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Missile Command

Screenshot of the Missile Command arcade game

Missile Command is an arcade video game released by Atari in 1980. It was an immensely popular money maker for Atari. The plot of the game is brutally simple. Your country is being attacked by an endless hail of ICBMs and you are some kind of regional commander of three anti-missile batteries, and must defend six cities in your zone from being destroyed. The game is played by moving a crosshair across the sky background image via a trackball and pressing one of three buttons to launch a counter-missile from the appropriate battery. The game only ends when all six cities have inevitably been wiped out. There is no way to 'win' the game, it goes on theoretically forever with ever faster and more prolific incoming missiles, until it becomes humanly impossible to stop them all. The game then is just a contest in seeing how long the player can survive.

Missile Command is considered one of the great classic video games from the early era. The game is also interesting in its manifestation of the Cold War's effects on popular culture, in that the game paralels real life nuclear war which is also impossible to win due to the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine. In some sense the game is rather demoralizing since it doesn't matter if you block 10 missiles or 10,000; if the 10,001st one obliterates your home town just as easily as the 11th. For this reason, the game was known to sometimes have a powerful effect on its players with frequent reports of having nightmares of nuclear holocaust after extended playing.

In 1982 a multi-player sequel was planned but never released. This game would have have been identical to the first except with twice as many cities and batteries and the players cooperating to save each other cities from the onslaught.

Hasbro Interactive released a sequel in 1999, but was considered poor and did not sell well. Hasbro Interactive released a series of Atari classic remakes around the time, most of which quickly found their way to the discount bin.

There is an open source/SDL version of Missile Command called Penguin Command.

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