Videogames as mass cultural form busily scavenge all the cabinets of mankind. In the process they find rare trinkets and horrible debris, old fads and styles, cultural terrors and unarticulateable desires and night bogeys. Rarefied mystic symbols are placed next to "meat" and "coin" as things for your guy to rove around and eat. In the process new structures of meaning and value emerge, haunted by figures both familiar and strange. Among them is a ball with feet.

On this webpage I propose to explore the various manifestations of a dream: that of some form of cute ball who walks around on little feet. Definitions and technical specifics are listed below this very provisional and personal catalog.


This game, the "AAA" of its day, represented a bold effort at shaping the traditionally bizarre iconography and sense of place in the zelda games into some kind of coherent whole. The abstract plains and rock formations of the first game were successfully converted into pieces of high fantasy. But as if in a dream the repressed videogamey bits and pieces eventually make their disguised return, in the form of a shadowy mirror realm, a "dark world" that travesties the main kingdom by filling it up again with all the goofy nonsense stuff it had initially discarded. Illegible gremlin people, rock structures, insect skeletons, ruins, off-brand videogame protagonists (Link briefly turns into a bunny!) - and in this familiar world, one of the first things we encounter is a beautiful little ball with feet, waddling forth as if to welcome us home.

The ball in this game is called "BULLY'S FRIEND" and tells us that "I was always changing my mind, so I turned into a ball." If only it were that simple!! He is constantly pursued and bounced around by a kind of dinosaur guy, but does not refer to this in his dialog, and the goofy "boing" sounds and constant expression(?) of happy delight lead us to question whether he actually feels any kind of discomfort from this. Maybe it's a consensual relationship? Either way he seems pretty happy to run around the mountaintop forever. I wish him well in pursuing his desires.


Perhaps the paragon of orthodox ball with feet imagery in videogames - - perhaps the paragon of videogame characters in general? Staring eyes, expressionless face, gloves, sneakers, a name which is just the same short syllable repeated twice and ending in "-o", Lolo has it all! A ball with feet is all he is, and all he is content to be. Truly, he has much to teach us.
But the fact that Lolo is situated so firmly and explicitly inside of this tradition also incidentally casts light on some lesser known aspects of it. For example, we also find a rare example of a "girl ball" in the person of Lolo's girlfriend, Lala, who is indistinguishable from him except that she is pink and wears a large ribbon. Secondly, delving into the franchise's origins as the "Eggerland" series for MSX turns up this powerful image:

Here we see that Lolo is in fact covered with hair! Imagine the possibilities! That the contemporary videogame industry should take detailed hair rendering technology as the definining measure of success, while failing to turn to so obvious an application, seems to me an injustice bordering on a crime.


How many aliens can you shut up? Despite the brutality of his mission, Door-Door protagonist Chun ("a small, spherical animal outfitted with a baseball cap" according to Wikipedia) is in fact very cute. This was Enix's first game, based on a contest submission, which raises interesting questions - was Chun's design a deliberate attempt to echo established successes such as Q-Bert and Pac-Man, in an effort to break into the industry? Is this evidence of a kind of background consensus over what a videogame character "should be" at the time? The egg shape says “I’m cute”, while the sassy cap says, “watch out”.


One affordance of the ball with feet shape is that the generic "ball" can be replaced with more specific kinds as a simple and easy way to get something more appropriate to various thematic settings - for example a soccer ball, or a globe. In this game you play a roulette ball exploring a landscape of various casinos in search of the titular "american dream”, becoming obscenely wealthy via blind submission to statistically rigged games of chance, also known as meritocracy. The dinky, ingenuous quality of the little ball also provided a frame with which to examine various sublimated anxieties about the american setting as hallucinated from 6000 miles away.


A case in point – this cheerful tennis entity. In my research I am unable to determine whether he appears at any other point of the game than in the credits, possibly operating upon the same principles as pornographic mahjong variants.


