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The legacy of Asteroids

17/06/2009. Contributed by Peter Holley

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I remember as a kid the allure and the mystique of walking into a games arcade. The smell of stale tobacco, the clinking of ten pence pieces, the air of victory, and the desperate groans that signalled the harsh reality of two words; ‘Game Over’.

In my earliest memories, before I was tall enough to touch the controls, let alone play an arcade machine I remember there were two machines (or ‘coin ops’) that enthralled the young crowds at my local leisure centre. Asteroids and Space Invaders. Back then these games were the cutting edge and the men who topped their leader boards were our heroes. At a time when the vision of Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back was still firmly imprinted on every young persons mind, what could’ve been cooler than taking control of your very own spaceship and blasting your way through computer generated asteroids?



By today’s standards the concept was pretty simple, but that was the beauty of it, that was the reason why kids would have their entire week’s pocket money changed into ten pence pieces and pump them all into that little slot like a feeding frenzy. It was simple, but it was painfully addictive.

By the time I was old enough to walk into an arcade as one of the contenders rather than just a spectator the second phase of arcade machines had begun to dominate the marketplace. You could still find Asteroids and Space Invaders in some lonely corner of the arcade, but they were hardly the money buckets they had been a few years earlier. I suppose that’s par for the course in a technology driven market, but the legacy of Asteroids was plastered all over every arcade across the land.

The masses were now worshipping at the altars of R-Type, Thunderblade, After Burner and Operation Wolf. Games which undoubtedly owed their existence to Asteroids. Asteroids was, and is the arcade Godfather.

These days the sparkle of the arcade has waned. This is obviously an indication of the fact that the technology and revenue of home consoles has far surpassed the coin op market. Why go to a dingy little hall and pay per play when you can have cutting edge games in your own home? Hand in hand with that is the fact that the simple arcade game has given way to deeper story based games, which are all well and good, but sometimes I just want to pick up a controller and blow stuff up. The adrenalin, the excitement and the addictiveness of a quality shoot-em-up is unparalleled.

In the last ten years cynical rehashes of classics such as Pong and Space Invaders have been released onto consoles, but have done nothing more than give the original a facelift.

With Desktop Blaster (which you can play for free by clicking here) Asteroids has truly been given a 21st century overhaul. Using the cutting edge technology of Adobe Air we’ve taken the original game and turned it into a completely personal experience. The game takes over your desktop and turns your icons into asteroids. You can even choose which folders you want to destroy.

Ever wanted to blow the hell out of those financial spreadsheets which are clogging up your drives? How about blasting those images of your ex-girlfriend? Well now’s your chance. Obviously the destruction is only temporary, but it’s a damn good stress reliever... and yes, it is extremely addictive. The perfect balance between classic game play and web 2.0 technology.

Click here to play Desktop Blaster at scifi.co.uk

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