10 Fascinating Facts About Space Invaders

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by Ryan Lambie

With its seemingly endless army of aliens slowly marching down the screen, the thump-thump-thump of its sound effects, and its dodge-and-shoot action, Space Invaders was one of the earliest icons in video gaming.

Made at a time when the industry was still in its infancy, Space Invaders could easily have looked and sounded very different. It was a worldwide hit and sparked a moral panic, yet for years, its designer remained anonymous. Here's a look at some of the fascinating facts behind the story of Space Invaders.

1. ITS CREATOR HAD NO INTENTION OF ENTERING THE GAMING INDUSTRY.

Fascinated by science and electronics as a child, Tomohiro Nishikado studied engineering at Tokyo Denki University and graduated in 1968. Nishikado initially specialized in television circuitry, but a year after his graduation, he managed to get a job at Taito, an electronics company just moving into making video games.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY BREAKOUT.

Nishikado created some of the earliest home-grown games in Japan, including Davis Cup and Soccer. These were both bat-and-ball games, inspired by the seminal Pong. By 1976, Nishikado became fascinated by Atari's Breakout, itself an evolution of the bat-and-ball mechanics of Pong.

“I was determined to come up with something that was even better than Breakout,” Nishikado told The New Yorker. What if, he thought, the bricks at the top of the screen didn't just wait to be struck by the player's bouncing ball, but actually moved and fired back?

3. EARLY VERSIONS OF THE GAME WERE MUCH DIFFERENT.

With this inspiration at the front of his mind, Nishikado began to devise a dynamic shooting game, with the player hunkered down at the bottom of the screen and an army of enemies slowly advancing from the top. The space theme didn't arrive until later in development.

Nishikado's initial idea had the player shooting down planes, tanks, and soldiers; the latter idea was rejected by Nishikado's bosses at Taito, who did not want a game featuring "the image of war." Nishikado was inspired to use a space setting once news of the popularity of Star Wars began to reach Japan. He also found the idea for the aquatic alien invaders from H.G. Wells's sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds. He modeled his sprite designs on various sea creatures, including squids, crabs, and octopuses.

4. IT FEATURED A NUMBER OF INNOVATIVE IDEAS.

At a time when game design was still in its nascent stages in Japan, Nishikado spent a year building what would become Space Invaders. But while he wrestled with the limitations of technology, he managed to work a number of innovations into his concept: Space Invaders's introduction of barriers which slowly dissolved under enemy fire had never been seen before. It also saved the previous highest score, thus daring the next player to try to beat it.

Even the game's technical limitations positively affected the gameplay: As the invaders are destroyed, the load on the microprocessor decreases and the aliens' movement—and accompanying soundtrack—speed up. For perhaps the first time, a video game didn't just feel challenging—it felt intimidating.

5. SALES WERE INITIALLY SLOW.

Space Invaders's success was by no means assured from day one. Within Taito, management was unconvinced by it; when the game was shown to arcade operators, their response was similarly muted. "The feedback was almost entirely negative," Nishikado recalled. "Very few orders were placed."

6. IT REVERSED A SLUMP IN THE VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY.

Players, as we now know, responded ecstatically to Space Invaders. Popular within months, some 100,000 Space Invaders cabinets were installed in arcades and Pachinko parlors up and down Japan by the end of 1978. An industry which had begun to slump under the weight of Pong and Breakout clones was suddenly revived by Space Invaders, and the game grossed $600 million in 1978.

7. IT SPARKED A MINOR MORAL PANIC.

With any phenomenon comes a backlash. While oft-repeated tales of a coin shortage in Japan are a myth, it was but one story attached to the game at the height of Space Invaders mania. Soon after the arcade game came out, a 12-year-old boy in Japan, armed with a shotgun, tried to relieve a bank of its coins so that he could spend them on Space Invaders. The moral panic spread to the UK, where Space Invaders was blamed for an increase in burglaries. In 1981, Labour MP George Foulkes put a bill through parliament called Control of Space Invaders (and other Electronic Games).

8. MARTIN AMIS WROTE A BOOK ON THE GAME.

While some politicians and newspaper columnists got in a lather over Space Invaders, the game was championed by Martin Amis, author of Time's Arrow and London Fields.

Published in 1982, Invasion Of The Space Invaders offered an essay on video gaming's cultural impact, and also tips on how to get high scores in Taito's hit and other arcade machines. "Advice: position your tank under the eave of a defensive and keep your eye on the aliens," Amis wrote, "not on the bombs."

