In the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the titular character (I totally just used titular because it sounds dirty) has this great story he uses to impress the ladies. When he's moving in for the kill, he tells them the story of Pac-Man's name. Seems Pac-Man was originally called Pakkuman, after the sound paku-paku, which in Japan is onomatopoeia for the sound of a mouth opening and closing. (See this post for more tales of the Japanese and their awesome onomatopoeias). The game was later renamed Puckman in Japan, but when Midway released the game in the US, they changed the name to Pac-Man to prevent vandalism.
That is how Scott Pilgrim picks up the ladies. I am pretty sure that I would have fallen for that line once upon a time.
So I was watching Scott Pilgrim on Saturday with my far-hotter-than-Michael-Cera husband, and I started wondering about how other games got their names. I mean I'm not shallow, but I've got to say that if you want me, you've got to have a chin. Sorry Michael Cera, that's the way it is. And when are we going to get some less than perfect girl actors up in here? I digress.
Now back when it was in development, the Nintendo Wii (which is officially just called the Wii) was called the Nintendo Revolution. After Microsoft announced that the next gen X-Box would be called the X-Box 360, Nintendo announced that the product would actually be called the Wii. According to Wikipedia, the folks at Nintendo say that the renaming had nothing to do with that - they said that they wanted something short, memorable, and easy for folks all over the world to pronounce. I found the change weird largely because, while many products claim to be revolutionary, this one truly was. As the late scientist and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I find the Wii pretty indistinguishable from magic. I used to find Frogger barely distinguishable from magic.
Speaking of Frogger, Will Farrell once claimed, in a Matrix spoof, to have named the game Frogger, which was before that named "Highway Crossing Frog." Wikipedia reports that, in fact, "Highway Crossing Frog" was the working title of the game.
Q*Bert, which stars a little orange critter with a very short trunk in place of a nose and/or mouth, took a while to find its name, according to Wikipedia. The working title was Cubes, because the gist of the game is that you have to make your character hop around on some cubes. Way cooler than it sounds. One executive for Gottlieb, the company that created the game, wanted to call the game @!#?@! after the text that appears in a speech bubble over Q*Bert's head when he falls off the cubes. Other execs vetoed the idea, claiming that @!#?@! is difficult to pronounce. This leads me to believe that none of the other execs ever played the game, because I certainly have no trouble pronouncing that word every time I try to play the stupid thing. I fall a lot. The company finally decided on Cubert, a play on Hubert that also included the word "cube." It was an art director who decided to spell the name with a Q. The Wikipedia article also says that on the original arcade games, the sound produced when Q*Bert fell wasn't software-based - it was actually a pinball coil inside the machine that made the noise. I just thought that little detail was cool.