Introduction to Games Design – Timeline of Mascots/Further Research

As part of the research that I did into the Icons of Gaming for my timeline presentation, I decided to create a graphical timeline of mascots and when they came out. I figured out that it would be beneficial for me to find out when mascots became mainstream so that I could order them correctly in the presentation. I also used this period to research further into each mascot to see what information I could find about them so that I could make a judgement as to whether or not I should include particular mascots.

Timeline Diagrams

Mascots Diagram - 80s

Mascots Diagram – 80s

Mascots Diagram - 90s

Mascots Diagram – 90s

Having created these diagrams, I began to research each mascot in more detail. During the research, it became clear that some characters were either more interesting than others or that some characters just weren’t as much of a mascot as others. I therefore focused my research on specific characters and removed some characters from the research altogether. You will be able to see the results of this in my research below.

Another resource I found very valuable was the Play Value video on Gaming Mascots. This can be found on YouTube and is embedded below for you to watch.

Further Mascots Research

For my further research, my aim was to focus on when the mascots were created and any interesting facts about the creation of the mascots. I intend to research further at a later date into each mascot’s popularity, but I think that this is a good starting point.

80s

Pac-man

– First appearance in “Pac-man” in 1980.

– First known mascot in a video game.

– Became synonymous with video games, rather than synonymous with Namco.

– Developed by Tōru Iwatani and a team of 9 people over the course of a year, starting in April 1979.

– Character design inspired by a pizza with a missing slice and also by simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi.

– Designed to appeal to girls, as the typical demographic at the time  was young & teenage boys.

Mario

– First appearance in “Donkey Kong” in 1981 as “Jumpman”.

– Renamed to Mario shortly after Nintendo of America’s warehouse landlord, Mario Segale.

– Created by Shigeru Miyamoto.

– Seen as the main Nintendo mascot (Nintendo have many characters which can be viewed as mascots).

– Originally designed wearing a blue shirt and red overalls due to hardware limitations at the time.

– First Mario Bros game released in 1983.

– Mario’s brother, Luigi, is introduced in Mario Bros. Luigi’s design, and more technically, sprite is a palette swap of Mario.

– Made home console debut in Super Mario Bros for the NES in 1985.

– Mario has appeared in over 200 video games since he was created.

Donkey Kong

– First appearance in “Donkey Kong” in 1981.

– Created by Shigeru Miyamoto.

– Created as a result of Nintendo losing a license which would allow them to make games based on the Popeye comic strip.

– Miyamoto was influenced by “Beauty and the Beast” and the 1933 “King Kong” film.

– Miyamoto thought that donkey meant stupid in English, which is why he called the character “Donkey Kong” in order to convey that the character was a “stupid ape”.

– Made home computer debut on the Intellivision in 1982.

– Development of series was taken over by Rare in 1994 for the Donkey Kong Country series of games. Nintendo resumed development of Donkey Kong games after Rare was bought by Microsoft in 2002.

Ryu

– First appearance in “Street Fighter” in 1987.

– Created by Manabu Takemura

– Ryu’s name is based on the name of Street Fighter’s designer’s name, Takashi Nishiyama. Takashi when written in Chinese can be read as “Ryu”.

– Ryu’s “Hadouken” move is based on a wave motion gun from Sci-Fi Anime “Space Battleship Yamato”.

Chocobo

– First appearance in “Final Fantasy 2” in 1988.

– Created by Koichi Ishii

– Speculated to have been influenced by “Kyorochan”, a bird character from a TV advert for a brand of chocolate candy from Japan.

– Also speculated to have been influenced by  Hayao Miyazaki’s Horseclaws, which appear in the manga/anime Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

– Has appeared in every Final Fantasy game since “Final Fantasy 2”

90s

Sonic the Hedgehog

– Sonic’s first appearance in “Sonic the Hedgehog” in 1991.

– Created by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ōshima

– Created to complete with Nintendo’s mario and to replace Alex Kidd as Sega’s mascot.

– Several character designs were submitted along with Sonic, including an Armadillo, a dog, the initial design of Dr Robotnik, and the initial design of Ristar.

– Sonic was initially called “Mr Needlemouse”.

– Sonic was created without the ability to swim, as Yuji Naka believed incorrectly that hedgehogs could not swim.

– Sonic’s original design gave him fangs, put him in a band and gave him a human girlfriend called “Madonna”, but a team in Sega of America “softened” the character for the US audience, which led to arguments between Sega of America and Sonic Team in Japan.

Miles “Tails” Prower

– Tails’ first appearance in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in 1992.

– Created by Yasushi Yamaguchi

– Created as part of an internal competition to create a “sidekick for a speedy hedgehog”.

– Tails was meant to hold a “deep admiration for Sonic”.

– The character’s original name was “Miles”. However, Sonic Team decided that they wanted to change the name to Tails. A compromise was reached with the creator to have Tails as the character’s nickname, making the character’s full name Miles “Tails” Prower.

– Miles Prower is a pun on the phrase “Miles per Hour”.

– Unlike Sonic, Tails can swim.

Kirby

– First appearance in “Kirby’s Dream Land” in 1992.

– Created by Masahiro Sakurai

– Kirby was originally created as a placeholder sprite for a Game Boy game that Sakurai was working on.

– Was originally called “Twinkle Popo” and “Popopo” before Sakurai settled on the name “Kirby”.

– It is unknown as to where Kirby got his name, as Sakurai cannot remember. It is believed however to have come from the “Kirby Corporation” in Japan, who made vacuum cleaners. This obviously suits Kirby’s inhalation abilities. It is also believed that Kirby was named after Nintendo’s legal counsel in the US, John Kirby, who defended Nintendo in a copyright infringement case against Universal Studios, claiming similarities between Donkey Kong and King Kong.

Fox McCloud

– First appearance in “Starfox/Starwing” in 1993.

– Created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura

– The Starfox game was built out of a tech demo. Because of this, the game lacked incentive to continue playing. Miyamoto started to plan the world out, but couldn’t decide on a lead character until he visited an Inari (which is a Japanese kami associated with foxes) shrine in Tokyo. Inari is portrayed as being able to fly and this is what gave Miyamoto the idea.

– Fox McCloud’s face is modelled after Inari’s. Fox McCloud also wears a red turtleneck or red scarf around his neck, which is also typical of Inari statues.

Crash Bandicoot

– First appearance in “Crash Bandicoot” in 1996.

– Created by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin

– Created to become a mascot for the Sony Playstation.

– Crash was called “Willie the Wombat” during development, despite being a bandicoot.

Pikachu

– First appearance in “Pokemon Red & Blue” in 1996.

– Created by Ken Sugimori

– Pikachu’s name comes from two Japanese sounds. Pika, a sound an electric spark makes, and chu, a sound a mouse makes.

– Originally, both Pikachu and Clefairy were intended to be Pokemon’s mascot characters. However, this was changed to Pikachu on its own as it was believe that Pikachu would appeal more to girls and their mothers. It was also believed that Pikachu represented an image of a recogniseable intimate pet for children.

Spyro the Dragon

– First appearance in “Spyro the Dragon” in 1998.

– Created by Charles Zembillas

– Spyro was originally going to be green. However, the developers recognised that this would be a bad idea as Spyro would then blend in with the grass. Spyro’s colour was eventually changed to purple.

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