Now out of print, the book is a sought-after collector's item.

9. FOR YEARS, ITS CREATOR REMAINED ANONYMOUS.

Although Space Invaders was a phenomenon, Nishikado was far from a celebrity as a result. His name was never put on the game, and for many years, he was contractually obliged not to reveal that he'd even made Space Invaders. The New Yorker reported that, sadly, Nishikado's promotion after Space Invaders was released took him away from creating games. "I spent most of my time managing other employees," he said.

10. ITS CREATOR WAS NEVER ANY GOOD AT THE GAME.

While Tomohiro Nishikado was responsible for making one of the most influential games ever, he admits to never being able to make it much further than the first screen. "Had it been up to me," he says, "Space Invaders would have been a far easier game."

16 Movies That Almost Starred Al Pacino

Steve Wood/Getty Images
Steve Wood/Getty Images

Though he’s often been called one of the greatest actors of his generation, Al Pacino will no doubt be remembered as one of the greatest actors of all time. After making his movie debut opposite Patty Duke in 1969’s Me, Natalie, Pacino would go on to become one of the most seminal figures in the “New Hollywood” movement of the 1970s (the pre-blockbuster era in which the counterculture became the mainstream) with starring roles in The Godfather trilogy, Scarecrow, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Bobby Deerfield, and …And Justice for All.

Though he’s racked up more than 50 credits in his 50-year career, Pacino has also turned down plenty of roles (including several in truly great movies). When asked about his track record for saying no in 2013, Pacino explained, “I’m not a very good judge of what’s good.” Here are 16 roles that could have been.

1. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971)

Super-producer Robert Evans needed to call in a lot of favors to get Pacino out of the commitment he had made to playing Mario in James Goldstone’s Mafia comedy. The reason for the change of heart? Two days after agreeing to the part, he was offered the role of Michael Corleone. Eventually, Robert De Niro played the part that was meant for Pacino.

2. Lenny (1974)

In 2010, Pacino told Larry King that turning down the title role in Bob Fosse’s Lenny Bruce biopic is one of his biggest regrets. Though he didn’t originally think it was for him, after seeing a comic perform live, “I suddenly saw what I would want to do with this part.” At that point, it was too late—though Pacino calls Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-nominated performance in the part “amazing.”

3. Star Wars (1977)

For years, rumors have swirled about the many actors who turned down the role of Han Solo, opening the path for Harrison Ford to make it his own. In 2013, Pacino spoke out on why he passed on the part, telling a crowd during a Q&A, “Star Wars was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.”

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Speaking of classic sci-fi flicks that Pacino declined, Steven Spielberg had a host of actors on his wish list before offering the role to Richard Dreyfuss—Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, James Caan, and Pacino among them.

5. Slap Shot (1977)

In Al Pacino, journalist Lawrence Grobel’s extended interview-turned-semi-autobiography of the actor, Pacino cites Slap Shot as a movie he still wishes he had been able to make. “But because George Roy Hill was doing it, I couldn’t do it,” he explained.

“I should have made that movie. That was my kind of character—the hockey player. Paul Newman is a great actor, it’s not a matter of that. I read that script and passed it on to George Roy Hill that I wanted to talk to him about it, and all he said was, ‘Can he ice skate?’ That’s all he was interested in, whether I could ice skate or not. That was a certain kind of comment. He didn’t want to talk about anything else. It was like he was saying, 'What the hell, it could work with anybody.’ The way in which he responded said to me he wasn’t interested.”

6. Days of Heaven (1978)

In Grobel’s book, Pacino cites Days of Heaven as one of the roles that he was truly conflicted over, saying, “I love Terrence Malick, and I love the picture.” According to Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Dustin Hoffman also turned down the lead, which eventually became a breakthrough role for Richard Gere.

7. Coming Home (1978)

Alongside Days of Heaven, Pacino also told Grobel that saying no to the lead role in Coming Home (the role that won Jon Voight an Oscar) was a tough call. But he had his reasons. “I was hoping to make Born on the Fourth of July at that time,” he said. “It was too close.”

8. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Do the math and it’s pretty obvious that the version of Born on the Fourth of July that Pacino was hoping to make back in the late 1970s was a bit different from the late 1980s film that earned Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination. Yes, Oliver Stone was still involved, but only as the screenwriter. William Friedkin was set to direct, but when he dropped out, Pacino wanted out, too. “I had an interest in making it with Billy,” Pacino says in Al Pacino. “So, suddenly, Friedkin is out of the picture—now what? I wasn’t going to make that movie.”

9. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Pacino didn’t even have to read the script for Robert Benton’s Oscar-winning divorce drama to know it wasn’t right for him. “There were times in my life when I didn’t even read what was being offered me,” he told Grobel. “Sometimes I can smell something that’s not right for me … I had a feeling it was not for me … I didn’t feel, at this point, it would be useful.” (Dustin Hoffman won his first Oscar playing the role of Ted Kramer.)

10. Apocalypse Now (1979)

After two successful Godfather go-arounds with Francis Ford Coppola, Pacino knew enough about the director’s work habits to know that he would not be a good fit to play Willard (Martin Sheen’s part) in Apocalypse Now. “I know what this is going to be like,” Pacino told Coppola. “You're going to be up there in a helicopter telling me what to do, and I'm gonna be down there in a swamp for five months.” Pacino balked at the idea of five months of shooting, but the film actually took 16 months to be completed.

11. First Blood (1982)

Based on David Morrell’s 1972 book, and optioned quickly, First Blood is one of those movies that had a number of director-star configurations attached before finally making it into production. Martin Ritt wanted Paul Newman to do it, Sydney Pollack wanted Steve McQueen, and by 1975, Martin Bregman was attached with Pacino to star as John Rambo, when it was a much different movie. “People would have understood the character, but they wouldn’t have had empathy,” original screenwriter David Rabe explained in Douglas Robinson’s book, No Less a Man: Masculist Art in a Feminist Age. “There is a kind of violence that excites an audience and makes them feel that it’s a lot of fun. Mine was not.” Many sources say that Pacino eventually opted out because he wanted Rambo to be more of a "madman."

12. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Before it became a showcase for the comedic stylings of Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop was a much edgier crime thriller that at different times was offered to Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg to direct. Plenty of big-name actors besides Pacino turned down the role of Axel Foley, too (Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, and James Caan apparently among them).

13. Die Hard (1988)

During a freewheeling crowd Q&A in 2013, when confronted with the list of major movies that he turned down, Pacino had only this to say about Bruce Willis’ iconic role in Die Hard: “I gave that boy a career.”

14. Johnny Handsome (1989)

Though Pacino would later go on to work with director Harold Becker in Sea of Love and City Hall, in Grobel’s book, the actor explains that he first met Becker while they were developing Johnny Handsome:

“Harold and I were trying to find a third act, and we couldn’t. The first half of that movie is great. That was my favorite role ever in movies. I loved the whole idea of someone who’s been grotesque-looking and has made a life having to cope with that kind of deformity, to then have it lifted from him, and to have to cope with the world now … I loved the role. Loved it. But once again, one of those roles that just go down the drain if they couldn’t fix the last act. Mickey Rourke did a great job on it, but that didn’t matter; the movie didn’t have the finish.”

15. Snake Eyes (1998)

In 1997, Pacino was set to re-team yet again with his Scarface and Carlito’s Way director Brian De Palma on the Nicolas Cage film Snake Eyes. Until he wasn't. On July 11, 1997, Variety reported that, “After months of talks between filmmaker Brian De Palma, Paramount execs, and Al Pacino about starring opposite Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes, Pacino officially has passed. The studio now is eyeing a handful of other actors, including Gary Sinise, to star the action thriller written by David Koepp.” (Sinise did take the part.)

16. Pretty Woman (1990)

Before you try and picture Pacino in the role made famous by Richard Gere, it’s key to remember that Pretty Woman was originally a much darker tale. Still, in 2010, Pacino explained to Larry King that, “Sometimes it's just not the right role for you and you don't feel you belong in that part.”

13 For Sure Facts About Valley Girl

Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage are, like, totally bitchin' in Valley Girl (1983).
Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage are, like, totally bitchin' in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

You can thank the hit 1983 movie Valley Girl for mainstreaming phrases like “for sure” and “gag me.” Valspeak had been around since before the film, which grossed $17.3 million against a $600,000 budget, but the movie helped depict “Valley Girls” in a more positive light. The movie stars Deborah Foreman as a Valley Girl named Julie, who falls in love with a Hollywood punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage), despite the disapproval of their friends.

