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Namco's Dig Dug: An arcade classic remains so after all these years


Title screen from the NES version of Dig Dug which is,
in truth, like every other version. 

Ah, Dig Dug. You are so awesome a game that Namco could not possibly think of a better title than one which combines both the present and past tenses of the word “dig”. But you don’t just break grammar rules, Dig Dug. No, no. Not you. You also spit on Einstein and his theory of the cosmological constant by having absolutely no end. Indeed, you go on forever, eating quarter after quarter for round upon round. And story? Who needs that? Not you, Dig Dug. Oh, sure, in Japan there’s a whole epic saga concerning your main character and his quest to rid the land of monsters or something. Here in the good ol‘ U.S. of A., though, you’re just a game where some guy digs holes under someone else’s garden and uses a bicycle pump to blow up dragons and bespectacled spheres. I have no idea from whence the bicycle pump comes or into which orifice the bicycle pump finds itself, nor do I have any concept of which law of physics is broken when a non-elastic creature is popped like a balloon. All I know is that you, Dig Dug, are fun and addictive and, unlike drugs, most will never be able to quit you.

Picture courtesy of Cy Brown, a master hole-smith.  This is pictoral proof that holes exist.

Yes, folks, Dig Dug is a slice of fun from long ago (1982 to be precise). But what, pray tell, was the inspiration for such a game? Why, digging holes, of course! You see, in real life, a person can dig holes and, once the person has done so, the holes themselves will have been dug. How does one go about digging a hole? A shovel and loads of strenuous work. Don’t ask me anymore than that as digging is manual labor and, due to a manual labor allergy I have, I avoid digging like the plague. But holes themselves (the aftermath of digging) certainly have their usefulness. Holes dug in a cemetery (more commonly known as “graves”) keep the dead from rising and assaulting the living at night. Historically, Austrian dictators have used holes called “bunkers” to escape justice. Long holes often called “tunnels” aid in the transportation of goods and employees. And not one of these uses apply to Dig Dug in any capacity whatsoever.

Tactical digging action.

As has been said, Dig Dug is a game about digging holes and popping monsters. The holes themselves are seemingly dug for the purpose of popping monsters (with popping monsters not being a secondary concern to digging holes). Skilled players can use rocks to aid them in their monster-killing and, occasionally, vegetables that the player can pick up for extra points will appear, but the above stated is generally the main object of the game. Even though this is a simple concept (as is common for early arcade games), the game has stood the test of time and remains a popular arcade classic to this day. Classic gamers searching for a touch of old time can find Dig Dug on virtually any Namco compilation disk (most recently on Namco Museum Virtual Arcade for the Xbox 360), the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and literally billions of flash-based game sites on the internet. If you haven’t played this game yet, you’re the only one on earth and I highly suggest you play it immediately. It certainly beats digging.