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

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

FPGA, or Field Programmable Gate Array, is a type of integrated circuit that can be reconfigured after manufacture. openFPGA, on the other hand, is the “first hardware and ecosystem purpose-built for third-party video game hardware development.” It was also “created specifically to preserve video game history”.

Space war! is obviously a big part of video game history and a third party developer has “painstakingly recreated” the game released on the PDP-1 in 1962 by MIT developers using public domain open source code for openFPGA.

The preservation of video games has always had a big question mark next to it, especially with companies like Nintendo planning to shut down its Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops and make it even harder to play older games. Hopefully, with this new development, fewer games will be lost in the history books.

Space war! was inspired by science fiction books written by EE Doc Smith and developed by a group of MIT students who wanted to create a space simulation video game. It was a space shooter and 2-player style game that featured “orbital mechanics around a gravitational star”. It was developed to be played by custom “control boxes” which were essentially the first video game controller as well.

The PDP-1 had a 1024×1024 CRT vector display and Spacewar! he himself used it to the fullest with its “magnificent blue and green luminophores, trailing, bursting and decaying amidst modernist hexagons”.

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Image Credit: Joi Ito

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

  • It should demonstrate as many computer resources as possible and enforce those resources to the limit.
  • Within a consistent framework, it should be interesting, which means every race should be different.
  • It should involve the viewer in a pleasant and active way, in short, it should be a game.

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

If you have an analog pocket and want to give Spacewar! a try, check out the support page for everything you need to know to experience this important piece of history.

Learn more about Spacewar! and the beginnings of video games, discover our return on the history of Atari.

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Adam Bankhurst is a reporter for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Tic.