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Film and television quotes are so entangled with our language that their origins are irrelevant to most speakers. We use Seinfeld-popularized neologisms and phrases constantly without considering how they became popular (“shrinkage,” “close-talker,” “not that there's anything wrong with that”). But games are a younger medium, and for a time were thought to be the realm of only children and socially-inept geeks. HA HA HA. NUH-UH! Hardcore gaming culture is wriggling its way into the mainstream as you read this (it had to make a brief stop at Hipster Town on its way, but it’ll get there).
Some of our in-jokes won’t ever stick to the masses (a good thing), but as time goes by, videogames will inevitably secure a stronger influence on our culture’s hive-database of quotable quotes. We, however, will always be the cool kids who were irritating each other with these gaming quips before the masses fully caught on.
The first version of The Oregon Trail was developed in 19-fuggin’-71 – so it’s like, really old, and stuff. It wasn’t until the '80s, however, that it became the phenomenon it did. If you went to elementary school in the United States during the mid-‘80s or early ‘90s, you probably played Oregon Trail. It was all sanctioned by the politickers ("Computers in the classroom, you say?! Well it's just so damn crazy it might work!"), but it felt like we were getting away with something when we named our settlers “Poop” and “Dick” and laughed when they died of horrible diseases. We learned nothing.
Pretty much any quote from the game deserves to be on this list, but "You have died of dysentery" is, for whatever reason, the one that became a million crappy t-shirts. But The Oregon Trail is more than that - it’s a whole generation’s first experience with personal computers, hunting, and infectious diseases.
Like Oregon Trail, Zork is one of the great grandfathers of gaming - practically just a legend to younger gamers. Even the name “Zork” is the product of obsolete slang – it was an MIT term for an unfinished piece of software and stuck at some point during the game’s development (had it not stuck, the game would have been called the far-less-compelling “Dungeon”).
Though it wasn't the first game ever made, the opening paragraph of Zork I is as significant to gaming as “We the people” is to the United States:
Such succinct power! But Zork’s opening lines didn’t stick quite as firmly as the ominous "grue" line, which is now the stuff of bumper stickers and coffee mugs. What is a grue? Zork explains:
The grue is a sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth. Its favorite diet is adventurers, but its insatiable appetite is tempered by its fear of light. No grue has ever been seen by the light of day, and few have survived its fearsome jaws to tell the tale.
Yes, Zork again. Actually, Return to Zork - with graphics! Everyone who played this game remembers this puzzle and this old bastard with a thing for whiskey. And even if you never played the game, you’ve probably heard the puzzle’s irritating-as-shit repeated line:
If you want to relive the frustration, check the whole sequence below:
Pac-Man is what out-of-touch reporters continue to believe videogames are, because, along with Pong and a few others, Pac-Man was a cultural phenomenon up there with hula hoops and inline skates. Is "wakka" actually a quote? Maybe not, but just about anyone can mentally recreate the game's trademark sound, and that's pretty damn insane.
How many times in a row can you listen to this before you want to poke holes in your eardrums with pencils?
Damn it! She's always in another damn castle! And not only that, but, as pointed out by Top Cultured, that bastard Toad thinks the whole thing is pretty fuggin' funny: