Typing tie-ins from the ads of yore – 9 to 5 Typing

Of all the movies that could be made into a game in the early 80s, a comedy movie like 9 to 5 was probably the least expected.

There have been some decent movie tie-ins and a lot of really bad ones. But years before Mavis Beacon started to teach typing to PC users and a decade and a half or so before Typing of the Dead on the Dreamcast battled zombies with deadly keystrokes, Doralee was busy lassoing her “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical boss” with the help of your keyboard skills in 9 to 5 Typing from Epyx in 1984.

It was based on the hit 1980 comedy film, 9 to 5, which followed the story of three secretaries battling it out with their boss, Franklin Hart (played by Dabney Coleman).

Now Hart was a sleazy guy with a doting wife (who happened to be on vacation) who knew nothing of how he treated the women at his office with regular rounds of verbal abuse, sexist remarks, and a pinch of power crazed ego just for effect. The three (played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton in her big screen debut) secretaries eventually decide they have had enough and after a few crazy incidents (and a fantasy high on weed dreaming what they’d like to do to him), manage to corner their boss and keep him tied up at his own house while making changes for the better at his office (along with digging up bits and pieces of proof that Hart’s been embezzling the company).

Dolly Parton's famous theme from the film was emulated for the game's title (seen here) and menu screen.

(screens from the C64 version) Dolly Parton’s famous theme from the film was emulated for the game’s title (seen here) and menu screen.

Hart’s eventually freed by his wife (who adores him) who unexpectedly comes home early from her vacation and he takes the three women who had made him a prisoner back to his office at gunpoint. Hart’s shocked at the changes (like flex hours and a daycare) but the CEO, who just happens to be in for a visit, compliments him on “his” changes and decides to transfer him to Brazil so he can do the same there leaving the three to celebrate.

A few years later, Epyx did a movie-tie in asking its audience “Why do typing programs have to involve shooting down spaceships? They don’t!”. Only barely any of what I described actually shows up in the actual game.

The first four choices went over the layout of the keyboard and where you hands should be with sound and visual effects to help. The actual game would consist of only three exercises, each increasing in difficulty (such as adding more punctuation).

The first four choices went over the layout of the keyboard and where you hands should be with sound and visual effects to help. The actual game would consist of only three exercises, each increasing in difficulty (such as adding more punctuation).

This unusual gamble merged a typing game in with select scenes animated from the movie such as when Doralee runs from Hart only to get the drop on him later, or when Hart dances to shotgun blasts, or when Doralee lassos him as she did in her fantasy high. Scoring was measured by how many words you typed per minute along with how many errors were made. Even Dolly Parton’s hit theme song, “9 to 5”, was emulated in the game during the title and menu screens.

Even though it was touted as “The typing game for everyone…”, the movie was only cannibalized to create animated film elements as part of the reward system. Fans that had seen the film would get a chuckle from the references, but kids and non-fans might not get the humor though they’d get a visual treat in watching pixels jump onscreen while they typed.

The first sequence has Hart chasing Doralee through the office. I actually let this run for a bit to see what would happen and even screwed up the typing part, but there doesn't seem to be any penalty for failure except scoring like the worst typist in the world.

The first sequence sees Hart chasing Doralee through the office. I actually let this run for a bit to see what would happen and even screwed up the typing part, but there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for failure except scoring like the worst typist in the world.

In the second hardest sequence, "To Coin a Phrase", Hart dances to buckshot and ends up getting blasted at the end in another fantasy scene.

In the second hardest sequence, “To Coin a Phrase”, Hart dances to buckshot and ends up getting blasted at the end in another fantasy scene.

Doralee prepares to lasso Hart in this sequence. The faster you type, the faster she spins the lasso until she traps Hart as soon as you finish.

In the “hardeset” game, Doralee prepares to lasso Hart in this sequence. The faster you type, the faster she spins the lasso until she traps Hart as soon as you finish.

Players could even make up their own typing scenarios with the built-in tools and the game tried keeping things fresh by varying the messages typed — some of which actually dealt with the actual story from the movie.

Like a lot of Epyx’s titles that didn’t deal with an Impossible Mission or Summer Games, 9 to 5 Typing seems to have briefly appeared in retail for the Commodore 64 — I’m actually not even sure if it was ported to anything else like the Apple II — and apparently disappeared afterward.

As a game, it just didn’t seem that enthralling. The animated sequences could get stale after a short while and there were only three of them to actually see. On the other hand, the typing exercises did their job and players could conceivably make up new ones to keep the challenge going, but you could also do that with any other tutor outside of this game.

It also apparently came out four years after the hit movie. By the time 1984 rolled around, people were going to theaters to see Ghostbusters, The Terminator, The Karate Kid, and Indiana Jones head into his Temple of Doom. And players would also be likely busy with or looking forward to the timely adaptations for a few of those titles.

Still, it’s a neat ancestor that typing games today can trace back to as one of the niche’s more offbeat entries. Although it apparently never survived as anything more than a disk dump on the ‘net and the ad above, it was a clever if unusual idea by Epyx in creating something from a movie that didn’t quite fit in alongside zapping aliens or dungeon delving.

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