Retrogaming: Why is so much videogame food terrible?

Videogame licensing deals mean that everything from sneakers to t-shirts can (and will) be produced. Also food. Horrible looking food.
Food is a common pickup in videogames, whether it’s worth simple points, or used to replenish character health. Although I’ve never quite been able to work out how characters in Final Fight didn’t get terrible poisoning from those roast chickens and kebab rolls they found in bins. Maybe abs of steel give you digestive tracts of steel too?
Every once in a while, I fall down the YouTube rabbit hole, chasing one silly idea or another. Tonight, for reasons I’m still trying to process, my brain turned to the (mostly) US-based food products based on old video games.
Yeah, my brain goes into weird places sometimes.

They’re so 80s they hurt.

And if you can have one cereal, why not have another?

I feel like I should point out that, to the best of my knowledge, none of these things made it down under.
I do recall a Donkey Kong Ice Cream — I even remember liking them — being made. Sadly, I can’t find any TV ads for those, although a search of the internet does bring up an image to prove I’m not mad. They did exist.

I can recall these being a big hit at the school canteen. Where I could also buy devon slices with tomato sauce on them for 5c each. Yeah, it was a different time.

Although given that colour, maybe I shouldn’t be picking on American kids. If I ate any of these, given that vibrant orange colour, I’m surprised I made it out of puberty.
It almost seems logical that a character who spends his life eating should have his own cereal. From what I could see down the YouTube rabbit hole, Pac-Man has a lot of commercials for a cereal that the internet tells me had a pretty short shelf life.
Like seemingly every other American videogame cereal, it’s packed with a whole lot of marshmallows too. What is it with American cereals and marshmallows? Do parents not understand the relationship between sugar, obesity and even simple dentistry?

Note: That jingle may earworm you if you listen to it too much. I’m going to be humming it for weeks.

These things just keep going and going and going. Must be all that sugar.

These things do NOT stop. And every single new one seems to have more marshmallows than the last.

Pac-Man didn’t stop with just cereal, however. There was also Pasta. Although maybe Pasta is false advertising, because this commercial appears to show what might be spaghetti, but I’d swear those were cat turds embedded in it. Just me?

Even animated, my head says those are cat turds.

Pac-Man isn’t just for breakfast, either.

Actually that’s kind of cool. I’d like to have one of those glasses. Now all I need is something to drink out of it…. oh.

Well, at least it cleared the PacMan cereal jingle from my brain. No, wait, it’s back again…
The NES was big in the States, so naturally, there was the NCS. Nintendo Cereal System. Yeah, that was a pretty daft name, all things considered.

Marshmallows are present, naturally. Meanwhile, the relationship between the videogame characters and their cereal shapes is… dubious, at best. If I was the cynical type, I’d say they had cereal pressing machines already set in “kid-friendly shapes” mode, and just slapped a licence on top!
The Internet being the Internet, naturally, I can find somebody who ate 25 year old videogame cereal. Because of course they did. Bonus points to the victim for describing the cereal as “having that kind of dry catfood flavour to it”, because naturally we all understand that reference. We’ve all eaten dry catfood, right?

Then again, the YouTube rabbit hole also pointed out this to me. I’m starting to think that American kids of the 80s would eat anything… no matter how disturbing.

This has nothing to do with retro games, but how is orange juice directly mixed with milk meant to work as a taste?
Once again, there’s the whole “part of a complete breakfast” tagline that seems to infest these things. Is that a legal obligation, or did they mean “the part you should throw away before you go and find something healthy to eat”?
I did at least find one US cereal that didn’t seem to cram marshmallows into the box. And hey, I’m not going to argue with him if he says it’s cool. I don’t need the pity.

OK, I’m getting off the point here. At least, if I ignore the Donkey Kong icecreams, no other terrible foods could line themselves up with videogames here down under, right?

Damn. That Ansett Air Freight probably isn’t rushing anywhere any more either.
There’s a whole education here in food advertising. So I did what any responsible parent would do, and showed my kids these commercials.
They’ve grown up being inflicted with educated in the fine ways of retro gaming.
Their unanimous and rather loud response?

People in the 80s were on LOTS of drugs, dad. They must have been.”

I’d like to defend the decade I grew up in, but I’ve got to admit, on the face of the presented evidence, I suspect they may be right.
Retro recollections are just random musings on retro subjects, usually whatever I’m playing at the moment.

About the author

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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