Back in 1982, a 13-year-old Jack Black made his first television appearance in a commercial for Pitfall, a video game designed by David Crane for the Atari 2600 and released by Activision. The ad, which gave a glimpse of the actor’s hyperactive acting style, seems dated now, but the game, which became one of the best-selling games on the Atari 2600, with over four million copies sold, set the standard for future side-scrolling platformer titles.
Although he was only onscreen for a few seconds, Black helped sell the premise of the game in which the player controls Pitfall Harry, who is tasked with gathering all the treasures in a jungle in less than 20 minutes while dodging obstacles and dangers, such as, pits, quicksand, rolling logs, fire, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and crocodiles. Along the way, Harry must jump over, climb, run around or swing across obstacles while collecting bags of money, gold and silver bars, and diamond rings.
Crane, a programmer, developed the technology to display a realistic running man in 1979, yet didn’t find a suitable game in which to implement it until 1982. Although the concept took only ten minutes to develop, according to Crane, the game itself required roughly 1,000 hours of programming. Several ports were released for the MSX, Commodore 64, Atari 800, as well as for home consoles, such as ColecoVision and Intellivision. Pitfall for the Atari 2600 eventually became the best-selling home video game of 1982.
As for Black, his gaming days didn’t end in 1982. In 2009, he won the Best Voice award for voicing the character of Eddie Riggs in Brütal Legend at the Spike Video Game Awards, and last year, he participated in a Minecraft stream with YouTuber PewDiePie to raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), following the suicide of Etika in June 2019. After two days of streaming, they raised $30,479 on both YouTube and DLive. He has also launched the hilarious YouTube gaming and comedy channel Jablinski Games.
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