As gamers, we mark and honor our milestones like any respectful hobbyist should: If your game does something innovative that shapes the industry, we will remember it forever.
That is, unless somebody else does it later, and throws some more money behind it. Then we'll spit in your eye, toss you in a ditch and erase your game from the annals of history. Just like what happened to these pioneers ...
#7. Multiplayer Asteroids ... in 1962
Asteroids was a 1979 game about a small, triangular ship murdering an innocent society of space rocks. But why are we bothering to explain this?
This was back before sci-fi games were required to include sex with blue-skinned aliens.
It's Asteroids, man. It's that, Pac-Man, Centipede and Space Invaders; those are the arcade games. Statistically speaking, you've either played this game before, or you're an alien doing a piss-poor job trying to pass as human, or you're a surly teenager who won't play anything that doesn't feature texture-mapping and sniper rifles. Either way, you should probably get off our site and make a better effort to act like a person.
Way back in 1962, MIT students, professors and general hanger-outers developed a game called Spacewar! on a PDP-1 computer. And it was not only similar to Asteroids, but superior: Two people played at once (in later editions, up to five), with each one controlling his or her own spaceship. Instead of just destroying asteroids, the two players were encouraged to fight:
Star Wars, as seen from a crappy telescope.
Like in Asteroids, the ships were controlled by rotating them around and then accelerating forward, with the other button shooting missiles. If you drifted off the top of the screen, you'd reappear at the bottom, and if you were really boned, you could hit your hyperspace button and reappear somewhere randomly on the map, exactly the same as in the better-known Atari game. But you really have to see it in motion to get a sense of how close the two games were, so check out this video.
Then there were the elements Spacewar! had that Asteroids did not: The 1962 game upped the stakes with things like limited fuel and missiles, a point in the center of the screen that sucked you in with its gravitational pull and even a star field that corresponded to actual star charts. Hell, we'd rather be playing that right now.
If this thing had been around for Mario Kart, about half of our generation would have suffered traumatic brain injuries.
#6. The Sims: 1984?
In the two years following its release in the year 2000, The Sims went on to sell over 6.3 million copies, making it the best-selling PC game of all time (a record previously held for nine years by Myst). The appeal of The Sims was easy to see: It was just like real life, except that you could lock the doors and burn your entire family when you got bored. That's generally frowned upon in actual society.
Also frowned upon? Telling me our relationship is over when I'm clearly recreating it here, Julie!
A simulated home had already been done waaay back in 1984 with Little Computer People. Like The Sims, you had the ability to directly control your little characters (i.e., telling them to watch TV, play the piano, etc.), and you could also decide how their house was decorated. Sure, you couldn't design your character like in The Sims, but you could be guaranteed that no other owners of LCP had a character exactly like yours, thanks to something called "digital DNA" -- a randomized code that determined your Little Person's behavior and personality. Oh, and you couldn't change this code, either. So if your copy came with a miserable son of a bitch, then you just had to live with the guy, and occasionally steal wistful glances at the book of matches in the junk drawer.
Jesus Christ we're so lonely.
However, LCP also had a few features that The Sims didn't:
To start with, you could actually directly interact with your character. You could challenge your little dude to a game of poker, request that he play songs by certain composers on the piano and directly send messages to him via the little gray text box running across the top of the screen. One anecdote about LCP relates the player taking all of the character's money in a poker game, after which it had thrown a fit and refused to speak to the player or eat anything for an hour.
A less-amusing anecdote involves waking up to find the character staring down at you and holding a wrench.
Maybe that's why The Sims succeeded where LCP failed: Who wants to play a game about living with a guy you have no hand in choosing, and then dealing with his bullshit all the time? We've played that game before: It's called having a dormmate.
#5. Wii Fit: The NES Game
Nintendo threw everyone a major curveball in 2006 when they gave the world the Wii, and in return the world gave them all of the money. 2007 saw the unveiling of the Wii Fit, a video game that made you exercise and feel bad about yourself, which we all considered fun for some reason.
Nintendo's mea culpa for your crippling bedsores.
Even more inexplicably, Wii Fit succeeded despite its high price point of $90. The cost was necessary, however, because of the Wii Balance Board accessory that came bundled with the game. The board was capable of detecting how you were standing via the four scales inside, which made sure that you got the exercises done, instead of just lying on the ground watching Denise Austin bend over and touch her toes while telling you how great you're doing. Wii Fit flew off the shelves and quickly became not only one of the best-selling games of this generation, but of all time. As it turns out, people were really excited about the concept of taking exercise and turning it into a fun game. Why didn't anyone think of this earlier?
Because dignity has been steadily losing its value for the past 20 years?
Well, actually, they did.
Hey, at least the thieves were only ripping themselves off: Nintendo actually had exercise games on their systems over 20 years ago. Bandai released Dance Aerobics on the NES in Japan way back in 1987, and it was on North American shores in 1989. Just like Wii Fit, this game put a virtual trainer on the screen and had you stand in front of the TV while doing aerobic exercises.
Man, Richard Simmons looks pretty hot in 8-bit.
Of course, Wii Fit stood out from the pack by using the Balance Board, which could track your movements. Any workout game would really just be a glorified exercise video if it didn't have ...
Oh wait, there we go.
Yes, Dance Aerobics used the ill-fated Power Pad accessory to track the location of the player's feet, and it penalized them if they did the workout improperly. To top things off, Dance Aerobics also had musical elements to the game, which mostly revolved around tapping buttons with your feet in time with onscreen prompts. That's right: It was both Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution, approximately two decades before either of those terms were anything but hilarious Engrish.
#4. A Better Version of Minesweeper, 10 Years Earlier
Minesweeper is one of the most famous computer games ever created. It is so popular, in fact, that it's come prepacked into every single copy of Windows since 1992. But the game itself predates that, with early versions going back to 1989. The elegant simplicity of Minesweeper was the key to its success: It presented you with a field of gray or blue squares, with mines hidden underneath some and numbers under the rest. The numbers indicated how many mines were touching that square, and if you used the clues well, you could ideally mark all the mines with flags and complete the level.
In practice, you mined yourself into a corner, called the game "retarded," and played Doom instead.
The first "hidden mine" game was a 1973 text-based program simply called Cube, which placed you at one corner of a cube and challenged you to get to the opposite corner without blowing up. Players traveled from vertex to vertex, and five of these vertices had mines hidden underneath. But there was no way of telling which, and so the whole thing was essentially a random number generator that periodically exploded you.
Just like life.
Things got more interesting in 1983, with the release of Mined-Out. Like Cube, your goal was to get from one end of the field to the other without blowing yourself up. This time, however, you were given a mine detector that would tell you how many mines were right next to the space you were standing on -- which, remember, is exactly what the Minesweeper numbers mean.
We prefer the "Click blindly until the Internet comes back" method.
Of course, Mined-Out had a number of features Minesweeper did not: There were nine levels of increasing difficulty to play, you were tasked with finding damsels in distress, you had to avoid rogue mines that followed behind you and you battled devices that patrolled the map, dispensing even more mines. Despite (or possibly because of) Mined-Out having these extra features, Minesweeper managed to take off while Mined-Out did not.
This little guy probably helped, too. Look at him!
It turns out being bundled in with the most popular operating system in the world gives your market share a bit of a nudge. Who knew?