Star Trek Video Games - a Short History

Science fiction and computer games go together like peaches and cream, and the hit television show Star Trek has inspired more than 100 video games from the early 1970s to the present day, and will probably still be doing so until the end of (space) time.

It all started in 1971 with a game written in the BASIC programming language, simply entitled "Star Trek", for the Sigma-7 mainframe computer. This placed the player in charge of the Enterprise with the mission of hunting down and destroying a fleet of invading Klingon warships. Using text commands, players engage in an ever-so-slightly overcomplicated version of the classic 'Battleships' game, and as you might expect for a game of this vintage, the graphics are extremely primitive. Nonetheless, it became a classic when it was included in the first million-selling computer book "BASIC Computer Games", which had countless home computer users typing in the hundred-odd lines of code in order to experience the thrill of space combat in their own homes.

Numerous copycat versions of this now-classic game were produced in the ensuing decade, including Super Star Trek, Galaxy, and Apple Trek. Things took a quantum leap forward in 1980 with the launch of Color Software's 3-D Star Trek for the Atari 800, which unlike its predecessors used real-time joystick or keyboard controls and non-text-based graphics to create a more immediately enjoyable arcade game experience.

Three years later, Star Trek games went boldly where no Star Trek game had been before with the Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator arcade game, developed by Sega. Featuring genuine 3D vector graphics, synthesised speech, and a range of viewpoints, this first-person shooter was considered light years ahead of its time on release, and is still considered by many connoisseurs to be the definitive arcade version of the franchise. A review in the August 1983 issue of Electronic Games said that "Star Trek is sure to be a top-grosser in the arcades this year. If you can squeeze through the crowd around the machine, you may never want to leave.". This game was ported to most of the computers and consoles of the era including the Commodore 64, the Apple II, and the Atari range of computers.

This was followed by numerous other Trek games, including a series of text-based adventure games starting with The Kobayashi Alternative in 1985, and indeed most of the official games in the ensuing two decades followed either the adventure game format or the flight-simulator format of the arcade game. One notable exception was Star Trek Pinball, released for Windows in 1997, which saw the visual themes of the franchise transformed into a highly enjoyable computer pinball simulation based around real-life Star Trek pinball cabinets.

As well as computer game adaptations, there have been numerous other electronic versions of Star Trek. The first of these came in 1976 with the Star Trek Super Phaser 2 Target Game, which is largely similar to the infra-red shooting game Laser Tag. There was even a Star Trek casino slot machine developed in 2008, based around the JJ Abrams-led rebooting of the original cast of characters with new actors. This was subsequently adapted into the form of an online slot game, which you can try out for free (or of course, for cash prizes).

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