RPO Replay – Asteroids

The Ready Player One Replay is an exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Quote

Gunfire wasn’t uncommon in the stacks, but it still shook me up. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, so I decided to kill the remaining hours until dawn by brushing up on a few coin-op classics. GalagaDefenderAsteroids. These games were outdated digital dinosaurs that had become museum pieces long before I was born. But I was a gunter, so I didn’t think of them as quaint low-res antiques. To me, they were hallowed artifacts. Pillars of the pantheon. When I played the classics, I did so with a determined sort of reverence.

Ready Player One p. 13

Game Play

The setup is super simple: you’ve got a single ship and a massive field of asteroids. Your mission is to reduce the asteroids to nothingness while avoiding being hit. You get three lives, endless ammo and fuel, and the ability to blindly hyperjump around the field. Your reward for destroying all of the asteroids … is more asteroids.

Unlike Defender, which requires lightning-fast reflexes, Asteroids is a more forgiving game. It can certainly get frantic, especially when the space junk is flying fast and erratically, but there are also built-in lulls as you clear each map.

It’s addictive if repetitive, gameplay. It’s not a game I can really lose myself in any more, but I had fun introducing my kids when we pulled up a reference game to put the decals on the game room wall.

The ray-drawn shapes of asteroids appear on a white wall.
Vintage Asteroids cover one of the walls in my home office/game room. Credit: Ken Newquist

Impressions

Ah, Asteroids. One spaceship endlessly dodging and blasting its way through an endless field of giant rocks (and the occasional rogue UFO). The game was one of my first video game loves, right alongside Space Invaders. It took on two distinct flavors for me: the stark, simple line-art arcade version (1979), which I played at the local roller skating rink, and the colorful (but still basic) Atari 2600 version that my friends and I spent endless Saturday afternoons playing.

We got so good at the Atari version that we’d have to purposefully crash our ships to end the game when our parents called us for dinner. After one particularly long, 6-hour marathon, we finally got tired of the game (and then moved onto the equally classic Yar’s Revenge).

Years later, in high school, my friend Dave and I would blow throw a roll of quarters playing Blasteroids in our local arcade before breaking to grab a few slices of pizza.

Today, the memory of Asteroids lives on in my game room, where huge decals inspired by the original game fill one wall. Few people outside of my family and gaming group had seen it pre-COVID, but during the pandemic, it’s become a meeting ice breaker. People see the decals, ask about them, and suddenly we’re reminiscing about old video games.

High Scores

  • My High Score (Arcade): 7,760
  • My High Score (Atari 2600): 12,390

Resources

Where to Play

Commentary

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