Simon: The Simple Game That Became An Icon


As far as retro games go, nothing captures the spirit of the times better than Simon. Born in 1978, Simon was introduced to the world in some style, including a midnight release party at Studio 54, New York’s infamously elite nightclub. From New York, Simon went international and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he became one of the most popular and best-selling games in the world.

Named after the child’s game Simon Says, Simon is a game of light and sound that follows pretty much the same sort of rules as the youngsters’ entertainment that inspired it. Simon unleashes a random sequence of lights and asks for players to repeat it by pressing the coloured pads in the correct order. Of course, as the game continues, it becomes more demanding. Simon extends the length of each subsequent sequence, and this is where the game becomes a test of coordination and memory. If a player presses the wrong coloured pad during these tricky sequences, Simon lets out a pleasingly loud raspberry sound.

The lights and sounds of the game mask the fact that Simon is a very simple game to play. This is part of its appeal but its unique UFO-like appearance has also made it something of a pop culture icon. It appeared in Stephen King’s novel The Tommyknockers, where a Simon game is left on the back seat of a car and activates itself and in a prolonged and increasingly crazed game sequence of lights and sounds, it overheats and melts before going up in flames. Better behaved versions of Simon have also appeared on film and television, including Family Guy, American Dad, Paranormal Activity and Silicon Valley.

In the early 1980s, an episode of the popular American detective show Hart to Hart made Simon a household name in New Zealand. The show featured the lead characters, Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, playing a game of Simon. That episode aired towards the end of the year and excited an entire nation, with Simon becoming a very popular Christmas gift that year.

The original edition of Simon, as played on Hart to Hart, was quite a large unit and not exactly easy to carry around. In recent years, portable versions have been created and this has contributed to its ongoing success. Simon continues to sell in huge numbers all around the world and is just one example of a retro game that will never go out of style. Having said that, any game launched at the very elite Studio 54 in New York City always had a lot of style to begin with.

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