Geek Trivia

The Screen Of Space Invaders Was Colored By What?

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Answer: Cellophane

The earliest release of Space Invaders was a cocktail-table version and only came in black and white. By the time the arcade classic made the jump from Japan to the United States, it was redesigned into an upright arcade cabinet; part of that transformation included adding color to the display.

Because color displays were expensive and because the original game didn’t actually support color codes, U.S. designers at Midway Games got creative. In order to add more eye appeal to the simplistic game, they opted to use a mirror-bounce display. The CRT was actually in the cabinet behind the game controls facing straight up towards the ceiling and then bounced off a semi-reflective mirror towards the viewer. By layering cellophane over the CRT, the illusion of color (in this case green and orange) was created. In addition to the cellophane, the depth of the game play was increased by placing space artwork behind the semi-opaque mirror to display graphics the game computer itself was not capable of displaying.

The clever design choice was a hit and distinguished the game; by the end of Space Invaders’ production run. both the U.S. and Japanese cabinets used the cellophane and image-behind-mirror trick.

Image courtesy of Midway Games.