Habitat, the first ever graphical massively multiplayer online game, emerged on the Commodore 64 home micro computer in 1986. Because the game was the first of its kind, its developers tried a number of odd experiments that would never be repeated in the online games of today. The game shut down after only two years, but it survived for a time in the offshoot game Club Caribe.

In 2017, the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment partnered with a few of Habitat’s original creators to bring the game back to life, 30 years after its demise. It was completely unprecedented for a museum to revive an online game and make its servers publicly accessible. The MADE argued in front of US copyright courts, and were able to secure an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that makes projects like this far more viable going forward.

Today, the revived Habitat (referred to as NeoHabitat) can be played in a web browser for free, and anyone can easily log on and socialize in this time capsule of the late-80’s. We spoke with Steve Salevan, one of the main software developers on the project, to learn about Habitat’s history, and how its revival was accomplished.


Music from this Episode

Because Habitat did not have background music beyond the startup/loading jingle, for this episode we used two ambient pieces by the band 8 Bit Weapon. Both pieces were created using the Commodore 64's SID sound chip.

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