Here’s a classic game that is rarely parodied today. The game I’m talking about is Centipede, the 1981 Atari arcade(Atari 2600 version a year later)that has several remakes and revisions of it’s own. It’s also one of the first few video games to be design by a woman which is Dona Bailey. I can imagine it being tough for her cause she was the only woman employed at Atari at the time way before it became more common to see women working at a video game company. Unfortunately she left the company a year after completing Centipede way before the era when female gamers become more common. Luckily Dona left way before Jack showed up for his infomercial on the Jaguar. So despite the game development having a sexist issue to it, it was a meorible game for it’s time. It even had a cool commercial which I like to call it the Centipede Invasion for obvious reasons.
The first commercial starts with a guy playing the Atari 5200 version of Centipede on his TV, when all the sudden a giant Centipede arm bursts out of the TV screen and grabs the guy. And through out the rest of the commercial the song “Nowhere Girl” by B-Movie is played. Which believe it or not was a brand new song back then. We see a newspaper with the headline: Centipedes Invade which over shadows an article on “Budget Cuts” which may or may not have to do with centipedes invading. We then cut to a stock footage of people fleeing, a clip of a documentary on actual centipedes and explaining that there’s more than 3,000 species of centipedes. Next a shadow of the Centipede creeps by a brick wall and is about to feast on a bum who screams in terror. Clips of various silent films are shown, the Centipede starts to range in anger causing a clip of a stampede of fleeing citizens to be shown. A woman is about to sleep only to discover that a Centipede is sleeping right next to her. She screaming in terror which anyone else would do in the same situation. More clips of other silent films are shown, and another news paper reads “Marines battle Insects!” along with footage of platoons traveling through a swamp and a battleship firing out in sea. The Centipede is seen rampaging through town, and then a clip of a gun turret soldier is shown implying that he’s killing off some centipedes with a clip of actual game footage. Then there’s a clip of bombs dropping from a dive bomber. After that we see a centipede claw gently placing the game in front of an Atari 2600 console. With an announcer saying “Centipede from Atari, it could change your life”. Then we see the gamer from the first scene completely mutated into a centipede man and shouts out “Help! Somebody call an exterminator!” Bad call out cause I’m sure the exterminator will be killing off the gamer instead of the centipede in general.
The second commercial is similar to the first one, except more up beat. The commercial starts with a horror movie like title “Return of the Centipede!” Then we see a junkyard where an African American is seen transporting several mannequin legs with stripe socks. Does he work for a department store or are the legs for some night club. We never learn the reason at all from this commercial. A woman is seen putting on her stocking, and the bum from the last commercial returns as well. The leg transporter is then visited by the centipede when it gently taps him on the shoulder. Also note how he’s wearing an 80’s headphone that has an antennal to receive radio waves. There’s also other centipedes visiting the woman and bum while the leg transporter guy is drag into the sewers by the centipede. Then we see a neon sign with an announcer saying “Welcome to the Club Centipede!” with a centipede playing a saxophone. We then cut to stock footage of women dashing through a field, city civilians fleeing, and the angry mob from the 1925 Phantom of the Opera invading the Phantom’s catacombs was even shown. Then we cut to a shout of a showgirl and footage of the game itself, more shots of the sax playing centipede and footage of retro showgirls. Footage of a guy doing a front flip and back flip is shown. then the announcer says in the end “Atari presents Centipede!” It’s such an up beat commercial that we complete forget that giant centipedes are devouring innocent civilians.
These commercials are very well written and I like how they combined B-Movie genre and stock footage that was either cheap to purchase or is from public domain. Which is smart cause you don’t have to pay money to any one if you’re borrowing footage from a public domain film. A lot of other commercials use this same type of technique which I would love to talk about in later commercials such as one where Gatorade uses stock footage and other borrowed footage to show impossible stunts done by humans. For the next article it will be about the Jumanji board game commercial and I’ll discuss why it’s not as good as the one from the movie.