In The Avengers, as Robert Downey Jr chews high-tech scenery on the control deck of the SHIELD helicarrier, he observes that someone is playing Galaga. It’s just a throwaway joke in a string of throwaway jokes. But the difference is that it’s not thrown away. It’s a setup for a visual gag that scores a place in the credits for Galaga creator Namco.
But is Galaga the right choice? If you want to include a gag about a young technician playing videogames in a high-tech control room, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to go with Team Fortress, Skyrim, Counter-Strike, or Modern Warfare? Just work your way down the Steam usage statistics until you get to the highest paying product placement. Or maybe you should just go with Farmville to ensure the greatest number of people in the audience gets the gag?
But like so many other things in The Avengers, this is a nod to boys of a certain age. The Tony Stark of the Iron Man movies and now The Avengers is the right age and exactly the right demographic to identify a Galaga screen. And the audience is exactly the right audience for this fond brief wink.
As for why some young technician on the deck of a helicarrier would set up an emulator to play a 30 year old arcade game…well, who are we to question what SHIELD employees do to entertain themselves? At least it’s work safe.