Building Character: Q*Bert


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There is one game character who, more than any other, is a gaming icon. He’s been around for a very long time, jumping his way to victory against his reptilian nemesis. This fearless hero has inspired many sequels and remakes, has been on TV and in movies, and has seen various toys made to honor him. He exemplifies what it is to be a classic video game hero. That character, of course, is Q*Bert.

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Swear on, Q*Bert. Swear like the hero you are.

Originally appearing in 1982, this gaming icon quickly wormed his way into the hearts of many after appearing in his first game, Q*Bert. Featuring simple, glorious platforming and beautiful geometric designs, Q*Bert was an instant legend. But what makes this game’s orange champion so amazing? For one thing, it is his determination to succeed. Constantly foiled by foes such as Ugg, Wrong Way and the nefarious Coily, Q*Bert nevertheless continues to try and try again.

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True heroism is measured in the will to succeed.

Another facet of Q*Bert that appeals to me is his humanity. Yes, he’s an odd little orange creature with a snout. But hear me out! Nothing speaks more of a person’s soul than their suffering. And god does Q*Bert suffer. He expresses pain, doubt, anguish and a range of emotions in his strange Q*Bert-ese. This shows he is much more than a simple cardboard cut-out hero. He’s a hero for the ages.

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Q*Bert has also given birth to a legacy of merchandise and media. None is so memorable as Q*Bert’s inclusion in CBS’s Saturday Supercade. Airing for multiple seasons, this beloved show, contending with other gaming greats as Frogger, Donkey Kong, Pitfall Harry and Space Ace, further delved into the Q*Bert mythos, detailing his exploits in Q*Berg as a high schooler, his search for love and his quest to understand himself. This only served to make Q*Bert more sympathetic to children of various ages, from grade school to college age. This was especially notable in such classic episodes as “Disc Derby Fiasco”, “Take Me Out to the Q*Game” and “Looking For Miss Q*Right”. If that wasn’t enough, just take a look at some of his lasting legacy from that era!

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Many hours were spent playing this pinball game.

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And who could forget this adorable Q*Bert windup toy?

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Only the greats see so many releases on various platforms!

Like any worthy hero, however, Q*Bert also went through a dark patch on his journey. This was showcased aptly in the film Wreck-It Ralph, where a down on his luck Q*Bert is living homeless in Game Central Station. Forced to beg for scraps with his former foes Coily, Ugg, Sam and Slick, he nevertheless rises beyond his depression and manages to save the titular Ralph from his folly, thus saving the day.

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Alas, these were dark times for Q*Bert…

So, in conclusion, I must thank Atari and Gottlieb, who originally developed and published Q*Bert, for the lasting legacy of their icon. We’ve all faced a crisis or two in our lives, been forced down hard roads. But if there is one thing I have learned from Q*Bert, it’s to bounce back from adversity and to optimistically leap towards the future. There is no more important lesson to learn than that.

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Keep on hopping, my orange friend.

…wait, @#!*?


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About Josh Speer

Josh Speer is addicted to two things in equal measure : Books and Videogames. He has a degree from the University of Washington in English with an emphasis on writing. He joined Operation Rainfall this year while following it on Facebook. His two giant life goals are to write his own series of fantasy / science fiction novels and to get into the creative side of the video game industry. He is beyond pleased to now have his proverbial foot in the door thanks to the opportunity provided by Oprainfall!