Gaming's most important evolutions

35 features that changed the course of interactive entertainment, one game at a time

First seen in: Atari Football (1978)

Important because: Do you like your 2D action to unfold in something bigger than a single, static arena that doesn’t do anything aside from take up the entire screen? Then scrolling, which moves a much larger background to follow the action, is pretty essential. Surprisingly, this technology didn’t debut in the glorious Defender or the abysmal Pac-Land, but in an ugly, black-and-white football sim from Atari.

True, teams of X’s and Os chasing each other across a bunch of vertical lines and bars is an anticlimactic far cry from scrolling mountains or obstacles. But every cool technology has to start somewhere.

Legacy: In finding an elegant solution for displaying a football field – a seamless environment too big to be contained by a single screen, with action that wouldn’t make sense spread across several static screens – Atari Football blazed a trail that would be followed by most of the games of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. And that’s to say nothing of every complicated, league-endorsed sports game that followed it.






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