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Video Game Myths: Fact or Fiction?

What do E.T., Donkey Kong and Saddam Hussein have in common? They're all part of gaming's greatest urban legends.

Mikey and the Pop Rocks. The Kidney Thieves. Richard Gere and the Gerbil. In addition to being great band names, they're all urban legends, modern day folklore that somehow transcend their obvious fallacies to become curious facts. From hook-handed serial killers to microwaved poodles, tall tales of outrageous acts are as entertaining as they are exaggerated.

As it turns out, video games enjoy their fair share of mythical events and lost legends, some of which are, startlingly enough, actually true. Read on to find out if the following famous video game myths are facts or fictions.

Nintendo's classic arcade game Donkey Kong was actually a mistranslation. It should have been called Monkey Kong.

We're the first to admit that the 'Donkey' in Donkey Kong is one of the more mystifying title choices in video game history (right behind the 'Final' in Final Fantasy), but it was just that - a choice, not a mistranslation.

It was also the brainchild of legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who was handed the reigns of this, his very first video game, back in 1981.Based loosely on the comic strip Popeye, Donkey Kong erupted into the public consciousness and skyrocketed to worldwide fame. As Nintendo's first bona fide hit in North America, it also launched the career of carpenter-turned-plumber Mario.

So what about that oddball name? For years, the popular theory was that something funny happened on the way to production - a blurred fax, perhaps - and those wacky Japanese misprinted the word "Monkey" as "Donkey." Inexplicably, this was accepted as fact by most gamers until Miyamoto himself cleared the air by insisting that "donkey" was intentional all along. According to the designer, the word was simply meant to indicate stubborn stupidity, while "kong" was just a doff of the cap to the great cinematic ape. Put the two together and you've got a 'stupid ape,' a landmark video game, and a myth debunked.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

Saddam Hussein purchased thousands of Playstation 2s to build military supercomputers.

Seven years before The Great Nintendo Wii Drought of 2007 (and, most likely, 2008), gamers faced similar troubles trying to locate units of Sony's unstoppable Playstation 2.

Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, however, was able to scoop up a whopping 4,000 PS2s without so much as a pre-order. And according to a report on the website, the dictator wasn't just planning an all-night LAN party: he was securing PS2s in an effort to build a nefarious military supercomputer, since U.S. customs doesn't consider a 'toy' to be a potential military threat.

Sound ridiculous? It should. For starters, claims by an anonymous military insider regarding the sheer processing potency of the PS2 were at best vastly overstated and at worst, flat out untrue. Legitimate desktop PCs with far more processing power were as common in Iraq as anywhere else in the world in the year 2000; why cobble together a crippled network using thousands of networked Playstations when you could simply plug into a few Dells instead? In fact, no sooner had the article hit internet gossip channels than government officials in the U.K. thoroughly debunked the claim.

Guess Saddam just wanted to play some Ridge Racer.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

Sony first developed the Playstation for Nintendo.

With the Wii selling like Krispy Kreme hotcakes and the DS thoroughly thrashing the PSP, Nintendo can't seem to do anything wrong these days. Or perhaps they're just making up for the single biggest whoopsie in the history of the console wars.

This dirty little secret dates back to the late 1980s. At the time, Nintendo was considering introducing CD-ROM technology as an add-on to their forthcoming Super Nintendo system. Initially they inked a deal with Sony, but just before announcing the partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1989, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi backed out due to poor contract wording that would have handed far too much control over the burgeoning format to Sony. Talks quickly fell apart, and eventually Sony decided to move forward with their technology by incorporating it into a Sony-branded machine. Injunctions by Nintendo were dismissed by the courts, clearing the path for Sony to start working on the newly dubbed Sony Playstation.

Interestingly, as late as 1993 Sony and Nintendo actually agreed to terms that would have provided a SNES cartridge port in every Playstation console, although those plans would soon derail when Sony decided to move forward solely with the CD format. It proved to be a brilliant decision: the Playstation quickly became the best-selling console of its era, while Nintendo bet on the wrong horse by releasing the cartridge-based Nintendo 64, paving the way for two full generations of Sony dominance.

Fact or Fiction? Fact!

>> Get the truth about more of gaming's biggest myths!

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Posted: 25 Jan 2008

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