The Cold War reached the video game industry in 1980 when Atari released Missile Command. Originally titled Armageddon, the game featured the apocalyptic theme of nuclear warfare. Game designer Dave Theurer spent six months perfecting Missile Command. His hard work paid off when Missile Command became one of the most popular games of the year and established him as a top game designer. Theurer would go on to create another arcade classic: Tempest.
In Missile Command, players defend six California cities against nuclear attack. A trackball controller allows players to quickly aim their own limited number of missiles from three military base silos. The player must intercept the enemy missiles before they destroy the cities at the bottom of the screen. Enemy jets and UFOs also attack by dropping bombs and warheads on the cities. When the last city is destroyed, an explosion fills the screen and flashes an ominous "The End."
Missile Command is a symbol of the Cold War era; it shows just how deep the Cold War penetrated into American culture and everyday life. Missile Command also proved that a theme familiar to all Americans - nuclear warfare - made for an entertaining and successful video game.