We’re back with our “Let’s Talk About…” series! Check out the previous chats here.
Let’s Talk About…: Missile Command
Good ol’ Atari, right? For such a pioneer, it definitely has its memorable titles. Maybe it’s because of what I’m seeing on the news right now, but there’s one game that keeps popping into my head, and that’s Missile Command.
One of the aspects of this game that I always found so fascinating (and frustrating) was that there was no way to beat the game. No many how many missiles you stopped, no matter how long you kept your last city standing, the game always beat you. And, interestingly, the game put the player on the defensive, rather than offensive. It took away the power of nuclear war, instead opting to tell a story of a struggle to survive a nuclear strike.
For such a simple game, it really told quite a poignant story, didn’t it? A missile commander, tasked with making split-second decisions to save the innocent lives of civilians or protect his/her own missile silos. Deciding whether to sacrifice one city for another for a tactical advantage, just to survive a few minutes longer, to hold on to hope for ever a couple more seconds in the face of a threat that you, as a player, knew was insurmountable. Even the end screen isn’t “Game Over.” No, it says “The End,” as the flash of a missile flickers on the screen.
Credit to Kyle Richoux
I remember the first time I saw the 1983 WarGames, (basically) about a teenager who hacks into a government supercomputer to play what he thinks is a game, but turns into this snowballing horror that almost sets off nuclear war.
That’s a really poor description, but it’s a good movie. Anyway…
The moral of the story was that the only way to win a nuclear war was to “not play.” And it’s the same thing with Missile Command. The only way to not lose is to never turn the game on. That’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? Something so simple, something that Spec Ops: The Line tried so hard to convey, was mastered over 30 years ago with pixelated graphics, silhouettes of cities, and “pew pew” noises.
It’s a good lesson to remember, isn’t it?
I guess the news is beginning to get to me…
Did you play Missile Command? What did you think of it? Have I overanalyzed? What was your favorite Atari game? Let me know in the comments!
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