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19 Bizarre Video Games That Actually Happened

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It's no surprise that some video games are strange—like, say, the one about a boy dressed like a chicken who rolls eggs into enemies. But where some games are strange, others are downright bizarre. Sometimes you have to take a step back and ask yourself, "...why?"

1. Shaq-Fu (1994)

Shaq-Fu was released in 1994 for SNES and Genesis. The game centers on basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal after he is transported to an alternate dimension where he must save a young boy from an evil mummy. Unsurprisingly, it has been widely regarded as one of the worst video games of all time. There is even a website with the sole purpose of wiping the game out of existence.

The game was so horrible that it became legendary, and some people felt it was necessary to make a sequel. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, we can look forward to seeing the new game, Shaq-Fu: Legend Reborn, launched on a variety on consoles. Lovers of so-bad-it's-good video games rejoice!

2. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City (1994)

Here’s another basketball star-themed video game courtesy of EA Sports. In this one, Michael Jordan discovers that the Chicago Bulls have been kidnapped by an evil scientist. You play as Jordan and roam the streets of Chicago, collecting keys in order to find them. Naturally, there are monsters you need to defeat, and, because you’re Michael Jordan, you defeat them with basketballs. These balls vary from ice balls to grenade balls.

The game was an overwhelming failure. It made it onto the 100th issue of Nintendo Power’s top 10 worst games of all-time list (Shaq-Fu is on there too).

3. Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! (1994)

This game is (very loosely) based on the Tim Allen sitcom. You play as Tim "The Toolman" Taylor and defeat dinosaurs and mummies with power tools. This video game is (or attempts to be) an ode to masculinity. The instruction manual simply states, “Real men don’t need instructions.” It ultimately was a failure, probably because it had almost nothing to do with Home Improvement.

4. *NSYNC: Get to the Show (2001)

After popping this game in, Player 1 has the honor of being named *NSYNC's biggest fan. This entails driving the boy band around and doing menial tasks for them. After completing all the mini games/slave labor, the player is rewarded with a "live performance" from the band. 

5. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (1990)

This SEGA effort is based on the movie of the same name. Mr. Big, an evil drug dealer, is up to his usual antics and is stealing children. It's up to Michael Jackson to save the day... with dance. Jackson can also throw his hat at enemies, and if he saves the correct child, he can turn into a robot that shoots lasers from his eyes. Just like in the movie!

6. Kool-Aid Man Video Game (1983)

This game, for the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, had very little to do with busting through walls and disturbingly revolved around drinking from a swimming pool full of Kool Aid that also served as Sir Punch's life bar. The object of the game was to quench the thirst of thirty "Thirsties" using the pool of life matter. Confused? So was everyone who ever played it.

7. Coca-Cola Kid (1994)

This one never actually made it past Japan. You play as the mascot Coca-Cola Kid, who was the very embodiment of all that is cool in the '90s (check out that backwards hat and skateboard). The game is a transparent advertisement for soda, but you may recognize the plot: someone (his teacher) is kidnapped and you have to defeat enemies (by kicking them) and rescue her. Oh, and health is restored by reaching for a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola. I assume that all mascots are fueled exclusively by the item they are shilling, so no objections here.

8. March of the Penguins (2007)

While a surprise hit in theaters, you'd never expect March of the Penguins — a documentary about the bleak lives of emperor penguins — to translate into a fun video game. They tried, however, and in the game, you place objects in front of penguins to assist their march to the breeding ground. 

9. & 10. McDonald's Treasure Island Adventure (1993) // Ronald McDonald in the Magical World (1994)

McDonald's has a surprisingly large collection of video games that you probably don't want to play. McDonald's Treasure Island Adventure is unapologetically capitalistic. Ronald McDonald goes around beating up tomatoes and penguins until they give up their pieces of the treasure map. This game is ruthless.

