What’s the back-story to the “Defender” video game?

People not playing Defender, the third console from the left (photo by Rob DiCaterino – CC-BY)

Defender” was a coin-operated arcade game from the 1980. I wrote this whimsical back-story at the time. If you’ve played the game, you’ll understand this story. This article was previously posted to Google Knol.

It was April when aliens discovered the taste of human flesh. Since then they had been sending Landers to the surface to capture our astronauts.

As the most experienced space pilot in the inner solar system, I was appointed head of the Defenders. It was my job to cruise in orbit and destroy the aliens before they could attack our men.

In the scanner now I could see three or four Landers approaching. Landers are easy picking, but I knew that the enemy warships couldn’t be far behind. Putting the engines on full thrust, I sped towards the Landers, spraying them with a hail of missiles. Got them!

Ahead of me now were some alien Bombers. They started to retreat, leaving a trail of space mines so that I couldn’t pursue. But with my ship’s superior speed I was able to move around the side of the group and attack them from in front where they were unprotected.

There was a Pod approaching, so I shot it. I got it but (as Pods do) it released its cargo of about a dozen Swarmers just before impact. These little buggers move fast, shoot well and seem to have Kamikazi instincts. I shot a few and moved away, dodging missles and Swarmers everywhere.

With all the excitement, I hadn’t seen the Landers sneak down and snatch up an astronaut. If I destroyed the navigation cabin of the Lander in time, I could still rescue our man. I pursued the Lander and fired, but destroyed the whole craft and lost the astronaut. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The remaining Swarmers were grouping and heading my way. Jim, my co-pilot, suggested we use our last remaining Smart Bomb to wipe out the lot of them. I took care of navigating while Jim checked the range limits of the bomb. When they seemed to be within range, he shouted “Now!” and I set off the bomb. Damn! Got them all except one!

Then everything happened so quickly. I had turned to take care of the last Swarmer when the Baiter flew past trying to distract me. But I knew it would retreat if I hit the Swarmer. I headed for the Swarmer and fired—but the missile didn’t appear. What a time for a malfunction! There was no time to change course and I hit the Swarmer head on.

The fuel tanks exploded and my ship started to disintegrate. This was the end! After all my courage and skill, how terrible to end this way.

I sighed, and took another 20 cent coin from my pocket. I fed it to the machine, determined to do better this time…

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