Perusing the fantastic resources at the Killer List of Video Games led me to Goal IV. Released in 1975, this four player Pong variant was a cocktail style cabinet. The description at KLOV states “In multiplayer mode, players can compete against each other or can team up and play against computer.” This sure sounds like co-op, doesn’t it? If only I had some way to test it myself. Unfortunately, the earliest video games are difficult to find in the wild, and also almost impossible to experience via emulation, for a variety of reasons. My chances of playing Goal IV myself were almost nil.
However, there was hope. KLOV listed two collectors who owned Goal IV cabinets. I sent a message to each, and heard back from a fellow named Matt Ossman. Matt was extremely helpful, and informed me that the Goal IV cabinet was in storage, but he would check it out for me soon. I was hopeful that Goal IV was the one I had been looking for, and eagerly awaited Matt’s response.
Matt went far above and beyond what I expected, providing plenty of pictures, and even recording a couple minutes of Goal IV in action. This was the next best thing to being there and trying it out for myself. You can see the pictures in this very article, and the video is embedded below.
Unfortunately, Matt informed me that there was no real cooperative mode in the game. Often, gamers consider team games, where one team competes against another, as co-op, but that is not what we are looking for here at Co-Optimus. Likely, whoever described the game as a co-op was under this misconception. A picture from the Goal IV manual confirmed that 1 vs. computer and 2 vs. 2 were the only gameplay modes. So close, but no quite co-op. It’s unfortunate, because Goal IV is a charming game, with a deliciously retro look to it.
And so, the search for the first co-op game in arcade history goes on. Somewhere out there, in someone’s basement, or perhaps a dusty corner of closet in a bowling alley, the oldest cooperative video game exists. Maybe it’s a Pong variant, maybe it’s something entirely different. We just don’t know. For now, Fire Truck and Sea Wolf II hold the title. And the quest for the first Co-Op Classic continues.
A big thanks goes out to Matt Ossman for the excellent pictures, video, and assistance!