Welcome to the category “Runners-up.” In this feature I write about the games of a given year that were important/influential/noteworthy/pretty darn good, but not excellent enough to be timeless classics. This enables me to write about the games that shaped the medium without giving them a dedicated games appreciation article–that wouldn’t be fair to the other games, and it may confuse readers into playing a substandard game. For this year I only have one runner-up.
Combat |Atari VCS|
Combat was a launch title for the Atari VCS and included 27 variations of Tank (an arcade game from 1974, created by Kee Games). Some variations were played with tanks and others with planes. What is weird about Combat, at least from a modern gamer’s perspective, is that two players are required. Nowadays you would be lucky to find a game that allows for two players (at least locally).
Having become quite experienced at creating PONG games, Atari created Combat with Pong modes as well. To be honest, these variations were extremely similar to each other and the claim of “27 video games” is misleading. Still, very few games if any at the time included variations of any sort, so this stood out. If you would like to read about the technical aspects of making Combat, take a look at Racing the Beam by Ian Bogost.
Combat today doesn’t have a whole lot to offer, being that it was a “foundation,” if you will. Its gameplay is very simplistic and somewhat clunky to control. Still, to the gamer of that era who had never seen anything like this before, it was a welcome change of pace (or it would have been, if not for the video game crash of 1977. D’oh!).