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Gamifying Developer Sprint Planning

At Smerf we try to bring our love of games, their history and culture, into everything we do — even down to the most typically bland parts of the development process. We like to make sure our team is well-versed in the history of games and games’ design during the most formative days of this incredible industry.

If you work in product development, you know how sacred sprint naming is in agile development, and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why Smerf CTO and co-founder Ben Pyser came up with the idea to name our sprints after classic video games, starting with the best selling games of the 1980’s.

As we go through the list of names week after week, we like to start out our sprints by sharing fun facts we discover about whatever game is the name for the week. So we thought we’d take some time to share a few of these fun facts with you:

Super Mario Bros

Mario is originally named after the landlord of the Nintendo US office building, Mario Segale. The story goes that Nintendo US was deliberating on what to call Jumpman, Mario’s original Japanese name, in preparation for release in the west when they were interrupted by the landlord.


Tetris has the most variants of any video game in history, with more than 215 official versions released and still counting!

Duck Hunt

The Duck from Duck Hunt is the oldest Nintendo character, even older than Mr. Game and watch. Duck Hunt’s character in the Smash Brothers series is the only character out of a whopping 89 characters that uses moves that derive from other games, not just Duck Hunt.


The original Pac-Man technically ends at level 256, a level which is impossible to complete as the screen becomes a glitchy mess as it overflows its 8-bit level register.

The Legend of Zelda

All of the dungeons in the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System are named after their shapes: The Eagle, The Moon, The Manji, The Snake, The Lizard, The Dragon, The Demon, The Lion.

Space Invaders

There is a popular myth that Space Invaders was so successful in coin-operated arcades on release that it caused a nation-wide 100-yen coin shortage. Correlation however did not equal causation as the coin shortage at the time was due to a voluntary decrease in overall production of the 100-yen coin by the Japanese government.

Donkey Kong

Nintendo was sued by Universal Studios over the name Donkey Kong, believing it infringed on their trademarked name King Kong. Universal was not successful however and ended up paying Nintendo an inflation-adjusted $4,757,370.40. This case was won by Nintendo’s lawyer, John Kirby, who became the namesake of the popular Nintendo character Kirby.

The Last Ninja 2

The Last Ninja 2 was the best-selling game for the best-selling single computer model of all time, the Commodore 64, where it sold 5.5 million copies for a user base of 20 million.


It took game designer David Crane only ten minutes to design Pitfall! on graph paper, but then it took him another 1,000 hours to program. It was created because Crane had a deep desire to make an animated running man with the primitive animation tools on the Atari 2600.


Excitebike was designed and developed by Shigeru Miyamoto of Super Mario Bros fame. The side-scrolling engine developed for Excitebike went on to be the same engine used to create the very first Mario game.


At the time of its release on the Atari 2600, Frogger had a larger marketing budget than the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at 10 million and 6 million respectively.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

The titular villain allegedly stole many improbable things including: The Great Wall of China, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, all of the potatoes in Idaho, the Vienna Boys Choir’s voices, Mardi Gras, and the spanish orthograph: Ñ.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Despite being released in 1989, this game would sell so well in only one year that it would make it onto the 80’s best seller’s list. Not only that, but this game is also 1990’s best-selling dedicated arcade game, making it a notable game in two separate decades.


Populous was heavily prototyped using Legos, which allegedly was not much help in balancing the core mechanics at all but instead helped to set the foundation for an impressive media campaign that enabled the game to sell over four million copies.


If it sounds like being a part of the Smerf team sounds like a fun environment, you’d be right! Know that we are always open to receiving CV’s!

Please email with your resume and cover letter. Please also tell us a bit about yourself, what your favorite games are, and why you think they’re so great.



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