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The period from the appearance of Space Invaders in 1978 through The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, when 8-bit video games emerged to rule popular culture, coin-operated video arcades appeared in every shopping mall, and the Atari 2600 and its competitors first popularized home gaming. Back then, Sega was known for making Vector Games rather than consoles, and Nintendo's Mario had never stomped on a Goomba. Creativity reigned, and a single visionary designer could still see an entire game through from concept to finished product, unlike the enormous Hollywood-style teams needed for today's high-end game franchises. Shoot Em Ups were especially popular, as outer space and stylized spacecraft were easy to render on the crude hardware of the day.
Your Mileage May Vary about considering this era as a true "golden age", considering the fondness for later generations of consoles. Still, it was the first time video games hit the big time, so it qualifies to some extent.
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