Q*Bert – The Lovable, Swearing Arcade Game Character

Described as a “rare arcade success” by Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot, the lovable arcade game character called Q*Bert left a lasting impression on the arcade game scene. First appearing in 1982, the two dimensional game was received with raving reviews and a positive reception. With intriguing gameplay, relatable characters and stunning graphics, Q*Bert went on to experience mass merchandising opportunities, a television show and more success.

How to play Q*Bert

The goal of Q*Bert was to change all of the cubes in a pyramid to a defined color. To do this, gamers would command the main character to jump on the top of each cube, all while avoiding multiple enemies, obstacles and more.

In some stages, Q*Bert is required to jump on a cube multiple times in order to reach the intended color. In other situations, the cubes may change color every time a character lands on the cube.

Gamers are thwarted by a variety of enemies throughout the game, including:

Coily the purple snake terrorizing and chasing Q*Bert throughout the game.

Ugg and Wrongway, who are the purple creatures running alongside of the cubes.

Slick and Sam, two mischievous gremlins that reverse the color change that the gamer has changed.

These enemies would either become a nuisance for the gamer or cause the end of gameplay if the main character comes in contact with an enemy. In addition, obstacles such as different colored balls would come into the gameplay and inhibit or frustrate the main character.


One of the most memorable aspects of the game development was the difficulty during audio production. Audio engineer David Thiel was attempting to have the audio synthesizer produce coherent and audible English phrases. Unfortunately, he was unable to make this happen. After days of frustration, he is quoted as saying, “Well, screw it. What if I just stick random numbers in the chip instead of all this highly authored stuff, what happens?” Thus, Q*Bert’s inaudible swearing was created and the adoption of “@!#?@!” was born.

While designing and building the game, the staff had a hard time coming up with a name for the classic arcade game. Potential names thrown in for consideration included:

  • Cubes
  • Snots and Boogers
  • @!#?@!
  • Hubert

The names Cubes and Hubert were then combined to result in Cubert, which was changed to the Q*Bert we know today.

Awards and Recognition

Upon introduction of Q*Bert to the world, Gottlieb’s creation was met with praise and ultimately, sales. Many arcade game experts and enthusiasts noted that the game was particularly fun because of the emphasis on a story line, character background, and animation. Several arcade games focused on violence and Q*Bert was the exact opposite.

The game received compliments such as “the most unusual and exciting game the (AMOA) show”, “Funniest Game of the Year”, “Most Innovative Coin-op Game”, and “all-around winner”.

These awards and praise translated into multiple merchandising opportunities for the game and team at Gottlieb. From having a Q*Bert television show on Saturday Supercade to having the character printed on t-shirts and other items, Q*Bert was a large arcade success. In addition, Q*Bert and his enemies were recently seen alongside other arcade characters in Disney’s 2012 “Wreck It Ralph”.

If you haven’t played Q*Bert in a long time and are looking to experience the rush of arcade games once more, stop by one of our upcoming arcade game auctions. You’ll see arcade games of all kind and may even win an auction