In Ronald McDonald in the Magical World, Birdie, Grimace, and the Hamburglar are sucked into a — you guessed it — magical world. It is up to Ronald McDonald and his magic umbrella to save them. Aside from clobbering small animals and collecting keys, the player also has access to two fast-food themed mini games

11. Razor Freestyle Scooter (2000)

"They're not just for transportation anymore," the game declares. An evil robot has kidnapped your friends and it's up to the player and his or her choice of Razor™ scooter to save them. UFC fighter Tito Ortiz is a playable character, for some unknown reason. It plays somewhat like one of the popular Tony Hawk games, but with a decidedly less cool sport.

12. Grey's Anatomy: The Video Game (2009)

Who exactly is the demographic for this video game? Moms with kids who don't use their Wii anymore? The game is set up like a five-episode story arc and focuses on working in the hospital while trying to manage interpersonal relationships. The actual writers of Grey's Anatomy collaborated on the game to give it a similar feel to the show.

13. Alf (1989)

Alf had every possible form of memorabilia, from trading cards to slippers, so naturally they made a video game. In it, Alf makes half-baked jokes while searching for fuel for his spaceship. At the end of the game, Alf parks his space scooter on the moon's face and repairs his ship.

14. Wayne's World (1993)

Like many of titles on this list, the Wayne's World video game did not feel obligated to use its source material's plot in any way — it's much easier to just transport the characters to another universe with monsters that need to be defeated. Garth is kidnapped by a purple blob and now a bobble-headed Wayne has to fight evil bagpipes and Robo Elvis to save him with a guitar that shoots sound waves. Halfway through the game, the player is treated to the 16-bit version of the headbanging scene with a chiptune version of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

15. Playboy: The Mansion (2005)

Moby Games

The Playboy video game offers a voyeuristic look into the life of Hugh Hefner. It's like the Sims, just with more naked women. In the game, Hefner is just starting his magazine business and it's up to the player to build it into the pornographic empire we know today. The idea is to balance friends, romance, and business. Hef needs to hire writers, direct photo shoots, and — most importantly — throw parties. Soirées can be thrown at any time and the player needs to only specify the attire (usually lingerie).

16. Bible Adventures (1991)

The Bible comes alive as you play as David, Noah, and Miriam in this religious adventure. The game is separated into three games: Noah's collection of animals for a mandatory spin on his boat, David's exciting world of shepherding, and Miriam's dangerous trip to the Nile. Cracked named Bible Adventures the 19th worst NES game of all time.

17. Square's Tom Sawyer (1989)

This game was named the fourth most racist video game of all time by UGO, and it was banned from the United States. The character of Jim is portrayed with large lips and skin the same color as the black screen. And besides all that, the game mechanics were awful.

18. Yo! Noid (1990)

Though the 1989 DOS and Commodore 64 game Avoid The Noid had players delivering pizzas and dodging the annoying Domino's Pizza mascot, this 1990 game for NES let the player act as the monstrosity. Noid traversed through New York using a yo-yo to battle his evil duplicate, Mr. Green. Yo! Noid was essentially a modified duplication of another Capcom game from Japan called Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru. In case the pizza-eating contests at the end of the levels didn't make the player hungry, the game came with a whopping dollar-off coupon for Domino's. Though back in the early '90s that was, like, a dollar fifty.

19. Seaman (1999)

Truly the most disturbing video game on this list, Seaman is a virtual pet simulator for Dreamcast. Leonard Nimoy narrates, and the game's producer, Yoot Saito, lends his likeness for the face of Seaman, a talking fish-man hybrid. Seaman starts as an egg and the player can raise him to eventually become "Frogman." Other stages include: Gillman, Podfish, and Tadman. The mutating fish needs constant reassurance or it will die. Despite being dependent on the player, it does not stop him from insulting his caretaker. The game boasted state of the art voice-recognition and had a lot of hype and success in Japan.