An interesting missing link between purely gelatinous blobs like Jerry Boy and the balls with feet we all know and love. Mr Bloopy appears at first to be a highly classical form of slime blob - but he is also able to leap into the air by extruding a pseudopod shaped roughly like a human foot! Ancestor, parallel evolution or just weird?


As baby chickens are potentially the closest this world has come to producing real life balls with feet (certain frogs come close - but chickens are bipedal) it's not surprising this affordance would be seized within the industry. The New Zealand Story is another strong contender- but my personal vote goes to Chack'n Pop, as much for the name as anything. Interestingly Wikipedia does not seem to recognize it a chicken, describing Chack'n instead as "a small yellow creature (later recolored green) with extendable legs".


Sufficiently cartoonish rabbitoids can also approach ball with feet status, for example in Sunsoft's Trip World. But I prefer the otherwise egregious "Pommy" animal from Bomberman 64: The Second Attack in part because of the above chart, which not only links together various kinds of ball-likes in some kind of natal stage chart but also details the precise amounts of [FRUIT] [MEAT] and [SWEETS] required for each stage.


Here is the question which has riddled all the scholars: does Pac-Man have feet? The early attempts at portraying just what Pac-Man "is" are various enough to allow for genuine doubt about this question and it's possible his legs were the addition of a later hand, like some of the heretical testaments. Eventually it became plain that all popular videogame characters have to be humanoid enough to pose for promotional drawings and possibly star in their own cartoons, and his corporate image stabilized into containing little red booties and gloves as well.

But some of the earlier designs are still disconcerting, and we can imagine Pac-Man frantically mutating, like The Thing, emitting and discarding various forms of pseudopod and facial expression until finding some combination that fit. Maybe somewhere under there he's still just a hockey puck.


Is Gimmick! a ball or just a kind of baggy plushie dinosaur thing? If we let him in, who next? The dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble? The guys from UFOuria? Hello Kitty? Can't most entities on this planet be glossed as some variety of ball, with some variety of feet? Cannot I myself...?

Poised on the brink of a terrifying realization I am hasty to shut the door on these kinds of speculative questions. And yet Gimmick! remains inside. I believe he counts due to the size of his eyes and fact that they exist squarely in the middle of his "torso", rather than being part of a seperate "head" segment. But don't push it.



Noted plastic spaceship and traumatised war criminal Opa-Opa has among many other delightful features the ability to sprout little feet when walking around on the ground - similar to Pop'N'TwinBee, two cute spaceship things with little sneakers and arms permanently attached. While not really a ball Opa-Opa clearly draws from something of a similar visual tradition.

I continue to cherish the idea that someday there'll be a game about a cute cartoon car who walks around on little shoes just projecting from his undercarriage.


From Petz producers P.F. Magic comes a sort of prototype for the ball technology utilized in that game. The Ballz represent the missing link between the classic ball with feet design and strange hyerspecialized offshoots such as Vectorman.


Balls with feet are oddly underrepresented in the "mascot boom" of the 1990s, possibly because it's harder to copyright a geometric primitive. A notable exception is corporate toady and stooge of Big Soda, Cool Spot, who is really more of a disc with feet – maybe reflecting the fundamental cynicism of the project.... You think this is a costume, man? This is a way of LIFE!


A suggestive missing link between the spaceship-with-feet and ball-with-feet species, EGGY is actually a fairly sophisticated and non-cartoonish form of bipedal robot. But his goofy name and egglike structure still connect him to this lineage. Is EGGY an advanced, futuristic form of ball with feet - or is he in fact a distant ancestor, a clunky metal version of the advanced smartpolymer bioorganic entities that would come to succeed him, us, as rulers of the planet?


The popular british mascot character. I actually don't much care for Dizzy outside of his name, but it's interesting that the art for him mostly takes pains to show his limbs as sort of hovering alongside his body rather than being directly connected - shades of Ballz, but also Rayman. A possible link?


