Atari’s 1981 arcade hit Tempest was a “tube shooter” built around glowing, vector-based geometric shapes. Among its many important contributions to both game and cultural history, Tempest was one of the first commercial titles to allow players to choose the game’s initial play difficulty (a system Atari dubbed “SkillStep”), a feature that has since became standard for games of all types. Tempest was also one of the most aesthetically impactful games of the twentieth century, lending its crisp, vector aesthetic to many subsequent movies, television shows, and video games. In this book, Ruggill and McAllister enumerate and analyze Tempest’s landmark qualities, exploring the game’s aesthetics, development context, and connections to and impact on video game history and culture. By describing the game in technical, historical, and ludic detail, they unpack the game’s latent and manifest audio-visual iconography and the ideological meanings this iconography evokes.
“Searching for the landmarks of video games Tempest may not be the first game coming to your mind—but after reading this book you’ll understand why this game is surprisingly significant in its deployments and evocations. Performing a real close reading of the game, Ruggill and McAllister’s book is not only an aesthetical and textual analysis of Tempest (and its rich and powerful influence) but also an important guide to understanding the industrial and cultural history of the earliest video games.”
—Rolf Nohr, HBK Braunschweig
“Ruggill and McAllister have dived into Tempest and emerged from the vortext with a concise analysis that puts this game in historical context and deepens its complicated legacy as a design model and cultural icon.”
—Henry Lowood, Stanford University
“In Tempest Ruggill and McAllister provide a monumental schematic for the historical analysis of digital games. Drawing upon cultural, social, and geo-political circumstances, the authors illustrate Tempest’s historicity: its design, production, and consumption as inextricably enmeshed within the peculiarities of 1980s America, the reverberations of which are still palpable in today’s market. Written in an eloquent, at times poetic style, Tempest sets the bar for future scholarship on landmark games.”
—Steven Conway, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia