By Josh Speer / April 4th, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
building characterQ-BertWreck-It Ralph