A t first glance, Atari Football (1978) appeared to be a no-thrills gaming experience. The monochrome screen displayed simple field lines and a few statistics in a rudimentary sans-serif font. The single-channel rarely beeped, and when it did, it was a muffled sound of a kick or a garbled whistle. There were only seven players on each team and were represented simply as X’s and O’s, as if ripped from a coach’s playbook. The tech of the time could not even handle two eleven player teams. However, the game stood out handsomely with its large rolling black trackballs sunken into the unique cocktail table design, a feature unique to most arcade aficionados at the time.
While renowned engineer Jerry Lichac is often recognized as having designed the first video game trackball for Atari Football, that claim to fame actually belongs to Tomohiro Nishikado who designed Soccer for Taito five years earlier in 1973. In fact, Atari Football barely beat Midway’s trackball game Shuffle B Goingoard to the market. However, it is miscredited as the premier trackball game for a reason; it was Atari Football that introduced the control peripheral to the masses.
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