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10 Fast Facts About Pac-Man

by Ryan Lambie

When Pac-Man emerged in the early 1980s, nothing else looked or sounded quite like it. Whereas most arcade games of the era involved shooting marauding aliens, Pac-Man looked like a miniature, interactive cartoon: a comical tug-of-war between a round, yellow character with an addiction to munching tiny white dots and a quartet of roaming ghosts with big, anxious eyes.

As we now know, Pac-Man was a massive hit, and its grip on pop culture is still strong today. But Pac-Man's success was far from certain; its designer initially had no interest in games, and the public reaction to it was initially mixed. Here's a brief look at some of the fascinating facts behind Pac-Man's making, its impact, and its legacy.

1. PAC-MAN DESIGNER TORU IWATANI HAD NO TRAINING AS A DESIGNER OR PROGRAMMER.

When then 22-year-old Toru Iwatani started work at Namco in 1977, he had no particular interest in designing video games. In fact, Iwatani initially expected that he'd work on pinball machines, but instead ended up designing the Breakout-inspired paddle games Gee Bee (1978), Bomb Bee and Cutie Q (1979). Two years after Pac-Man's release in 1980, he designed Pole Position.

2. PAC-MAN WAS DESIGNED AS A RESPONSE TO SHOOTING GAMES LIKE SPACE INVADERS.

Japanese arcades of the late 1970s and early 1980s were dark, masculine places full of space shooting games inspired by the success of Space Invaders—including Namco's own enormously successful Galaxian. In response, Iwatani began thinking about a concept which ran counter to those games.

"All the computer games available at the time were of the violent type—war games and Space Invader types," Iwatani said in 1986. "There were no games that everyone could enjoy, and especially none for women. I wanted to come up with a 'comical' game women could enjoy."

Iwatani began thinking about ideas based around the word taberu, meaning "to eat." And gradually, the concept of a game called Pakku-Man (derived from paku paku, a Japanese slang word akin to chomp) began to form.

3. PAC-MAN'S PIZZA INSPIRATION IS ONLY HALF TRUE.

By Official GDC - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

One of the great creation legends of game design is that Iwatani, while eating a pizza, looked down at the pie with a missing slice and used the outline as inspiration for Pac-Man's distinctive shape. The story was furthered by Iwatani himself; when Pac-Man fever was at its height, he even posed with a half-eaten pizza for a publicity photograph. But in a 1986 interview, Iwatani admitted that the legend was only "half true."

"In Japanese, the character for mouth [kuchi] is a square shape," Iwatani explained. "It's not circular like the pizza, but I decided to round it out." And thus, Pac-Man was born.

4. PAC-MAN'S GAMEPLAY AND GHOSTS WERE INSPIRED BY COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS.

As Iwatani continued to develop the idea of a game which involved eating, he added the concept of a maze, and then came the power pellet (or power cookie), a special item that allowed Pac-Man to eat his enemies. Iwatani later revealed that the power-up idea was inspired by Popeye, who often defeated his arch rival Bluto by eating spinach.

Pac-Man's ghosts were also inspired by comic book characters. "Pac-Man is inspired by all the manga and animation that I’d watch as a kid," Iwatani told WIRED in 2010. "The ghosts were inspired by Casper, or Obake no Q-Taro."

5. IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST GAMES TO INTRODUCE CUT-SCENES.

Pac-Man's action is occasionally interspersed with simple cartoonlike interludes, where an enormous Pac-Man chases a terrified ghost across the screen. Iwatani dubbed these "coffee breaks" and imagined them as a means of enticing players to chomp their way to the next scene. Iwatani's programmers initially resisted the idea, arguing that the interludes added little to the game, but Iwatani ultimately won the battle.

6. THE GAME WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT ITS ENEMY AI.

Although Iwatani was the creative force behind Pac-Man, bringing the game to life fell to a team of four staff, including programmer Shigeo Funaki and sound designer Toshio Kai. Development of the game took around 18 months—an unusually lengthy production for the era—with the ghosts' behavior posing the greatest challenge.

