Retronauts Episode 480: Breakout

All apologies to Swing Out Sister fans: we have nothing here for you

Imagine you are a stick and you're trapped behind a giant wall. You don't know how you got here; perhaps you won one too many rounds of Pong, raising the ire of the other stick. It doesn't matter how or when or why because you know the only way out is through the wall, and your only weapon is a ball you cannot fully control.

Did I inject a bit of tension into the otherwise serene gameplay that is Breakout? I hope so; I have always found block-breaking games relaxing thanks to their consistently low stakes and the rhythmic flow of the action. Yet the original Breakout is a blank slate as far as narrative goes, so there's no reason we cannot reimagine it as a tense crime drama.

But that's just me, spinning my wheels. This week's podcast is about the actual game Breakout, and the only speculation host Jeremy Parish and Atari Archive's Kevin Bunch participate in is theorizing the many, many video games that descend from Breakout, even ones that feature zero bricks or balls. Frankly, they make a strong case for this descendant of Pong as the ancestor of every space shooter ever made!

Before I check out, since it doesn't come up in the episode, I just wanted to plug Pilgrim in the Microworld, a wonderful book written during the Breakout craze by a man who might have gone a little bit crazy over Breakout.

Description: Jeremy Parish and Kevin Bunch spin back into the 1970s to talk about one of gaming's most important and influential foundational works and where it fits into the grand scheme of the medium's evolution: Atari's Breakout.

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Artwork for this episode by Greg Melo and editing thanks go to Greg Leahy.