Video games burst onto the cultural scene in the 1970s, and what felt like a novelty or a toy fad only kept getting bigger and more sophisticated. Here are a few weird bits of trivia we picked up like they were coins or power pellets.
- The first appearance of Mario is in the game Donkey Kong, and he’s actually named “Jumpman.” Designer Shigeru Miyamoto made Mario a plumber, until a Nintendo coworker pointed out that the guy’s overalls made him look more like a plumber. And so that’s why Mario is a plumber, and why the follow-up game Mario Bros. is set in a sewer.
- Universal Studios sued Nintendo for copyright infringement, alleging that the ape in Donkey Kong too closely aped the titular ape of King Kong. Nintendo won the suit and was so thankful to lawyer John Kirby that they named the main character in the game Kirby’s Dream Land after him.
- Somebody figured this out: In Super Mario Bros., Mario runs a total of 3.2 miles over the course of the game.
- First video game played in space: Tetris. In 1993, Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Serebrov brought along a Game Boy on his stint to the MIR Space Station, and with it a Tetris cartridge.
- Tomb Raider is an archaeology adventure series. After being told by his bosses at the British software company Core that a male treasure hunter main character would be too similar to Indiana Jones, designer Toby Gard made his protagonist a woman named Laura Cruz. Then Core executives told him they wanted a more Caucasian-sounding last name. After flipping through the phone book, Gard picked “Croft,” and “Laura” became “Lara.”
- Japanese company Namco developed Pac-Man, or as it was called in Japan, Pakkuman, as “pakku” sounded like the noise the little yellow pie-shaped creature made as he ate white pellets. It was going to be titled Puck Man for its North American arcade release, until an English-speaking employee pointed out that arcade miscreants would almost certainly deface the cabinet, changing the “P” in Puck to an F. Namco changed the name to Pac-Man
- How the ghosts catch up to Pac-Man: They’re programmed to do so. Every time Pac-Man eats one of those little white dots, it stops his movement for 1/60th of a second, which slows him down over time long enough for the ghosts to get up to speed.
- In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Nintendo Power magazine published high scores readers earned on games. (They proved it by submitting a picture taken of their TV screen with the game playing.) Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak was one of the best Tetris players in the world, and he kept sending Nintendo Power his amazing scores, until the editors told him to stop. So he started submitting under the name “Evets Kainzow,” which is Steve Wozniak backward.