Sunday 26 August 2012


Pac-Man "geek picture of the day" courtesy of Forbes
"Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap one's mouth open and closed. They changed it because they thought Puck-Man would be too easy to vandalize, you know, like people could just scratch off the P and turn it into an F or whatever."

This little piece of trivia from the title character in the 2010 movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which is awesomez by the way) is actually true. The original Japanese version of Pac-Man from 1980 was called Puck-Man, but it was changed to Pac-Man by the time it was released in the west.

The objective of the game is to eat all the dots in a maze and not get caught by the ghosts. If Pac-Man eats one of the four larger "power-pellets", he can also eat the ghosts for a short time.

The game was designed by Tōru Iwatani at Namco. He felt that video-gaming at the time, with its predominantly Space Invaders inspired themes was male dominated, and wanted to create a concept that could have wider appeal, hopefully bringing females into the arcades. The concept he settled on was eating. The ghosts were also specifically designed to look cute as opposed to scary, and were colored in pastels. It worked brilliantly, and Pac-Man ended up being the first video-game that had a significant female player base.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The rise of Mario

Donkey Kong flyer, courtesy of TAFA
Once upon a time in the early eighties, when Nintendo was trying to break into the US gaming market, one of their games called Radar Scope which had been quite successful in Japan was shipped in large quantities across the pond. Upon arriving it didn't sell. In order to move the unsold inventory, one of Nintendo's designers was tasked with converting the excess machines into something that would appeal to an American audience.

In order to do this, the designer wanted to create a game based on Popeye the Sailor, in which Bluto kidnapps Olive and Popeye has to save her. The licensing deal with the Popeye character's owner: King Features Syndicate, did however not work out at the time, so the designer had to change the concept. Instead Popeye became a jumping, hammer-wielding carpenter in blue and red overalls called "Jumpman", Bluto was changed into a gorilla named "Kong" and Olive became a generic damsel in distress, originally just referred to as "Lady". The object of the game is to climb to the top of the screen to save the girl, whilst avoiding or jumping over stuff that can hurt you and collecting objects along the way for points. When the new game arrived at the offices of Nintendo's newly established American division, the head sales manager hated it because there was no shooting in it.

Friday 10 August 2012

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."

Star Wars movie poster by Tom Jung (1977)
Space was considered very awesome in the late seventies. One of the main reasons for this was the movie: Star Wars which premiered in 1977. I grew up in a small fishing village in the North of Norway, where we didn't actually get Star Wars until sometime during the early eighties, because that was when the late seventies got there... But i digress!

About a year after Star Wars, the game Space Invaders was released. This was the game that imprinted on my mind the awesomeness of gaming. I had seen video games before... Mostly variants of the game Pong which came out before I was even born... But what all those games had in common was that they were lame interpretations of sports like tennis or football. But Space Invaders had ALIENS that you had to shoot with LASERS in order to stop them from eating your face!!! (At least that was how it was in my imagination)

Space Invaders was so awesome for its time that it is generally considered to be the game that started off the golden age of arcade video games, which lasted from about 1978 - 1983. A lot of the games from this period were about space, aliens and lasers.

Another likely reason for this was that the hardware used to run the games at the beginning of this era, had only a monochrome palette to use for graphics, so you could either have a black background with white objects or the other way around. Large white areas are however somewhat headache-inducing on bright screens, so most developers went with the black background option, which lends itself nicely to a "spacey" kind of look.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Games today vs. in the "Old Days"

When I grow old enough to sit on my porch in a rocking chair and shout at people in the street, I fully intend to shout about how the young whippersnappers of today have it too easy with their Internets and whatnot... And that in MY day we had to load OUR games from analog magnetic bands and floppy discs that were actually floppy!

If you grew up before the beginning of the new millennium, and cut your teeth on video games in the 8-bit or 16-bit era, you probably have thought to yourself at some point: "Games are not nearly as good today as they were when I was young. Sure the graphics are better, but the game-play is just not what it used to be!"

...And you would be right! ...And wrong. My opinion is that gaming is now awesome again and have been for some time, after having been a bit dull for a few years before that. The gaming industry has had ups and downs in the 30+ years it has been an industry.

It is my intention with this blog to look back through the decades and examine the important developments, trends and titles that have had an influence on games up to today. I will probably not do this chronologically, and updates will most certainly be sporadic at best, but I WILL aspire to make it all fit in a context that by the time I'm done, will all make sense.

I am doing this mostly for my own benefit, as my brain has accumulated so much data about gaming over the years that I need to get it out in some structured form to make space for new stuff. However... If someone out there browsing through my stream of consciousness also find it somewhat interesting... Well, then a winner is you ;)