
and Pac-Man is the only video arcade game from
the era that is still in production today, still being
distributed by Namco.1
In 1981, Midway released an unauthorized
sequel to Pac-Man called Ms. Pac-Man, which was
itself based on Crazy Otto, an unauthorized PacMan conversion kit developed by engineers at the
General Computer Corporation.8 Midway adopted
superior.8 Ms. Pac-Man, just like Pac-Man is still a
very popular game. The arcade game itself was
such a enormous financial success for both Namco
and Bally/Midway. More importantly, this was the
turning point for the Namco. The game
established Namco as a major player in the video
game business next to Atari, and provided it with
an easily recognizable "mascot" for many many
years to come2.
Another game from Namco that was also
considered a major breakthrough in the gaming
industry back then was Galaxian. This game was
considered the “official” design to use 8-bit colour
graphics in an arcade. This game was basically a
replicated version of the previous older game
called Space Invaders, which was the first
blockbuster video game that established the shoot
’em up genre and has influenced most shooter
games since6. Both games were the same concept
of spaceship shooting at alien characters. The only
real difference was that Space Invaders did not use
any real color references.
There have been numerous versions of the
game Galaxian, but the one that we all are
probably familiar with is Galaga. This is the exact
same game as the Galaxian, but with even more
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detailed graphics and features in the game. A
major additional feature in the game was aliens
being able to capture the player’s spaceship. By
shooting at the aliens, you are able to get your
ship safely back.
alaga also featured bonus points or
“challenging” stages where you are
granted additional points to your score6.
This is the first time a feature like this has been
offered in any arcade game. Ever since the release
of shoot ’em up style games, the gaming industry
seems to have made this their main focus when
coming up with new development of games.
Eddie Adlum, who was the entrepreneur that was
responsible for putting arcade games into
restaurants, grocery stores, fancy hotels, and many
more has quoted that games such as Pac-Man and
Space-Invaders were going into virtually every
location in the country, with the exception of
maybe funeral parlors, and even a few funeral
parlors actually had video games in the
basements.9
Up to this point in time, arcades all used
the simple function of a joystick and button
console feature. However, Atari releases
Centipede in 1980, which was the first arcade
game console to have a trackball control. The
trackball console also hit a rise in the gaming
industry and other companies started coming up
with better ideas to give users the feeling that you
are really experiencing the game. Ed Logg and
Dona Bailey were the two people at Atari that
were responsible for the creation of the game
Centipede. Bailey at this time realized once she
was hired by Atari, that she was the only female
programming at this that in the coin-op division.9
Ed Logg has mentioned that he came up with the
idea of the game by the concept of Bug Shooter.
He asked Bailey to go ahead and put mushrooms
up and use a trackball instead of the typical classic
joystick controller.9
G
Centipede’s Trackball design
It took a lot of fine tuning and adjustments
to get this game perfected. At the time in the
beginning, the mushrooms were not shootable.
The game itself was more simplified and basically
only consisted of a spider-like creature, a
centipede, and the shooter (the player), and that
was basically it. The mushrooms during this time
was static, you shot the centipede and nothing
was left behind.9 The game was reviewed and was
suggested that it would be nice if the player can
shoot at the mushrooms. The game had fully taken
its form and finalized it by making the goal of the
game to shoot quick moving centipedes as they
appeared at the top of the screen and snaked
their way down. The players would use a trackball
to move a cursor shaped like a snake’s head along
the bottom of the screen.9 The centipedes were
composed of eleven sections with legs. Each time
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a section was hit, it turned into a mushroom, and
the rest of the centipede continued its march.9 The
playing field of the game was covered with
mushrooms that could be shot away. Whenever
the centipede collided with a mushroom, the
centipede changed directions. Some players
developed strategies in which they set traps by
creating mushroom formations that forced the
centipede to drop down the side of the screen.9
There has been many events based off of
the game Centipede. Tournament Games, a
company that had extensive experience
promoting tournaments for such bar games as
billiards and darts, heralded to the event a a major
new sporting contest in which 10,000 to 15,000 of
the world’s best video-game players would go
head-to-head on a single game.9 The company
invited the winners of local video game
tournaments to compete.9 Competitors were
invited to practice before the event, but the 250
Centipede machines that Tournament Games
installed were not set on free play. 9 The
contestants not only had to pay to practice, but
the machines had internal timers that stopped
their games after just only three minutes.9 This
definitely brought in more financial revenue in the
gaming industry.
