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Whenever someone walks into an amusement arcade, the same sound:


is always heard.

This is a symptom of TV shows' odd inability to realize that video games have changed since 1983—arcades now include high-fidelity music, punching and clanging noises, and hadoukens! TV's conception of video games still seem to involve 2D platforms, jerky animation, bleeping synthesized sound, and sometimes even big blobs of color that look virtually nothing like what they're supposed to represent, a la Pac-Man and Space Invaders.

This is also seen in many TV shows that depict a character playing on a video game console. Though the character is clearly holding a controller appropriate to a current-model console at the time the show was shot, the sound effects are invariably taken from an Atari 2600 or early-1980s arcade game. To add insult to injury, the character playing the game is usually mashing the hell out of the buttons and moving the control pad or joystick in totally random directions, and never appears to do anything in time with the sound effects. Occasionally, in the case of older systems, there won't even be a cartridge in the console itself.

This may be a Discredited Trope, as several recent series have scored product-placement deals with current generation console manufacturers (cf. the debut of Heavenly Sword on Heroes). The deterioration of the arcade market in the West also makes it something of an irrelevant trope there, as fewer and fewer scenes are written set in arcades. Though often enough the real reason why this is done is due to Copyright issues as sounds from games like Pac Man are Public Domain so they don't have to do anything for Copyright issues.

See also Gaming Audio and Pac-Man Fever.

If you're too young to remember what Pac-Man was like on the 2600, check this out. And this for good measure. And, this is Donkey Kong on the same system. These two games probably account for the vast, vast majority of Arcade Sounds used on TV.



  • A rather well-known example, albeit slightly more high-tech, is in a rather infamous Westwood College commercial, where, instead of 1983 Pac-Man Fever, we instead have generic laser ptcheeeew from roughly circa 1987 Galaga knockoffs. And this is supposed to be a commercial for game design courses. Did Not Do the Research, indeed.
  • This "Credit Fairy" ad features two guys on a couch playing video games with what appear to be modern controllers. However, full gameplay sounds from the infamous Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man can be heard.[1]
  • A Listerine Mouthwash commercial aired in the UK features two young children playing a games console with what look like Xbox or playstation controllers, but sounds like a Galaga rip-off- admittedly, there have been emulations of old games for the playstation 2 et al, but it's unlikely children of that age (looking between 8 and 11) would be playing such old games. it doesn't even seem to have a pause function.


  • The Charlie's Angels movie has Drew Barrymore's character stumbles upon two kids playing Final Fantasy VIII (a one-player game) with two 3rd party Play Station controllers, buttonmashing unrealistically while out-of-place sound-effects play—though the sound effects are not particularly old-sounding and not from Pac-Man.
  • Inverted at the beginning of Toy Story 2, when Rex is playing a Buzz Lightyear game with graphics just as good as the rest of the computer-animated movie - on a Super NES. The Super NES was host to prerendered games like Donkey Kong Country and the first Toy Story game, but even in those games did not have nearly as many available colors as the more powerful(and probably more importantly, non-real-time) Pixar computers.
  • Justified in Tron. Being 1982, Flynn's arcade would stock games that make Pac-Man Fever noises. It should also be noted that music ("Only Solutions" by Journey) is playing on the PA system as well.
    • Likewise with Tron: Legacy, because Flynn's Arcade apparently hasn't been touched since 1982.
  • Played for horror in Twilight Zone the Movie.

Live Action TV

  • In the episode "Everybody Loves a Clown," from the second season of Supernatural, a child is shown playing a Nintendo DS, but the sound effects emanating from the device are sounds from the original Atari 2600 release of Donkey Kong.
  • In an episode of 7th Heaven Simon challenged two bullies to a game of Donkey Kong Country 2 and the sounds from the Game Boy sound nothing like the actual game play.
  • Avoided in The Big Bang Theory, where game soundtracks are often heard where applicable.
  • In an episode of The Sopranos, Bobby Baccalier Jr.'s son Bobby III is playing a computer full of generic laser blasts, beeps, doots, and other such game noises. He's playing Max Payne.
  • Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, and Edgar Wright made a point to avoid this in Spaced, after being tired of all the generic video games in other TV shows made by people who don't play games.
  • Weeds has an odd example: in one episode Nancy and Andy are playing Wii Sports. When the game is on-screen, it uses the correct sounds for the game; when the camera is on the characters (still playing, but the screen isn't shown), the foleys have inserted generic Pac-Man-style sound effects.
    • Well, if they were high on weeds, that's what they'd be hearing...
  • House. In one episode, he is seeing if a mobster is in a coma. First he tries poking him with a needle, and then holds up a Nintendo DS to his ear while a game is playing. The game is Metroid Prime: Hunters, but generic arcade sounds are heard instead of ones from the game.
  • In Australian soap, Neighbours, for most of the '90s, the only video game anyone on the show ever played was Magic Carpet (most of the time with the camera looking at the player from behind the computer monitor, so you just heard the distinctive sound-track and sound effects). Now, in 2010, when at least one family has a complete set of guitar controllers, one young cast member was sat playing on a DS Lite to the distinctive sound effects of Magic Carpet - unless a more recent game, that actually has a DS version, uses the same sounds...
  • An episode of the soap opera All My Children features a character playing a game entitled "Dark Star" on the TV. He is, of course, mashing the controller (which appears to have come from a Playstation), and we hear, in order, the "death music" from Pac-Man, the "begin level" music from Donkey Kong, and the BGM from Space Invaders.
  • An episode of NCIS, averts this trope nicely. A co-worker of the kidnapped father of a young boy gives him a Nintendo DS to take his mind off things. The first thing we hear from it? The sound of user info being entered into a brand new DS.
  • An episode of NCIS: Los Angeles had one of the main characters playing a video game offscreen, complete with arcade bleeps and bloops. However, when you see the blurred screen in the background of another shot, the game has obvious Playstation 2/Xbox 360 graphics. It also looks like they were either using the Playstation Eyetoy, the Wii Balance Board, or the Xbox360 Kinect to play the game.

Video Games

  • Earthbound's First Town has an arcade where you fight members of the local gang. Once inside, you'll hear various bleeps and bloops, including those from old-school shoot-em-up Xevious.

Web Original

  • In the webseries The Guild one of the characters is never seen without her Nintendo DS with her, which is making old style Mario sounds. It's eventually revealed that she is playing New Super Mario Brothers, which specifically used old Mario sounds.
  1. Although it is technically possible to use Sega Genesis controllers on a 2600, which is what could be going on here--though the Pac-Man port certainly wouldn't warrant THAT much button mashing...