Legacy of invaders

They’ve arrived from the outer space 40 years ago and invaded our imagination. Hours of daily time was spent fighting with waves of invaders. Patterns were tracked in their movements to choose the best strategy to win. The flickering screens with large pixels and very few colors were windows to our freedom fought by energetic clicking of direction buttons and a laser gun trigger. Buzzing electronic sound followed every shot. It was 1978 and space invaders arrived to video game arcades in our neighborhoods. Those places became harbors on rainy days and competed with football and basketball courts.


Although very far from hyper-realistic video games that now invade our homes, space invaders and other popular 8-bit video games marked another era of human-machine interaction.  Entertainment plays very important role in human lives and development. There is no age limit, no gender bias, everyone likes to relax with a good entertainment.

From 3-button interface, through joysticks, steering wheels, track balls, to movement sensors, stepping sensors, eyeball trackers, the interface between a human and machine for entertainment evolved so that our human sensors and motion could be fast, fluid, with force feedback, so realistic. Displays evolved to super-high definition, 3 dimensions, virtual reality goggles,… and sound into multi-channel, spacial propagation, sometimes even with air and water effects! So realistic, so entertaining.

Space invaders 40 years ago set a baseline for video entertainment. The game set minimum requirements for what machine must be able to produce so that humans would have fun interacting with it. Nowadays, new standards are being established but in the strategy that a machine can define in order to entertain humans. Artificial intelligence is used to move virtual characters through virtual worlds, racing tracks, football fields. Humans like unpredictable, unexpected moves and outcomes. They like taking risk with low negative impact. Humans like even loosing points for a flow of adrenaline when unexpected emotion is triggered.

Do machines have fun playing with humans? Maybe, we will learn in few years from now. Let’s have fun for the time being.