Following these shooter action games, the
development and ideas of having a short storyline
to the game started coming into play. Many
companies started developing the idea of making
scenarios and a more graphical character form to
really have the players get involved into the game
to keep moving forward within the game. Sega
distributed Frogger, a game in which players
heaped a small frog cross a busy highway and an
alligator-filled stream.9 Midway imported several
strong titles from Namco and released domestic
hits created by other American designers.9 Smaller
companies like Nichibutsu, maker of Crazy
Climber, and Konami also made their mark during
this time.9
Many other companies formed during this
time and similar genre games were being
developed during the golden age era. The rise
and boom in the arcade industry took a major hit.
It seemed like that was how everyone during this
time were really focusing on to make the cash
flow. It was not only a hit with sales but it also
promoted and lead to many other sales and
marketing pitch ideas for even bigger revenue.
Whether you are into playing PS3, XBOX,
Wii, PSP, or the newer type of additional gaming
components where you physically get involved
with moving a stick around, there was a beginning
to all of this. Without the major development and
success of these classic quarter hungry arcade
games, we would not have the basis and
foundation of the awesome graphical and story
heavy gaming we have in our society today.
Everything started from making a simple shape
ball and action movement that started out the
foundation of us now being able to physically
move a small tennis racquet in front of the screen
to really get involved in the feeling that you are
actually playing the sport. The classic hit arcade
games like PONG, PAC-MAN, Space Invaders,
Galaga, Galaxian, Centipede, Missle Command,
Donkey Kong, and much more have lead us to the
much bigger and advanced gaming industry we
have today.
The childhood memories I cherish from
these games are unforgettable. I still can feel the
environment and reminisce of those moments
during that time and it brings a smile to my face. It
makes me feel like a child inside all over again.
The classic arcade games that we grew up playing
will forever be something that can never be
forgotten. It is a memory that we will hold onto
and want to cherish. I’m sure 10 years from now
there will be even crazier technology and the
advances in the gaming industry will be much
greater than it is now, but the classic and retro first
cabinet style arcade will never be forgotten. When
the topic is brought upon, I guarantee everyone
during our generation that grew up knowing these
classic arcade games, will all look back at the
good ole days and appreciate where it all began.
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1
BMI Gaming. "The Birth Of Computer Games." The Birth Of Computer Games. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://
www.bmigaming.com/videogamehistory.htm>.
"
"
"
"
"
"
"
"
2
Bellis, Mary. "The History of the Cathode Ray Tube." The History of the Cathode Ray Tube. About, Inc., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
<http://theinventors.org/library/inventors/blcathoderaytube.htm>.
3
Winter, David. "Pong-Story : Arcade PONG." Pong-Story : Arcade PONG. David Winter, 1996. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://
www.pong-story.com/arcade.htm>.
4
NAMCO. “Pac-Man a Visual History.” PACMAN Official English Site. NAMCO, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://pacman.com/en/
pac-man-history/>.
5
"Pac-Man Creator Toru Iwatani Biography." Pac-Man Creator Toru Iwatani Biography. Pacman Museum, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.
<http://pacmanmuseum.com/history/Toru-Iwatani.php>
6
"From Pong to Pac-man." The History of Video Games : From pong to pac-man. Designboom, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://
www.designboom.com/eng/education/pong4.html>
7
Wolf, Mark J. P. The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to Playstation and beyond. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008.
Print.
8
Loguidice, Bill, and Matt Barton. Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most
Influential Games of All Time. Boston: Focal/Elsevier, 2009. Print.
9
Kent, Steven L. The Ultimate History of Video Games. New York: Random House International, 2002. Print.
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