Space Invaders is considered one of the most influential video games of all time. It helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry, and ushered in the golden age of arcade video games. It was the inspiration for numerous video games and game designers across different genres, and has been ported and re-released in various forms. The 1980 Atari VCS version quadrupled sales of the VCS, thereby becoming the first killer app for video game consoles. More broadly, the pixelated enemy alien has become a pop culture icon, often representing video games as a whole.
Space Invaders is a fixed shooter in which the player controls a laser cannon by moving it horizontally across the bottom of the screen and firing at descending aliens. The aim is to defeat five rows of eleven aliens—although some versions feature different numbers—that move horizontally back and forth across the screen as they advance toward the bottom of the screen. The player’s laser cannon is partially protected by several stationary defense bunkers—the number also varies by version—that are gradually destroyed from the top and bottom by blasts from either the aliens or the player.
Space Invaders was created by Japanese designer Tomohiro Nishikado, who spent a year designing the game and developing the necessary hardware to produce it. The game’s inspiration is reported to have come from varying sources, including an adaptation of the mechanical game Space Monsters released by Taito in 1972, and a dream about Japanese school children who are waiting for Santa Claus when they are attacked by invading aliens. Nishikado himself has cited Atari’s arcade game Breakout as his inspiration. He aimed to create a shooting game that featured the same sense of achievement from completing stages and destroying targets, but with more complex graphics. The game uses a similar layout to that of Breakout but has altered game mechanics. Rather than bounce a ball to attack static objects, players are given the ability to fire projectiles at moving enemies.