A History of Food and Video Games

From Pac-Man to Burger Shop, a look through the games that take 'playing with food' to a new level


For those who are unfamiliar with the gaming world, food and video games may seem like a highly unlikely pairing. But a closer look at the concepts behind great video games — survival of the fittest, hunting and gathering, searching for treasure — shows why food and video games work so well together.

Click here for the A History of Food and Video Games Slideshow.

From the earliest Pac-Man to the latest interactive Wii inventions, the tradition of using food in video games has been a staple of the industry, teaching us time and again that plates of food lying in military bases will always heal gunshot wounds. In fact, when video games were first starting up, food was already involved. Pac-Man, for instance, was at the forefront of the arcade phenomenon in 1980, when video games were on the minds of every teenager in America. When video games went to consoles, fast-food games were inexplicably the rage, with classics like BurgerTime for the Atari 2600 and the later Fast Food for the Commodore 64 in 1982.

In the '90s, when video games started getting more violent, a company called Accolade introduced PO’ed, where the player was a gun-toting chef who was battling the ubiquitous '90s video game aliens. Today, there are games being produced specifically for true food lovers, making food video games more popular than ever.The future of virtual cooking is becoming more and more interesting as video games reach new levels of interactivity every day, changing the way food games are played. While decades ago the closest that designers could come to creating the experience of cooking was having an animated chef run across burgers, today they have much better tools capable of mimicking all kinds of experiences. Instead of having an 8-bit man running back and forth, on current video game consoles, players can be directly in the kitchen, even learning real-world gourmet cuisine techniques.

Of course, it makes sense that when looking for inspiration, video game designers would look to cooking. The act is a technical, mind-bending challenge followed by a rewarding payoff, just like completing any number of Super Mario Bros. games. While cooking games lack some of the firepower and alien invasions from space that other games have, they remain popular to this day, proving an interesting point: While many people claim they just cook because they’re hungry, or they want a certain kind of food, at the end of the day, people think cooking, even imaginary cooking, is fun.