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Donkey Kong Vs. Space Invaders


Donkey Kong is the first example of a complete narrative told in video game form, and like 1980’s Pac-Man it uses cut-scenes to advance the plot. The game opens with Kong climbing a pair of ladders to the top of a construction site. He sets Pauline the damsel in distress down and stomps his feet, then moves to his final perch and sneers. This brief animation sets the scene and adds context to the gameplay, a first for video games. Upon reaching the end of the stage, another cut-scene begins. A heart appears between Mario and Pauline, but Donkey Kong quickly interrupts by grabbing the poor maiden and climbing higher. The narrative concludes when Mario reaches the end of the fourth stage. Mario and Pauline are reunited, and a short intermission plays. The gameplay then loops from the beginning at a higher level of difficulty. The game is divided into four different single-screen stages. Each represents twenty-five meters of the structure Donkey Kong has climbed, one stage being twenty-five meters higher than the previous. The final stage occurs at 100 meters. The name of Jumpman, a name originally chosen for its likeness to popular brands Walkman and Pac-Man, was eventually changed to Mario in likeness of Mario Segale, Nintendo’s office landlord. The game was a breakthrough effort by Nintendo, successfully attracting the North American market. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s president at the time, assigned the project to a first-time video game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto himself had high hopes for his new project. Donkey Kong spawned the sequels Donkey Kong Jr, Donkey Kong Country, as well as the mega popular franchise spin-off Super Mario Bros.


Arcade games often have short levels and simple intuitive control schemes with rapidly increasing difficulty. This is due to the environment of the Arcade, where the players essentially rent games for as long as their in-game avatar can stay alive.  Competitive video gamers and referees stress Donkey Kong’s high level of difficulty compared to other classic arcade games of the Golden Age. Winning the game requires patience and the ability to accurately time the accent of Mario carefully and methodically. The 22nd level is known as the kill screen similar to Pac Man, due to an error in the game’s programming that kills Mario after a few seconds, effectively ending the game. The game became massively popular in the early 80’s thanks in part to Twin Galaxies national scoreboard where pop culture celebrity and E-sports innovator Billy Mitchel self proclaimed himself “The King of Kong” because of his specialty in this specific game.

Space Invaders logo

Space Invaders is a two-dimensional fixed shooter game in which the player controls a laser cannon by moving it horizontally across the bottom of the screen and firing at descending aliens. It was the top selling video gaming of the 70’s and helped expand the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. Tomohiro Nishikado designed the game and developed the necessary hardware to produce it in a year. While programming, Nishikado discovered that the processor was able to render the alien graphics faster as the player destroyed them. Rather than design the game to compensate for the speed increase, he decided to keep it as a challenging gameplay mechanic.  Despite its simplicity, the music to Space Invaders was revolutionary in the gaming industry. The music interacts with on screen animation to influence the emotions of the player. The music popularized the notion of variability the idea that music can change in accordance with the ongoing narrative. This innovative concept influenced every video game to follow it. The space thematic of Space Invaders was inspired by the Star Wars movies as stated by Nishikado.


Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto considered Space Invaders a game that revolutionized the video game industry; stating he was never interested in video games before seeing it. So without Space Invaders, Donkey Kong would have never existed, and likely Nintendo would have not invested in further video game production. Space Invaders showed that video games could compete against the major entertainment media at the time: movies, music, and television. Its worldwide success created a demand for a wide variety of science fiction games, inspiring the development of arcade games, such as Atari’s Asteroids, Williams Electronics’ Defender, and Namco’s Galaga, which were modeled after Space Invaders’s gameplay and design.

Author: Gavin Johnston

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