What is 80s arcade game Dig Dug and why is it significant in Stranger Things 2?

Dustin, Will, Lucas and Mike are shown playing Dig Dug in Stranger Things 2 episode one. But what is this arcade game – and does it provide a clue about what will happen next?

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Stranger Things thrives on its retro vibes, but nothing is more eighties than the Hawkins Arcade.

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This is where the boys spend all their spare quarters – scrounged from neighbours and piggy banks and sofa cushions – trying to get the high score in Centipede and Dragon’s Lair and Dig Dug, watched over by a sleazy Cheetos-eating teenage overlord called Keith.

It’s also where they first come across the mysterious figure of “Mad Max” who has knocked all of them off the top spot in Dig Dug. 

What is the arcade game Dig Dug?

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The objective of Dig Dug is to wipe out the underground-dwelling monsters.

This Japanese game was developed and launched in 1982, a couple of years before Stranger Things 2 is set. The player’s character is a little figure called Dig Dug who is dressed in white and blue and able to dig tunnels through dirt.

His enemies are “pookas” (red tomato-like monsters in yellow goggles) and “fygars” (green dragons with wings that can breathe fire). Dig Dug will be killed if he’s caught by a monster, burned by fire, or crushed by a falling rock. He’ll triumph if he manages to inflate each monster until it pops, eliminating all his underground enemies.

The monsters move horizontally across the screen when they’re on the surface level, but can dig their own tunnels horizontally AND vertically in the dirt underground. They can also turn into slow-moving “ghostly eyes” which makes them able to move diagonally. And the final enemy in each round will try to escape to the surface and run off-screen, so Dig Dug has to stop that too.

Is Dig Dug a clue about the plot for Stranger Things 2? (SPOILERS)

Here’s your warning: read no further if you want to avoid all spoilers for Stranger Things 2!

But yes, Dig Dug’s brief appearance within the first few minutes of the first episode turns out to be pretty prophetic. A hero tasked with eliminating dangerous underground monsters who can tunnel through the dirt? Sounds familiar.

That’s because the “shadow monster” from the Upside Down is invading our world. Underneath the town of Hawkins, Indiana, ‘vines’ are spreading out – poisoning the soil and killing the entire pumpkin crop. Will can see this network of tunnels in his mind, and Jim Hopper nearly dies in one of the tunnels when he digs down to check it out.

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What about the Dig Dug “monsters”? That’s where the “Demo-Dogs” come in. These ferocious little versions of the Demogorgon race around the tunnels beneath the surface of Hawkins, pouncing on any prey they find and feasting on a team of unsuspecting scientists from the lab.

And, as we see in Dig Dug, the monsters may live underground – but they can also venture to the surface to take on their enemy. Fed up of being burned, the Demo-Dogs launch themselves right up into the Hawkins Laboratory where they feast on everyone in the building.

Sure, there are a few things from Dig Dug that don’t come through in Stranger Things 2: there are no pookas or fygas, no one has wings, no one breathes fire. But as a clue about what’s coming up – it’s a pretty clever one.

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