Spacewar!, the first known video game ever created, is now playable on Analogue Pocket

Spacewar!, the first known digital video game ever produced, is now available on Analogue Pocket thanks to the new PDP-1 Core developed with openFPGA.

An FPGA, or field programmable gate array, is a type of integrated circuit that can be reconfigured after it is manufactured. openFPGA, on the other hand, is “the first purpose built, hardware and FPGA ecosystem designed for 3rd party development of video game hardware.” It was also “created specifically to preserve the history of video games.”

Space war! is clearly an important part of video game history and a 3rd party developer has “carefully recreated” the game that was released on the PDP-1 in 1962 by the developers at MIT using open source public domain for openFPGA.

The preservation of video games has always had a big question mark beside it, especially with companies like Nintendo plans to shut down its Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops and makes playing older games even harder. Hopefully with this new development, the game will be less memorable in history.

Space war! was inspired by science fiction books written by EE Doc Smith and developed by a group of MIT students who aspired to create a space simulation video game. It’s a space shooter and a 2 player vs. “orbit mechanics around a fascinating star” style game. It was developed to be played with custom “control boxes” which were essentially the first video game controllers.

The PDP-1 has a 1024×1024 CRT vector display and a Spacewar! it used it to its fullest with “beautiful blue and green phosphors that trace, flare and decay among modernist hexagons.”

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Image credits: Joi Ito

The developers behind Spacewar! also created certain criteria that a computer game must meet, and they are as follows;

  • It must demonstrate as many of the computer’s resources as possible and tax those resources to the limit.
  • In a consistent framework, it has to be interesting, which means every run has to be different.
  • It has to involve the viewer in an interesting and dynamic way, in short, it has to be a game.

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, played Spacewar! and was so inspired by it that he would go on to create Computer Space, the first commercial video game and video game.

If you have Analogue Pocket and want to try Spacewar!, check it out the support page guides you through all you need to know to check out this important piece of history.

To know more about Spacewar! and the early days of video games, see look back at the history of Atari.

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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and more Convulsions.

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