Granted, 1980 wasn't the birth of video games, but it was when the baby started making some serious noise. Arcades were becoming social centers, muscling out pinball machines a quarter at a time. And when you read the all-time, all-star roster, it's easy to see why. Centipede, Defender, Battlezone, Tempest, Berzerk, Missile Command, Warlords, Phoenix, Star Castle - even the first sequels: Asteroids Deluxe and the head-to-head Space Invaders II. They're all seminal, and they all came out in a 12-month span, only to be swallowed up by video gaming's first legitimate pop-culture phenomenon, Pac-Man. What's more interesting is that each of those games looks, feels and plays completely differently. It was a time of great creativity and innovation, and these games remain among the most popular, playable, and inspirational games ever, even today. Looking at the class of 1980 is like looking at gaming's DNA.
Home consoles started enjoying serious success this year too, with the Atari 2600 hosting Adventure plus the home versions of arcade hits Night Driver, Video Pinball and the January release of the monster system-seller, Space Invaders. Imagine - the ability to play your favorite coin-operated games in the privacy of your own home, on your TV! That concept might just catch on.
Of course, if you had one of those fancy, expensive TRS-80 "home computers," you were probably "standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door." (There was a small mailbox there, too.) That was all the info that adventurers in Zork were given at the outset of their epic journey; the rest of the details were described in text and filled in by the imagination of the player. Another fan of adventure games, Richard Garriott, started selling homemade copies of a dungeon crawler named Akalabeth: World of Doom at the ComputerLand store where he worked. Realizing he could improve it and add graphics, he set out writing his next game: Ultima.
Meanwhile, in faraway Japan, a little company named Nintendo created the Game & Watch, a series of LCD timepieces that also played action games. With a folding design that offered twin, stacked screens, the company's first handheld machines wound up inspiring the look and functionality of the Nintendo DS some 25 years later.