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Star Trek Games

Entry updated 19 October 2020. Tagged: Game, Theme.

The popularity of Star Trek throughout the 1970s and 1980s led to the creation of a number of games which either had a notable effect on the evolution of their particular form or exerted some influence on the development of the franchise as a whole. Perhaps the most significant were the earliest, the various freely distributed unauthorized Computer Wargames which appeared on academic mainframes during the 1970s, and may have been the first works of their kind designed as games to be played rather than as military simulations to be used. The first such work appears to have been Star Trek (1971 Mainframe, Others; vt SPACWR) designed by Mike Mayfield, which used a simple text-based display (often printed out on a teletype in early versions) to present a two-dimensional grid map of the galaxy. While the original concept for the game was influenced by Spacewar (1962), the final gameplay was quite different. Players, in the role of the captain of the television show's USS Enterprise, used a turn-based interface to move, attack and allocate energy between their vessel's shields, weapons and engines, with the eventual aim of destroying all enemy ships in the galaxy. This game was highly popular with students, spawning a bewildering variety of descendants, variants and reimplementations, of which the best known is perhaps the much improved Super Star Trek (1974 Mainframe, Others) designed by Robert Leedom. Another contemporary Computer Wargame which was unofficially based on the franchise was Star Trek (1972 Mainframe, Others) designed by Don Daglow. This work has many similarities to Mike Mayfield's Star Trek, but is distinguished by the use of an interface resembling that of a menu-driven text Adventure rather than a two-dimensional map. These games were highly influential on later Computer Wargames such as Star Fleet I: The War Begins (1983), as well as helping to inspire the first clear example of the space combat Videogame (see Space Sim), Star Raiders (1979).

Many commercial games have since been created based on the Star Trek license. However, one of the most influential was also one of the first: the Wargame Star Fleet Battles (1979), which gave rise to various spinoff games and its own separate version of Star Trek continuity. Another notable early work was Star Trek: The Adventure Game (1985 West End Games) designed by Greg Costikyan, a paragraph system Board Game in which one or two players explore the galaxy and attempt to bring newly discovered worlds into their Federation or Empire. Meanwhile, Star Trek (1982 FASA; rev 1983) designed by Guy McLimore, Greg Poehlein, David Tepool, a successor to the poorly received Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier (1978 Heritage Models) designed by Michael Scott, was a highly popular sf Role Playing Game in the 1980s which attracted many players not otherwise interested in RPGs. This game has some similarities to Traveller (1977), and employs a version of the setting – much influenced by the Star Trek novels of John M Ford – which is often inconsistent with that depicted in later iterations of the television franchise. The wide following attributed to the RPG suggests that it made some contribution to maintaining the popularity of the series between the end of Star Trek (1966-1969) and the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). It produced one spinoff Wargame, Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator (1986 FASA) designed by David Tepool, a board and counter starship combat game based on the relevant portion of the RPG rules.

Early commercial Videogames related to the franchise, many of them based on such films as Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), are generally little remembered today. Perhaps the most respected example is Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (1992 Interplay, DOS; 1993 Mac; 1994 Amiga) designed by Scott Bennie, Elizabeth Danforth, Jayesh Patel, Bruce Schlickbernd, Michael A Stackpole, a combination of starship combat simulator and graphical Adventure presented as a "fourth season" of the original 1960s television series. Star Trek Videogames experienced something of a renaissance at the end of the 1990s, however, beginning with the publication of Starfleet Command (1999), a Real Time Tactics game derived from Star Fleet Battles. A number of popular releases followed, including the Real Time Strategy game Star Trek: Armada (2000 Activision / Mad Doc Software, Win) designed by Eric Gewirtz, Trey Watkins, the First Person Shooter Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force (2000 Raven Software, Mac, Win; 2002 PS2) designed by Christopher Foster – based on the missions of a combat-oriented "Hazard Team" – and the starship combat simulator Star Trek: Bridge Commander (2002 Totally Games, Win) designed by Bill Morrison, Tony Evans, Jess VanDerwalker. The declining popularity of the television franchise during the run of Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005), however, resulted in diminished sales for all of its licensed products. In 2003 this led to one of the more memorable legal actions in the history of the Videogame industry, when the game publisher and license holder Activision sued the television rights owner on the grounds that "through its actions and inactions, Viacom has let the once proud 'Star Trek' franchise stagnate and decay". The case was settled out of court in 2005. Subsequently, the fortunes of the games franchise were to some extent restored by the release of the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Star Trek Online (2010 Cryptic Studios, Win), in which players adopt the roles of starship captains in the state of universal war which exists (in the game's version of the continuity) 30 years after the events of the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). [NT]


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