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6 Glitches That Accidentally Invented Modern Gaming

Half of the art you enjoy every day is probably due to some happy accident. For instance, most of the tension in Jaws can be credited to the fact that the fake shark they were using was a mechanical nightmare and too ridiculous to show on screen.

You wouldn't think video games would be subject to this, however -- a mistake in the code of a game would most likely just melt your Xbox (again) rather than invent some fun new game mechanic. Yet, some of the most iconic features of games can be credited to serendipity:

#6.
A Bad Mouse Click Leads to Lara Croft's Rack

It's not fair to say that Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are only famous for one reason (or even two). There have been many excellent and critically acclaimed games in the series. But they would not have sold as well, or become as iconic, if not for the choice to give the main character gigantic boobies.

Via 101 Video Games
Those are the protruding orbs on her chest.

Well, as it turns out, Lara's bust is a result of a mistake. Artist Toby Gard, one of the people in charge of designing Lara Croft, was toying around with the dimensions of the character. When setting the dimensions of her chest, he slipped with his mouse and increased the boob area by a cartoonish 150 percent.


And apparently replaced them with oil-change funnels.

The rest of the (male) crew immediately asked him to keep it that way, solidifying a stereotype about video gamers that we have not been able to shake in the 15 years since. And the rest is video game history. To quote the team, "Gard's accidental 'one-fifty' design made picking out a marketing strategy remarkably easy."

Via TheAngryPixel.com
Yep.

Lara Croft and her blockbuster franchise paved the way for female game characters. She was considered the first video game sex symbol and she regularly tops and appears on various lists of -- sigh -- video game hotties.

And before we come down on them too hard for what is clearly some of the most blatant sexism and objectification in entertainment history, you have to remember that it was still a step up -- before Lara, female characters were either hostages or not featured at all.

Donkey Kong
She's the one on top, getting her ass sniffed by the Kong.

Sure, Samus Aran of the Metroid series came first, but her gender was kept a secret from anyone who didn't beat the game -- the iconic image of the character was somebody hiding behind a bulky metal suit.

Lara is strong, independently wealthy, beautiful, smart and great at what she does. If it took a 150 percent inflated chest to blaze that trai, well, maybe that's just the way it is. Meanwhile, Lara led the way for 3D gaming (along with Mario 64). The first Tomb Raider sold millions of copies, reinvigorating a platforming genre that had been written off as Mario-style kids games for years. All thanks to the slip of a mouse.

Via Wikimedia Commons
"You're welcome, polygon booby lovers!"

#5.
A Racing Game Glitch Gives Birth to Grand Theft Auto

Long before the Grand Theft Auto series became the gold standard in video game mayhem simulators, Rockstar Games (back then known as DMA Design) was working on a racing game called Race and Chase. The idea was "to produce a fun, addictive and fast multi-player car racing and crashing game" which sounds like it could be Mario Kart until you see what it looked like:

Via Joystiq.com
So more Matchbox cars than Mario Kart.

If there was ever a game in need of a bit of attitude, this was it.

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice a stark similarity between the above screen shot and the original GTA series, that isn't a coincidence. As far as the play testers were concerned, the game sucked, except for one glitch which made the police in the game go apeshit for no reason. Instead of politely pulling you over, the cops would ram you off the road (their AI was accidentally trying to drive through the player). Suddenly everyone was crashing non-stop.

GTA IV
For the next 10 solid years.

Play testers thought this was freaking hilarious, and in fact abandoned the missions just to screw around and see what kind of mayhem they could cause. The designers decided to not only leave the psychotic cops in there, but build the entire game around the kind of ridiculously violent car chases caused by the glitch.

The game was eventually completely overhauled to create Grand Theft Auto. By the time Grand Theft Auto 3 came around a few years later, the series was one of the most influential ever. It would go on to revolutionize "open world" gameplay that now seemingly half of the games on the market try to emulate. But at its heart, it's still all about the joy of abandoning the objective and just dicking around. All because nobody knew how to properly program a video game policeman.

GTA IV
Evolution, baby.

#4.
Space Invaders Accidentally Invents Difficulty Curves

When someone says "retro arcade games," there's a pretty good chance that a picture of one of these little blocky aliens pops into your head.


And then Pac-Man eats it or something, right?

1978's Space Invaders was so influential that even Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Nintendo's cornerstone franchises, has pointed to it as the game that "revolutionized the industry."

Like all retro games, the key is that it's effortless to start playing, and next to impossible to master. At the beginning, the alien ships are just lined stupidly in front of you in rows. You just have to pick them off with your laser, right? Ah, but as you decimate their numbers, something happens: They go faster.

It made for an absolute perfect difficulty curve. Success was rewarded with greater challenge. The more aliens you killed, the harder it got. And when you got down to those last few aliens, you had to have lightning reflexes.

Via Notian
And that's not even taking those freaking UFOs into account.

The thing is, the scaling difficulty was totally unintentional. The entire game was programmed and built by one man: Tomohiro Nishikado. And by built, we mean that he spent an entire year custom developing the hardware for the game because the hardware available in Japan at the time wasn't powerful enough to run it. It was like the Crysis 2 of 1978.

Via Notian
"I built a sweet system to run this shit, bro."

And when it was all finished, Nishikado discovered that the hardware still wasn't powerful enough to run the game how he intended it. He programmed the game to move all the aliens at what he thought would be a pretty steady rate -- but while play-testing it, he found the aliens to be quite a bit slower than he wanted. There were simply too many on the screen for the hardware to handle, so it bogged down.

As he played on, however, he discovered that the game sped up as he brought swift laser-justice to those invading alien bastards -- fewer characters for the processor to keep track of meant it could finally move them at their correct speed. He liked the effect so much, he decided to keep it, saying it "added more thrills to the game."

Photos.com
And if you weren't dead by Level 9, it dispensed a live wolf.

Actually, you could argue it added the only reason to keep playing the game at all. It was the first game that actually got more difficult as you progressed. Before that point, games were pretty much the same all the way through (often repeating the same screens over and over), and it was basically a matter of waiting for your hands to get tired.

This, combined with the fact that it was the first game to implement a high-score system meant that dedicated people put a lot of quarters into Space Invaders -- it actually created a yen shortage in Japan.

Getty
And a yen explosion in Shigeru's pants.

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