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Geometries of Play

Judd Ethan Ruggill and Ken S. McAllister

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan Press
Published: 01/2015
Pages: 168
Subject: Computers - Digital Media/Video & Animation
Print ISBN: 9780472052691
eBook ISBN: 9780472900107


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� 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