Early Arcade History: ’75 – ’76

In the years 1975 – 1976, the arcade and video games market started to expand out to include more complicated and intricate forms of gaming. In 1975, for instance, the first microprocessor was used in the arcade ‘Gun Fight’. Popular arcade games started to link with other media such as film, for example ‘Fonz’, Shark Jaws and Death Race, all having links with popular film or TV of the time.

Shark Jaws (1975)

Shark Jaws was created under Horror Games, which was a division of Atari, and was the only game published under this name. The game was designed to cash-in off of Steven Spielberg’s hit film Jaws, as Atari could not get a license from Universal Pictures. The game is considered to be the first film tie-in even though it is unofficial.  The single-player game involves controlling a diver who is catching small fish whilst avoiding being devoured by a shark.

Western Gun / Gun Fight (1975)

Western Gun is the first known video game to portray combat from one human to another, it also excels in being one of the first games to depict humans in a cartoon style rather than a series of abstract blocks. Western Gun is the name the game was released under in Japan, however, for release in the USA the name was re-titled ‘Gun Fight’. Although it was the same game, details such as programming were changed for the American release. The most famous of these being the switch to using a microprocessor for the game, this being the first video game to use such technology.

The controls for the game were unusual for a dual controlled machine. The game had two joysticks per player, however the main joystick control being on the right hand side rather than the left. One joystick controls the cowboy’s movements, and the other changes the shooting direction. Gun Fight also features objects such as stage coaches and cacti which can block shots. The game only allows you six bullets worth of ammo, and if both sides have used this then the game ends.

Heavyweight Champ (1976)

Heavyweight champ is said to be the first video game to feature hand-to-hand combat. Due to the nature of this, it grants unique controls which simulate the throwing of punches. The game itself showed as a side view of the two boxers on a black and white screen. Heavyweight champ utilised two boxing glove controllers, which were able to move up, down and inwards for high and low punches and for striking the other player.

Sega remade the game in 1987, again altering the unique controls further; through providing two punch controllers for each player, allowing one for each hand. They additionally included a one player mode where the player could battle computer-based opponents for three minute games. Furthermore, the player was also able to swivel the cabinet to move their boxer from side to side!

 Blockade (1976)

Blockade marks a turning point for games, standing up as being successful over many years. It’s had many successors, one of them being the 1997 Nokia game for phones, Snake. The aim of the game is simple, as is its controls. Four buttons change the angle of which your character moves by 90 degrees. The character leaves behind a solid line behind them, and the winner is the player who can keep their character alive long enough without bumping into an object. The game ends after one player has won six rounds.