Not quite a ball - or is he just a ball wearing a little smurf hat? The mystery of Horace's exact physiology is just one of his many delights. Note also the long, raggedy eyeholes, which are either eyes or just holes extending directly through his head depending on representation. Horace started as a humble pac-man clone ("Hungry Horace", 1982) but only truly blossomed when the same sprite was dropped into the context of this strangely quotidian skiing game. He appeared in many other games of different genres but was unchanging in his sprite, his mystery and his appeal.


A kind of.. mysterious talking ball / muppetlike entity who lives on, or is in conflict with, a pyramid of cubes. Q-Bert's main distinguishing feature is his prominent hooverlike mouth - or nose, or possibly beak? While you may think this disqualifies him from being considered a ball proper, I think it constitutes an interesting and neglected avenue in the constant struggle to "personify" the balls somewhat. While Chun from Door-Door had his cap, and various later forms of ball would have full faces, Q-Bert's low resolution nature meant the developers had to resort to more drastic structural solutions.


Not necessarily his wife - Ms Pac-Man was actually a bootleg game produced by a completely different group and then sold to the american company representing the original Namco product. While not up on my peerage I believe this makes her something more like Pac-Man's second cousin, or possibly his niece. Regardless - we know that Ms Pac-Man canonically has legs, since they are represented so prominently on the cabinet art to fairly disconcerting effect. The question of "ball with feet" vs "ball with legs" is ongoing and unsettled and will perhaps never be resolved until the final defeat of the dread god Eros. But it has to be said that all the offbrand Pac variants look better every year that the singular hegemonic Pac presence accrues yet more power for his ghoulish media empire. Bring back Pac Baby!!


YES I've seen the picture of Kirby where he has human feet and NO I don't ever want to look at it again.


A game with a wide variety of ball-related monsters. The most interesting for our purposes are the "Ball Droids", hollow metal balls with little legs and an antenna that shoots a powerful ray. For some reason I have the impression that basketballs are stored inside the ball droids to be cleaned, and that they therefore represent a sort of feral washing machine.


There are now over 800 pokemon, which is a full 750 more than I can remember. Of these a substantial variety are some form of ball with feet, from Gen 1 alone we have Venonat, Jigglypuff, the Polywhirl family and likely many others. I like Jigglypuff the best for its precious little tuft.


The "Pooka", aka Deepman, is a ball with feet which has admirably adapted to subterranean additions by the simple expedient of adding some goggles. Somehow this combination works well enough for us not to question it further... Deepman lives here, he seems to fit in, he is taking adequate safety precautions. Are you?


The Mario series has so many kinds of balls with feet that it would almost unbalance the list to try and put them all in - two especially notable examples being Bob-Ombs and the lovely Wanderin' Gooms from Wario Land. So I will just focus on one personal favourite.

The "mildes" from Yoshi's Island are notable mainly for being, as their name suggests, the single least threatening enemies in the game. Even the shy guys can sometimes get you with their haphazard wandering movements - the metal, spikey walking guys resist being eaten or stepped on - various other enemies have some sort of resistance, or speciality, or form of surprise attack. The mildes' only purpose is to amble slowly forwards, and then to die. You can pop them underfoot, you can eat them for more ammo, you can shoot them with an egg if you really want to be over the top. They are comically overdestructable. And yet they have a cheery, aimless smile at all times, and seem content to just wander forwardsin this fashion. The combination of this contentness with their fragile superfluity makes them a mysterious and memorable presence.

A milde actually becomes a boss character at one point in the game - it just keeps wandering as before, except now it's very large. Its gimmick is to split into two smaller mildes when slammed on, suggesting balls with feet reproduce by a form of cell division.