As Iwatani himself admitted, "There's not much entertainment in a game of eating, so we decided to create enemies to inject a little excitement and tension."

One of the most ingenious aspects of Pac-Man is that each ghost behaves differently—one simply chases the player, two try to attack Pac-Man from the front, while the fourth will chase and then abruptly change course.

"It was tricky because the monster movements are quite complex," Iwatani said. "This is the heart of the game ... The AI in this game impresses me to this day!"

7. THE GAME WASN'T EXPECTED TO BE A HIT.

The first ever Pac-Man machine—then called Puck-Man—was installed in a Tokyo movie theater on May 22, 1980. As Iwatani and his team had hoped, the game was popular with women and the very young, but seasoned gamers—who were more used to the intensity of shooting games—were initially nonplussed.

The uncertainty continued when Pac-Man was shown off at a coin-op trade show later that year. Many of the American arcade operators in attendance thought that another Namco game at the show—a driving game called Rally X—would be the more popular of the two due to its faster pace. Ultimately, Pac-Man was picked up for American distribution by Bally/Midway. Its name was changed from Puck-Man to Pac-Man, and the game's journey to global popularity began.

8. IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ARCADE GAMES OF ALL TIME, YET ITS CREATOR DIDN'T GET RICH FROM IT.

Selling 350,000 arcade machines within 18 months, generating millions in profits and yet more revenue from merchandising, Pac-Man was an international phenomenon. But Iwatani, like many designers and programmers working in Japan at the time—including Space Invaders' creator Tomohiro Nishikado—didn't directly profit from all that success.

"The truth of the matter is, there were no rewards per se for the success of Pac-Man," Nishikado said in 1987. "I was just an employee. There was no change in my salary, no bonus, no official citation of any kind."

9. THE HIGHEST SCORE POSSIBLE IS 3,333,360 POINTS.

Although Pac-Man doesn't have an ending as such, an integer overflow makes the 256th level impossible to clear. This means that if every dot, power pellet, fruit, and enemy is consumed on each of the 255 levels, the maximum possible score is 3,333,360 points. The legendarily dextrous videogame champion Billy Mitchell was the first player to achieve a perfect Pac-Man score.

10. IT'S STILL INSIDIOUSLY ADDICTIVE.

To celebrate Pac-Man's 30th birthday back in 2010, Google placed a playable version of the game on its homepage. According to a report issued by a time management company, the game's brief appearance managed to rob the world of around 4.8 million working hours. Google's first ever playable doodle, the search engine's anniversary version of Pac-Man can still be played today. 

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15 Surprising Benefits of Playing Video Games
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Complex, challenging, and ambitious, video games have come a long way since the simple arcade titles of the 1970s—and evidence is mounting that the benefits of play go well beyond entertainment and improved hand-eye coordination. In honor of Video Games Day (today), here are 15 ways games are programming better people. 

1. THEY'RE PRODUCING BETTER SURGEONS.

While you may think you want your surgeon reading up on the latest medical research instead of playing games, you might want to reconsider: a study of laparoscopic (small incision) specialists found that those who played for more than three hours per week made 32 percent fewer errors during practice procedures compared to their non-gaming counterparts.  

2. THEY MAY HELP PEOPLE OVERCOME DYSLEXIA.

Some research points to attention difficulties as being a key component of dyslexia. One study has shown dyslexics improved their reading comprehension following sessions of games heavy on action. The reason, researchers believe, is that the games have constantly changing environments that require intense focus.

3. THEY COULD IMPROVE YOUR VISION.

“Don’t sit too close to the television” used to be a common parental refrain without a lot of science to back it up. Instead, scientists are discovering games in moderation may actually improve—not strain—your vision. In one study, 10 weeks of play was associated with a greater ability to discern between different shades of grey. Another had participants try to play games using only their “lazy” eye, with the “good” one obscured. Those players showed significant, sometimes normalized improvement in the affected eye. 

