1978. The year of my birth. These games are literally as old as I am.
Arcade Games of 1978
The games in the last post in this series were pretty obscure, but in 1978 we see the release of what’s maybe the most famous Arcade title of all time: Space Invaders. It’s so famous that when people need a quick shorthand for “video game,” half the time Space Invaders is what they go for.
Breakout is similarly famous, and Avalanche might be better recognized in its Atari VCS port Kaboom. Gee Bee is possibly the best pong/pinball/breakout style game we’re going to see until the release of its sequel Bomb Bee the next year.
Overall the games are a big improvement over 1977’s releases, with the major exception being Frogs – something I’d expect to see on the TRS-80, not in the arcade, but they can’t all be winners.
Apple II Games of 1978
We’re seeing some of the earliest Apple ][ games here, the earliest home computer games. The Apple II is going to be king of the computer market for a long long time – at least until the Commodore 64 is released.
Our first game is one of the first roguelikes – Beneath Apple Manor, predating Rogue itself by two years. Dungeon Campaign also uses a randomly generated maze, but the graphical style is much simpler, and the game itself even more elementary.
I really wanted to get into Space – an unauthorized text-based Traveller rpg, but it was exhaustively difficult to even roll up a functional character that wasn’t so physically or mentally crippled that you could even play the game with them. Most of my play time was spent sitting through the character creation segment, discovering the character wasn’t viable enough to even try playing with, and then restarting.
Microchess is historically very interesting as one of the first chess games for any home system, but my modern gamer brain just doesn’t have the patience to enter in moves via grid coordinates.
Atari Games of 1978 and 1979
A twofer this time, simply because there weren’t enough individual games released in either year to make a good video out of.
We’re seeing a lot more technical innovation for the Atari VCS a year in, and a lot more attention paid to gameplay as the programmers get used to their tools.
Superman shows a lot of complexity for a game of the era and is the first game to really feature an end “win” state. Breakout and Sky Diver are ports of the arcade games of the same name, with the latter being significantly more difficult simply due to the smaller resolution – you have less room to maneuver and less time to react.
The other games on this list are sport simulations that are, gratifyingly, not simple re-imaginings of Pong.
TSR-80 Games of 1978
Compared to the Apple II the TRS-80 doesn’t have a lot to offer, but it holds a special place in my heart simply by virtue of being the machines the computer lab in my grade school had to offer us, and the first home-computer I had – a simple keyboard that hooked up to the television like a game console. I did my first BASIC programming on a TRS-80.
These games are simple. Dead simple. And they don’t get a great deal more complex before the machine drops off the face of the earth, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing with them.
They’re all text-based, most programmed in BASIC. The real standout here is Scott Adams’s Adventureland, the first text adventure game for microcomputers, the first in the 13-game Adventure series, and the first such game I cover.
Friends, it’s tough covering interactive fiction. Making videos about them entertaining. I could treat them like an audio book, but to be frank, my voice acting skills aren’t up to it. I do cover quite a few in this video series, particularly in years where they make up the bulk of notable or interesting games, but you can tell that I try to avoid it.
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