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The secret story behind the games

The Video Games

What makes a particular video game popular? Uh, I dunno. How do they make them? Phew. Drawing a blank there, too. How did they come up with the ideas for the games? Aha! That one I know! Here, then, are the secret stories behind three popular video games...

Pong - The story behind this video game comes straight from the headlines of the sports pages. In 1971, a young Swedish tennis prodigy named Pøng came from out of nowhere to win Wimbledon to the astonishment of cheering crowds. Flush with success and eager to cash in, he lent his name and likeness to the brand new Atari corporation for a tennis-based video game. The young corporation was also eager for the air of legimitacy a major sports celebrity endorsement deal would bring to their fledgling industry.

Pong beating Bjorn Borg

It turned out to be a "match" made in Heaven. The game "Pong" was a hit straight out of the gate, solidifying Atari's place in video game history. Pøng bought himself a fleet of Lotuses with the royalties and retired early, but not before "starring" in several more Atari titles, including Pong Doubles, Quadrapong, Breakout, and Super Breakout.

* * *

Spy Hunter - This exciting arcade video game was inspired by the childhood memories of its lead programmer:

"Well, when I was a kid, my dad would drag me to these grown up cocktail parties because my folks were divorced and he wouldn't be able to get a sitter. So after being bored for several hours, my dad would finally take me home tanked to the gills. I mean very, very drunk. It was a different time then. Then we'd get stuck behind an 18-wheeler and he'd just get furious and just start ramming the car into the back of the truck. Wham! Wham! Jesus, he scared the sh-- out of me the first couple of times. Later, I would escape into fantasy, thinking, what if we could drive the car into the back of the truck? And what if there were guys in the truck who would put stuff on our car, spy stuff, like oil sprayers and rockets, and my dad was a spy instead of a drunk, wouldn't that be cool?"

-name withheld upon request

* * *

Space Invaders - Long before The X-Files, the country experienced an earlier bout of UFO-mania, deep in the heart of the 1970s. Even president Jimmy Carter admitted he had seen a UFO! However, not everyone envisioned the same benevolent, childlike, Close Encounters of the Third Kind type aliens. One person with very different views was Esa C. Pivanders, a Nevada dockworker who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, and further claimed they were warlike and bent on the humanity's destruction. He xeroxed pamphlets and spun his theories to anyone who would listen.

By pure chance he caught the ear of a bored Taito programmer on his lunch break. The impressionable youth was chilled and captivated by Pivanders' tale and upon return from lunch, immediately burst into his boss' office and presented a new game idea. He was immediately fired. But two weeks later, by pure chance, Pivanders himself applied for, and got, the now vacant programming job. After stoking his co-workers' interest with tales of his abduction, he submitted a proposal for an early version of the game that would become "Space Invaders." He was immediately fired.

The game proposal languished for months until a new intern found it wedged behind the microwave and submitted it, wisely omitting the anal probing, needles-in-the-eye, and genital mutilation. Management loved it and the game went on to become Taito's most successful game to date. The intern gave a sly, back-handed credit to crazy ol' Esa; "Space Invaders" is an anagram of "Esa C. Pivanders."

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