Space Invaders: 10 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Arcade Classic

Space Invaders has been around for decades. Despite its longevity, there's still new things about it to be discovered.

Even years after its debut, Space Invaders is still one of the best video games ever made. The title that ushered in the Golden Age of Video Games, gamers across the globe have spent countless hours and coins blasting away at the iconic invading aliens. BTW, shooting up through your defenses is a bad strategy. But for such a well-known and important hallmark in gaming, many gamers probably don't know much about the history of Space Invaders. To help, we've found some amazing details about this Video Game Hall-Of-Famer.

Here are 10 Mind-Blowing Facts About The Arcade Classic Space Invaders

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10 The Anonymous Creator

Despite its popularity and longevity, the creator of Space Invaders remained anonymous for decades. That creator was Tomohiro Nishikado, an electronics engineer at the company Taito. Nishikado initially had no intention of becoming a game designer, but approached the challenge with gusto.

His success with Space Invaders earned him a promotion at Taito. Unfortunately, this had a downside. Nishikado's name was kept off Space Invaders and he contractually obligated to not claim it as his creation. It wouldn't be until 2013 that he assumed the credit he deserved.

9 Land Invaders?

The original plans for Space Invaders were much different. Inspired by the game Breakout, Nishikado envisioned a shooting game where the targets could shoot back. The aliens were originally planes and tanks, but Taito didn't want to present "an image of war" in their games.

So inspired by the success of Star Wars and the anime Space Battleship Yamato, Nishikado changed the game to have a science-fiction setting. He took it further, taking a cue from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, and designed the enemy aliens after sea life like squids and crabs.

8 An Accidental Gameplay Improvement

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One of the most iconic aspects of Space Invaders is the aliens' increasing speed. The more aliens you destroy, the faster they drop down the screen. It's a simple trick to add difficulty to the game, and it was completely by accident.

See the game used really weak microprocessors and blasting aliens freed up memory space, making the remaining aliens less of a burden on the system. The developers were going to program this glitch out but play testers liked that the game got harder as they progressed. Convinced, they left it in the final version.

7 The Rumored Coin Shortage

Though initial sales were slow, Space Invaders soon boomed in popularity after its 1978 Japanese debut. People were lining around the block to play it. The game's huge popularity actually led to a long-lived urban legend in Japan. According to rumor, so many people were playing Space Invaders that it led to a nationwide shortage of 100-yen coins.

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Subsequent research has proved this untrue. Fewer 100-yen coins were minted in 1978 and any spent on Space Invaders would have remained in circulation. Still, the legend is a testament to the game's impact.

6 The First Video Game Moral Panic

Moral panics around video games are nothing new, but Space Invaders might have been the first. Soon after the arcade game's release, a story circulated in Japan about a 12-year-old boy robbing up a bank to use its coins on Space Invaders. Similar stories occurred in the UK, leading to a backlash.

Parents and teachers believed the game contributed to burglaries and juvenile delinquency, and one politician even drafted a bill to ban the game. The bill failed, but this wouldn't be the last time video games would be blamed for misbehaving kids.

5 The First Killer App

While the arcade version of Space Invaders is the best-known, ports of the classic game exist on almost every console. The Atari 2600 version was nearly more successful than the arcade. As the first arcade game licensed to a console, being able to play Space Invaders at home without needing quarters gave the Atari 2600's sales a huge shot in the arm.

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The port sold over two million copies and was the first game to sell over a million cartridges. Today, gaming historians consider the Atari Space Invaders to be the first killer app, like Halo for the Xbox.

4 Revolutionary Music

Though primitive by today's standards, the music for Space Invaders was revolutionary for the time. Unlike other arcade games of the late 70s, which rarely featured music at all, Space Invaders had music going throughout the game uninterrupted by the sound effects.

Beyond that, the music operated in turn with actions on screen and in gameplay. This drew arcade gamers deeper into the experience, heightening their emotions. Yes, it's simple and obvious to us now, but back then? Groundbreaking.

3 The Medical Condition

Gamers are used to some stiffness in their hands after long play sessions. But back when Space Invaders debuted, this was brand-new territory. Because of the game's popularity, doctors began dealing with numerous cases of stiffness in wrists, hands, and elbows from people who played for long periods.

Journals like the New England Journal of Medicine even distinguished this as a new condition, naming it "Space Invaders Wrist." Consider this a reminder to pause your game and stretch occasionally during long play sessions.

2 The Street Artist

It didn't take long for the game's titular Invaders to become pop-culture icons. Their simple blocky design sticks in people's minds, even if they haven't played dozens of games, and are great examples of pixel art. A certain French street artist certainly seems to think so.

Known only as Invader, after the game of course, this secretive artist has become famous for "invading" cities and creating tile mosaics of famous 8-bit sprites on buildings and bridges. Though he's used characters from many classic games like Pac-Man, Kung Fu Master, and Super Mario Bros., Invader's signature is the aliens from his namesake video game.

1 A British Novelist's Love Letter To The Arcade

Space Invaders' popularity caused huge cultural waves, but the strangest has to be the book Invasion of the Space Invaders. Written by British novelist Martin Amis, the book is a reflection on and a love letter to the golden age of video games. The author talks about his arcade addiction and even offers tips on how to get high scores.

What makes it so weird is that Martin Amis isn't the kind of writer who'd normally write something like this. He's a serious literary type, not a geek media personality. He seems to have written it solely out love for arcade games. Sadly, the book is now out of print.

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