The film marked Cage’s first major role, and his quirkiness was evident from the get-go (more on that later). Directed by Martha Coolidge (who was paid just $5000 for the gig), Valley Girl endures as both a timeless teen rom-com and a great all-around film—and is about to get a musical reboot. Here are 13 tubular facts about the original movie.

1. Valley Girl is based on Romeo and Juliet.

It’s not a coincidence that Valley Girl's star-crossed lovers are named Randy and Julie, nor is it accidental that they share a kiss in front of a movie theater marquee for Romeo and Juliet. “Yes, it was intentional, and it was a love story,” Martha Coolidge told the Kickin’ It Old School blog. “So I worked to bring it even more out front. I created a Valley look and a Hollywood look. This heightened the stakes for Randy and Julie, just as the differences between the families did in Romeo and Juliet. The parallels were always meant to be fun and not super serious but were based on truthful observations about the local conflicts and real teen pressures. It’s not about marriage, but about love and growing up and differentiating enough to love.”

In the first version of the script, written by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, a falling-in-love scene and a break-up scene were left out, so Coolidge worked with the writers to add those in.

2. Valley Girl is named after a Frank Zappa song, but he didn't want it associated with the movie.

A year before Valley Girl was released in theaters, Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit had an unexpected hit song with “Valley Girl,” in which Moon exaggerates Valspeak over her dad’s music. In an interview, Zappa said, “I don’t want people to act like that. I think Valley Girls are disgusting.”

In a 1982 interview with Billboard, Zappa again expressed his distaste: “People think that ‘Valley Girl’ is a happy kind of song, but it isn’t. I’ve always hated the San Fernando Valley. It’s a most depressing place.” At the time, he said he was open to collaborating on a script about the song as long as the movie wouldn’t be like Beach Blanket Bingo. But when the movie went into production, Zappa asked a judge to halt production of it because it infringed on the song’s copyright, and filed a suit for $100,000 in punitive damages.

3. Martha Coolidge hired Nicolas Cage for the lead without realizing he was a Coppola.

Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl (1983)
Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

Before Valley Girl came to be, Coolidge had developed a script at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope, but the project never came to fruition. When she signed on to direct Valley Girl, she was desperate to find a leading actor who wasn’t a “pretty boy.” “We saw everybody from that generation,” Coolidge said at a 2011 screening of Valley Girl, moderated by Kevin Smith. “All those Brat Packers or whatever, they came and I rejected all of them. I almost cast Judd Nelson, and he was tied up, which was probably lucky for me.” During the casting process, she walked over to a pile of headshots and came across one titled “Nicolas Cage,” and after seeing his audition, she decided she wanted him for Randy.

Cage told her he couldn’t do the part, because he was committed to acting in Coppola’s Rumblefish. Coolidge didn’t realize Francis was Cage’s uncle until she called the production company to resolve the conflict, and was told that Nic’s actual surname was Coppola.

4. Martha Coolidge (unsuccessfully) fought to make the cast more diverse.

“I wanted one of the four girls to be black, but [the studio] refused,” Coolidge said at a screening of Valley Girl, discussing the lack of diversity in the cast. “I just did the best I could under the circumstances.”

5. In order to get into character, Nicolas Cage lived in his car while filming Valley Girl.

To get into character, Cage lived in his car while shooting the movie. “I remember chastising him about the danger of living in his car in Hollywood, and how we couldn’t call him,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “He said he’d use pay phones—we didn’t have cell phones then! Later, during Birdy, he lived with bandages around his head, which made it difficult for him to eat, so maybe we were lucky.”

6. Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman had palpable chemistry.

Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in Valley Girl (1983)
Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

“I loved [Cage’s] eyes, and I thought he had great energy,” Foreman told the Tampa Bay Times of her co-star. “I thought he was scary to me. Emotionally, I was feeling stuff inside. He was triggering stuff in me that I had never experienced in my life. I didn’t even have a boyfriend prior to that movie … I had strong feelings for Nic. When the film ended, we had a conversation. I actually went up to San Francisco with him for a weekend. When we came back, an ultimatum was made—let’s just put it that way. And I decided not to go with the ultimatum, and we were never together after that.”

For Foreman, the break-up scene in the movie was difficult. “I think deep down, I didn’t want to be breaking up with him! And I didn’t even want to go there, to predestine myself,” she said. “I was really resisting the whole experience. It was uncomfortable beyond means. That was the longest we spent on any scene. It was a struggle. Even when I watch it now, I go, ‘Wow, that's so uncomfortable.’”

