Something happened in the ’80s that forever shaped the way I thought video games would be when I got older. And that something was this scene from the Japanese animated series Macross.
Screened in the West as the first chapter of Robotech, this sequence shows a video game arcade of the future as imagined by the show’s creators in 1982. That future was the distant 2009-10, so technically it’s now the past, but bear with me.
I love how the arcades of this fictional future are still deeply relevant, and attracting crowds of people of all ages and professions. Kids, pensioners, young, old, men, women, everyone’s just hangin’ out and having fun.
Note also the fact that the arcade has a “big screen”, where the game of the moment can be shown live across the entire building, hinting at the esports broadcasts of our actual 21st century reality.
They’re even playing for cash.
The best part, though, is that game itself, which plays out as a recreation of the series’ trademark space dogfighting. Beginning as a very 1980’s 2D shooter, the action soon ramps up into a 3D holographic battlefield, creating a form of digital combat that looks like a hell of a lot of fun.
There’s just something about it that feels real. The game may be fictional, but it exists within a very believable framework, from its camera work to its controls. This isn’t just fantasy, it’s something that the creators thought through, projecting a dream video game into a package that looks like it could actually work.
The creators of Macross may have been a little premature in thinking we’d be playing games like this within 20 years, even with access to the SDF-1’s alien tech, but it’s a place I still hope gaming can get to in the next 20.