4. YOU MIGHT GET A CAREER BOOST.

Because certain genres of games reward and encourage leadership traits—providing for “communities,” securing their safety, etc.—researchers have noted that players can display a correlating motivation in their real-world career goals. Improvising in a game can also translate into being faster on your feet when an office crisis crops up. 

5. PLAYERS CAN BECOME FASCINATED WITH HISTORY.

Many games use actual historical events to drive their stories. Those characters and places can then spark a child’s interest in discovering more about the culture they’re immersed in, according to researchers. Parents who have obtained books, maps, and other resources connected to games have reported their children are more engaged with learning, which can lead to a lifetime appreciation for history. 

6. THEY MAKE KIDS PHYSICAL.

While some games promote a whole-body level of interaction, even those requiring a simple handheld controller can lead to physical activity. Sports games that involve basketball, tennis, or even skateboarding can lead to children practicing those same skills outdoors. 

7. THEY MAY SLOW THE AGING PROCESS.

So-called “brain games” involving problem-solving, memory, and puzzle components have been shown to have a positive benefit on older players. In one study, just 10 hours of play led to increased cognitive functioning in participants 50 and older—improvement that lasted for several years. 

8. THEY HELP EASE PAIN.

It’s common to try to distract ourselves from pain by paying attention to something else or focusing on other body mechanisms, but that’s not the only reason why games are a good post-injury prescription. Playing can actually produce an analgesic (pain-killing) response in our higher cortical systems. The more immersive, the better—which is why pending virtual reality systems may one day be as prevalent in hospitals as hand sanitizer.  

9. YOU'LL MAKE NEW SOCIAL CONNECTIONS.

Gamers are sometimes stigmatized as being too insulated, but the opposite is actually true. The rise of multi-player experiences online has given way to a new form of socializing in which players work together to solve problems. But studies have shown games can also be the catalyst for friends to gather in person: roughly 70 percent of all players play with friends at least some of the time. 

10. THEY MAY IMPROVE BALANCE IN MS SUFFERERS.

Since it is a disorder affecting multiple nerves, multiple sclerosis patients often have problems with their balance—and no medications have been conclusively proven to help. However, one study showed that MS patients who played games requiring physical interaction while standing on a balance board displayed improvement afterward. 

11. YOU'LL MAKE FASTER DECISIONS.

We all know someone who seems to have a faster CPU than the rest of us, able to retrieve information or react in a split second. For some, that ability might be strengthened through gaming. Because new information is constantly being displayed during play, players are forced to adapt quickly. In one study, players who were immersed in fast-paced games were 25 percent faster in reacting to questions about an image they had just seen compared to non-players. 

12. THEY MAY CURB CRAVINGS.

Players preoccupied with indulging in overeating, smoking, or drinking might be best served by reaching for a controller instead. A university study revealed a 24 percent reduction in desire for their vice of choice after playing a puzzle game. 

13. THEY'LL REDUCE STRESS.

While some games are thought to induce stress—especially when you see your character struck down for the umpteenth time—the opposite can be true. A major study that tracked players over six months and measured heart rate found that certain titles reduced the adrenaline response by over 50 percent. 

14. GAMERS MIGHT BE LESS LIKELY TO BULLY.

Though the stance is controversial, some researchers have asserted that action games may reduce a bully’s motivation to—well, bully. One study that had players assume the role of both the hero and villain showed that those controlling the bad guy’s behaviors displayed a greater sense of remorse over their actions. 

15. THEY CAN HELP ADDRESS AUTISM.

Gamers using systems that incorporate the entire body to control onscreen movement have been shown to be more engaged in celebrating victories with their peers, which runs counter to the lack of communication people with autism sometimes present. A study also showed that sharing space with multiple players can also lead to increased social interaction for those with the disorder.

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