Surround is a video game programmed by Alan Miller and published by Atari, Inc. for the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS).[a] The game plays similarly to the arcade game Blockade (1976), which allows players to navigate a continuously moving block around an enclosed space as a wall trails behind it. Every time the opposite player has their brick hit a wall, the opposing player earns a single point, with the winner being the first to collect ten points.

Surround cover art by Cliff Spohn[1]
Developer(s)Atari, Inc.
Publisher(s)Atari, Inc.
Programmer(s)Alan Miller
Platform(s)Atari 2600
ReleaseSeptember 1977
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Following Gremlin Industries' presentation of Blockade at the 1976 Music Operators of America (MOA) Expo, several other game developers created their own snake-style video games, including Atari with their arcade game Dominos (1977) and the home console game Surround. The game includes various modes of Surround which controlling the speed and the amount of directions the player could move. It features a mode titled "Video Graffiti", that allowed players to create simple digital illustrations.

Surround was among the launch titles for the Atari 2600. Initial reviews noted that the game was complex and generally stating it was a quality game. Retrospective reviews found the graphics and sound for Surround weak, while remaining effective as a two-player competitive game.


A sample round in Surround. The score of the two players is displayed at the top of the screen while the players maneuver their square as it leaves a wall behind them until while player collides with it.

In Surround, two players or one player and a computer-controlled opponent attempt to navigate an enclosed space as a block.[3] As the block moves through the space, a wall trails behind them, forming a barricade. The computer-controlled blocks move automatically across the screen and can be navigated up, down, left and right and, in some modes, diagonally across the playing field.[4] A player earns one point if they manage to make the other player's block to crash into any barricade.[3][5] The first player to reach 10 points wins.[3]

Variations of the competitive game can be chosen that allow for the blocks to speed up to different intervals as the game continues. Other modes allow for diagonal movement, or offer a feature called "Erase", where the player can push the red controller button to stop creating the trail. A final feature offers wraparound, where the leading blocks will wrap around the playfield when leaving the screen. The final two modes are titled "Video Graffiti" and allow the player to create digital illustrations with the joystick.[6] One variant operates like an Etch A Sketch, while the other offers an erase option.[7]



Like many of the Atari VCS launch titles, Surround was based on an established arcade game.[8] Prior to the release of Surround, designer Lane Hauck developed an arcade game Blockade (1976) for Gremlin Industries. When it was shown at the 1976 Music Operators of America (MOA) Expo in Chicago, it proved popular and Gremlin received 3,000 orders of the game.[9][10] At the times of Blockade's release, counterfeiting was high and public demand for the game was not as long-lasting as the company had hoped.[9] As they worked to adapt to their new game to new tech, other companies released similar games such as Ramtek with Barricade, Meadows Games with Bigfoot Bonkers and Atari with Dominos for arcades and Surround for the Atari VCS.[10][11]

Surround was programmed by Alan Miller.[3][12] Miller previously studied computer simulations at Berkeley and graduated in 1972. In 1977, Miller responded to an ad by Atari looking for someone with microprocessor knowledge and was hired and began working on Surround as his first task.[13] In Larry Wagner's notes from Atari at the time, the game was labeled as the Blockade game.[14] Miller discussed the game in a 1982 interview with Bill Kunkel, describing the games graphics as "extremely crude" and its title was in appropriate as "Surrounding your opponent isn't the only, or even the best, way to win. The title, the conception, was weak."[13]

The "Video Graffiti" mode in the game was part of a trend of early consoles such as the Fairchild Channel F, the RCA Studio II, the Bally Astrocade and APF-MP1000 which all contained similar illustration modes.[7]


Surround was one of the launch titles for the Atari Video Computer System, later retitled the Atari 2600.[2]

Surround was released for the Atari VCS in September 1977.[3] The game was among the nine launch title for the console, but was not immediately available as the earliest Atari games other than Combat (1977) were initially available by mail order.[8][15] Competitors released similar games to Blockade for their home consoles around the same period, such as the Bally Astrocade being built-in with Checkmate, the APF-MP1000 with Blockout and years later with Mattel releasing Snafu (1981) for the Intellivision.[16] For the Sears release of the Atari VCS under their Tele-Games label, the game was titled Chase.[3][12] Surround remained in circulation for over a decade, with 97 copies of the game being sold as late as 1988.[17]