7. Elizabeth "E.G." Daily wasn't a Valley Girl in real life.

Elizabeth Daily’s character, Loryn, didn’t have a Valley Girl accent, and that was on purpose. “I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing that much, so I pretended my character was actually from Malibu,” she said. “I was such a rocker from the [Sunset] Strip that I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing, but I think it was kind of accurate, actually. There are people that actually talk like that from the Valley. It’s pretty funny.”

If Daily’s non-Valley Girl voice sounds familiar, it’s because she has since moved on to a successful voice acting career, doing the voice of The Rugrats’ Tommy Pickles, as well as work on The Powerpuff Girls, Happy Feet, and Wreck-It Ralph; in 2013 she auditioned for The Voice.

8. Nicolas Cage was so hairy, he had to shave his chest.

For an 18-year-old, Cage was quite hirsute, so Coolidge asked him to shave his chest to look younger. “There was an artistic bent to it, for his character,” Foreman told the Yo Show. “He looked more mature with all that hair that he had. They found a middle ground for it.” Cage shaved his hair into a V-like shape, which can be seen in the beach scene above.

9. The Valley Girl soundtrack got pulled at the last minute.

One of the things Valley Girl is known for is its excellent New Wave soundtrack, featuring Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” the Plimsouls, and an array of other ’80s songs. Though it was a shoestring budget film, $250,000 of that budget went toward music clearance rights. A Clash song plays in an earlier print but it got switched to a Men at Work song later, and the studio refused to redo the print to bring the credits up to date “They didn’t care if the credits were correct, they just didn’t want to spend that large amount of money,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “So CBS pulled the soundtrack album at the last minute. The film was released with the new songs in it and some of the music credits were completely wrong.” A mini-album was released, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Rhino Records released a full soundtrack.

10. The Los Angeles band X was supposed to be in the movie instead of The Plimsouls.

During a scene at Club Central, the live band playing in the background is The Plimsouls, who contributed their hit “A Million Miles Away” to the soundtrack. But during the Kevin Smith screening, Coolidge revealed that she originally tapped the band X to be in the scene. “It was going to be X, and we were in talks. It was very serious and then all of a sudden they kind of freaked out and they said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to alienate our Valley fans,’ and they passed.”

11. Martha Coolidge was given artistic freedom on Valley Girl ... as long as she made sure there was some nudity.

Atlantic Releasing distributed the movie, and they wanted it to appeal to men, which meant that they wanted it to include some nudity, so Coolidge agreed to include a few boob shots. “They said they didn’t care how it was done, they ‘just wanted to see them.’ We shook hands on it,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “They considered the film an ‘exploitation genre film’ meant for guys. The real success happened when we showed them the finished film. They jumped up and gasped, ‘It’s a real movie!’ They no longer obsessed about how many times they saw naked breasts in the film, which was barely three, and one frame of a fourth … When the studio saw it, they knew it was better to have a good, real film than a mediocre exploitation film. It put them on the map.”

12. Deborah Foreman isn't on the Valley Girl poster, possibly due to financial reasons.

The artwork for the poster features Nic Cage standing next to a woman who is not only not Deborah Foreman, but a woman who does not appear in the movie at all. “Deborah had worked in the business and she was pretty strict about being paid,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “When the company needed the actors to be ‘generous with them’ about hours or rules, Deborah was not as forgiving as some of the others. When the poster came up for whatever reason—and it may have been simply that she wanted to be paid—the company brought in a model rather than Deborah. I was shocked and thought it was petty and a really bad idea. But there was nothing I could do about it.”

In a 2013 interview with the Yo Show, Foreman simply said, “If I was the producer I would never have let that happen. I don’t know the facts on it.”

13. A musical remake of Valley Girl has been in the works for years, and is finally being released in May 2020.

Since 2009, a musical film version of Valley Girl has been talked about. First, Jason Moore was attached to direct, but in 2012 Clay Weiner came aboard to direct the Paramount/MGM movie. According to an article in Deadline at the time, “In the musical, the actors will sing ’80s New Wave tunes from bands like The Go-Go’s and The Cars.” Finally, the film has a release date: May 8, 2020—now with Emmy Award-winning director Rachel Lee Goldenberg at the helm.

This story has been updated for 2020.

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