The History of Food in Video Games: A Delicious Journey
Food is everywhere in video games. It can be found beneath phone booths or inside walls. Sometimes it heals the player, and other times it just assists them in gaining that high score. Other times, it’s a central mechanic of the game. You eat, cook, or sometimes even battle against delicious food.
Eating and playing games are both special and satisfying experiences, which is why they’ve enjoyed such a close relationship throughout the years. From the apples in the ubiquitous and often imitated Snake to basically everything in our very own Bite the Bullet, food has endured as a key concept in game design, and it all goes way, way back.
By 1980, arcades were filled with sci-fi shooters and rough approximations of sports. Then Pac-Man came along and flipped the script and gave you one task: eat everything. The goal is to devour all the dots in a maze while ghosts chase your gluttonous body. Devouring power-dots in each of the corners temporarily renders the ghosts vulnerable to your gaping maw.
Like many arcade games of the era, there was no end to the feast, you just continued to gorge until your high score was cemented or you hit the kill screen. The game was a sensation and became a staple in the early days of the arcade.
Chef Peter Pepper hit arcades in 1982 with Data East’s Burgertime. In this fever-dream of a game, you play as a diminutive chef who must march his way across various ingredients to make them tumble into a perfectly formed giant hamburger. Trying to prevent you from culinary success are some sinister snacks including Mr. Hotdog, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Egg. Get your timing right and you can crush these baddies beneath hamburger buns.
Home consoles were seeing some frantic food games of their own. 1983 saw the release of both Pressure Cooker and Plaque Attack for the Atari 2600, both by Activision. In Pressure Cooker, you must catch various ingredients in order to create a hamburger. Plaque Attack does some role-reversal and has you defending rows of teeth from delicious treats using your tube of toothpaste.
Food has been a persistent presence in games through the ages. Some games have you fight food, such as Super Mario RPG where you fight a giant cake. In other games, like Portal, food is used as a metaphor for psychological themes and commentary.
Others just have you chomping down to refresh health and stamina, going back to games like Castlevania’s infamous wall meat and in beat-’em-ups like Final Fight and Streets of Rage. Health as a healing item has continued to be a tradition today, found in such modern games as Grand Theft Auto IV and Deadly Premonition.
Food as a central mechanic has survived, as well, as evidenced in the massively popular Diner Dash and the more laid back Cooking Mama. Similarly, some games even teach the player how to cook food, like Personal Trainer: Cooking.
Bite the Bullet is honored to help keep this tradition alive. In it, almost everything is edible as you cram enemies, bullets, and even walls into your face. We’re taking that delicious torch and running with it, making sure that food always has its place in the digital realm. So unhinge your jaw and get ready for some absurd eat-’em-up action with Bite the Bullet.
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