Once again it is the task of "indie games" to boldly reinvent an overlooked classic of form. In this case - a promotional screenshot for smash hit upcoming mall purgatory simulacrum Crypt Underworld, in which we see a mysterious yet immediately beguiling entity known only as "BUMBO", consisting entirely of billboarded ball sprites. BUMBO pushes against ball with feet orthodoxy by (1) apparently being six feet high and (2) having, instead of any kind of face, the terse but fascinating declaration.. BUMBO! The striking power that results may yet make this spirit something of a Beau Brummel figure for the next generation of balls with feet.


This ball has long legs, possibly evolved to be able to eat high pieces of foliage. A nice variant. And with physics!


A collaboration between Sylvie and Hubol, both longtime developers with a deep canon of ball-based works. Jiggler has to get all the medals, but at what cost? The ball with feet format proves a form well adapted to surviving in the overgrown labyrinth of strange and masochistic shareware platform games.


No relation to X Clan. Actually not a game but an entire franchise, produced by bootleg famicom developers "Nice Code" and discoverable in shady-looking multicarts the world over (including at the V&A!) - encompassing titles like Pindable Crystal Ball, Forest Adventure, and my personal favourite – Sky Dreamer. All of these games star "Nature Clan", a tiny but indomitable red ball with feet and eyes in the Lolo tradition. Long past the Famicom's official expiry date Nature Clan has hung in there with his series of original and sometimes beautiful adventures.. It's easy to mock pirate games but I take real pleasure in the thought that they are keeping the tradition of gormless "generic" videogame entities alive in new contexts - passing on to new generations the vague sensation of having once been a ball with feet.


Yume Nikki populates the dream unconscious in part with the stranger fragments of videogames long expired – strange hands, famicom worlds. In one location we come across the "wheelies", a mysterious group of painted discs with powerful, muscular legs. The musculature suggests a vigorous lifestyle, and they are undressed and unshod, suggesting connection to the earth and perhaps a condition of grace. Maybe it's accidental, but something about them also reminds me of early depictions of biblical angels, shown as floating, winged wheels covered in eyes. They're strange, charged figures... balls with feet may no longer be as familiar a presence on our screens. But Yume Nikki suggests they live on regardless in the collective dream life, nourished by that mysterious soil, which they ultimately came from, and will ultimately return to again.


What is a ball... for that matter what are feet? These questions may never be answered by mankind, for they belong more properly to the realm of "god". But in examining the iconography of ball with feet I have come up with some rough rules and values which I hope to enshrine.

1. The main body of the creature should either be a ball or substantially ball-like (eg "egg" "deflated ball" "ball of fluff"). Yet already we are back in the realm of private judgement as many things can be described this way. I can only follow my heart.

2. The ball forms both the head and the torso.

3. Ideally the feet should be attached to the ball by as short a range as possible. They are "feet" and not "legs".

4. Hands are optional but discouraged.

5. Facial features should ideally be minimal.

6. The feet should be stubby.

7. The ball should be cute.

These seven tenets are being nailed to churchdoors worldwide as I type.


In my opinion "ball with feet" is common in videogames for the following reasons:

- the ball shape is simple and easily identified on a cluttered screen - it can be rendered at even very low resolutions

- the ball shape fits well within a collision box while remaining somewhat more organic looking than a square.

The feet are harder to account for on a purely technical level - but this is key, since the history of videogames is not just that of technical limitations but also of the continuous effort to mitigate or push against those limitations. Between the human and the machine lies a broad range of give-and-take - as the human adapts to the rhythms of the machine, the machine itself takes on more human face. The ball becomes the ball with feet, marking off the point where consciousness and material become ambiguously reconciled.

Also, the walk cycle for a ball with feet is easy to animate.


The circle has long been regarded as the most perfect of forms for the uniformity which it represents; the feet, as the body's connection to earthly matter ("feet of clay", etc). A ball with feet is therefore a kind of synthesis of the divine with the material, and could therefore be seen as a kind of "ultimate lifeform", the final purpose of which to either destroy or rule over the imperfect synthesis that is mankind. We prefigure this day of reckoning in our dreams, and our art.