Death Race -- A morbid tale
A recollection of stories from gaming's past
by Brian Deuel


Death Race- a morbid tale

Exidy's Death Race (or Death Race 2000, as many have called it) made its glorious debut in 1976 and left its mark in history as one of the first morbid games created. Like Desert Patrol and Shark Attack before it (1/6/00 NOTE: actually, these games came AFTER Death Race, and were microprocessor-based; Death Race's computer was TTL logic), Death Race had elements of a, well, gruesome nature.

In Death Race, the player controlled a little white car with a steering wheel and an accelerator pedal. The object of the game was to run down "gremlins" that tried in vain to flee your vehicle. When caught, these humanlike creatures would scream or squeal loudly (depending on how the operator set the scream), and a cross popped up in its place. As these crosses cluttered up the road, the challenge increased as the player had to avoid these as well. When the player inevitably hit one of these crosses, the result was one of the loudest and sickest crash sounds ever programmed into a coin-op! The cabinet was decorated with tombstones, the Grim Reaper, and skeletons driving hotrods, and a rating system, depending on how many points you scored:

1-3 POINTS: SKELETON CHASER 4-10 POINTS: BONE CRACKER 11-20 POINTS: GREMLIN HUNTER 21 POINTS OR OVER: EXPERT DRIVER

Death Race touched off a fire of controversy. It was covered in magazines such as the "National Enquirer" and "Midnight", and was criticized for being sick and morbid by the National Safety Council and NBC's "Weekend" news show. "60 Minutes" even did a show on the psycological impact of video games. Pete Kaufman, president of Exidy at the time, denied that the company was promoting violence, and the company watched as the controversy increased their sales, and others. Death Race was released at a time when the arcade circuit was floundering, and everyone's machines started selling better due to the attention.

There actually was a sequel to Death Race! In 1977, Exidy released Super Death Chase. The object here was to run down skeletons. Occasionally a ghost would appear, and mowing it down would give you bonus points.

So, if you ever wondered what sick mind would create a game such as Carmaggeddon, just look back in gaming history to Death Race!!

Special thanks to Al Kossow from www.spies.com for allowing me to reproduce the 'Deathrace' screenshots