Surround was re-released in various compilation formats, such as the Atari 80 in One (2003) for Windows, the Atari Anthology (2004) for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and the Atari 50 (2022) compilation for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Steam, and Xbox One.[18][19] It was also released to portable game compilations such as Atari Greatest Hits for Nintendo DS and iOS-based smartphones.[20][21]



From contemporary reviews, two reviews came from Video, the first review found the game complex and challenging with sound effects that would keep the players alert. The review gave the variations first twelve 12 variations of the game a nine out of ten rating, while the "Video Graffiti" modes were "basically pretty dull" and gave them a five out of ten. [24] Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz (under the name Frank T. Laney II) later reviewed the game in Video magazine, stating they found mode 4 to be the best for solo play, while the computer controlled player did not play aggressively and just tried to avoid making mistakes.[25][26] The two found mode six to be the most competitive and promoted frequent replays.[25] David H. Ahl found the launch titles for the Atari VCS were designed with continuous fun play and that Surround has complex gameplay and fantastic sound effects as well as appreciated the "Video Graffiti" option.[27]

From retrospective reviews, Both the 1983 review from TV Gamer and 1984 Software Encyclopedia issue of Electronic Games stated that the game had low-quality graphics and sound.[23][28] The reviewer in TV Gamer noted that the game was still remained popular and fun, while the Electronic Games magazine specifically praised the gameplay and competitive nature of the game as excellent, giving it an eight out of ten rating.[23][28] Brett Alan Weiss writing for online database AllGame echoed the previous statements of the game's sound and visuals being overly simplistic while two-player matches were highly competitive and entertaining.[22] Kevin Bunch in his book Atari Archive: Vol.1 1977-1978 (2022) declared the game to be one of the highlights of the early days of the Atari VCS, saying its unique gameplay to the system and that the 1970s titles for the system were "frequently overlooked, but Surround is one of the few–alongside with the likes of Combat, Air-Sea Battle and Indy 500–that really holds up."[17]

See also



  1. ^ Lapetino 2016, p. 66.
  2. ^ a b Montfort 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bunch 2022, p. 114.
  4. ^ Atari 1978, p. 2.
  5. ^ Atari 1978, p. 1.
  6. ^ Atari 1978, p. 3.
  7. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 115.
  8. ^ a b Montfort & Bogost 2009, p. 123.
  9. ^ a b Horowitz 2018, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b DeWyze 1982.
  11. ^ Bunch 2022, pp. 158–159.
  12. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 112.
  13. ^ a b Kunkel 1982, p. 13.
  14. ^ Bunch 2022, pp. 114–115.
  15. ^ Bunch 2022, p. 37.
  16. ^ Bunch 2022, p. 115-116.
  17. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 116.
  18. ^ Machkovech 2022.
  19. ^ Harris 2004.
  20. ^ Aaron 2010.
  21. ^ Metacritic.
  22. ^ a b Weiss.
  23. ^ a b c Kunkel, p. 101.
  24. ^ Kaplan 1979, pp. 32–33.
  25. ^ a b Kunkel & Laney 1979, pp. 42–43.
  26. ^ Willaert 2020.
  27. ^ Ahl 1978, p. 38.
  28. ^ a b Williamson 1983, p. 37.


  1. ^ The system became known as the Atari 2600 only after the release of the Atari 5200 in 1982.[2]


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  • "Atari's Greatest Hits". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 27, 2023. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  • Aaron, Sean (August 31, 2010). "Atari's Greatest Hits Hitting the DS in November". NintendoLife. Archived from the original on September 10, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
  • Ahl, David H. (July–August 1978). "A Creative Computing Equipment Profile... Atari Video Computer System". Creative Computing. Vol. 4, no. 4.
  • Bunch, Kevin (2022). Atari Archive: Vol.1 1977-1978. Press Run Books. ISBN 978-1-955183-21-5.
  • DeWyze, Jeannette (July 15, 1982). "San Diego's Gremlin: How Video Games Work". San Diego Reader. Archived from the original on September 20, 2019. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
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  • Montfort, Nick (December 2006). "Combat in Context". Game Studies. 6 (1). ISSN 1604-7982. Archived from the original on April 19, 2024. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  • Montfort, Nick; Bogost, Ian (2009). Racing the Beam. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01257-7.
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  • Willaert, Kate (December 8, 2020). "Who Won in the First Game Awards?". Video Game History Foundation. Archived from the original on April 30, 2024. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
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