Cirque du Strange

Step right up for the weirdest show on Earth. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, pets, virtual pets and any inanimate objects you may have imbued with personality, to the Cirque du Strange, where the sordid underbelly and psychotic history of our pastime is laid bare. Thrill at Lara Croft’s arrest warrant. Gasp as the government promotes the use of psychedelics to kids. And squeal at the Boobies of Health. Intrigued? The Cirque du Strange awaits.

Lara vs the Law
Lara Croft has been to every corner of the world, but it was a trip to Tesco - in Brighton, to be precise - that finally pushed her over the thin blue line. Seeing the titular Tomb Raider packing a pair of pistols was too much for passers-by, who called the cops for fear that Lara was about to hold up and rob the place. An armed response unit was dispatched, tracking our digital doyenne of the D-cup back home... to a small house in Hove, where model and part-time Lara-like Michelle Powers had just returned from posing for some publicity shots, quite oblivious to the chaos in her wake.

The color of blood
Carmageddon, a racer that tore up the moral majority back in 1997, was a game that focused as much on splattering pedestrians as winning its races. In England, The Powers That Be insisted the squishy humans be replaced with zombies, whose pressure groups still haven’t gotten out of the ground. But in the notoriously blood-shy Germany, things went one step further: replacing people with floating trash cans. Took some of the fun out of it, if you ask us.

Those you leave behind
Sanitarium, a cult favorite of 1999, was mostly a psychological thriller, but one level stood out as a true sucker punch. The main character temporarily became his dead little sister, seeing the pain and suffering her absence has caused to her family. Horrible, heartbreaking, and weird beyond measure, it’s a little moment of humanity in the midst of some genuine horror.

The first Hot Coffee
Completing a mission in Maxis’ SimCopter would usually end with fireworks and a big brass band. Programmer Jacques Servin had his own plans, adding a bit of code that would occasionally replace the final level’s ceremony with men in swimming trunks kissing each other. Maxis fired Servin instantly, but it was too late: 80,000 copies had been sent out, and unauthorized Easter Eggs became a thing of the past.

Terror in the skies
The 9/11 tragedy created many scapegoats, and gaming was no exception. Microsoft Flight Simulator took the brunt of it, its realistic flight models being held up as a possible terrorist training tool. That, and the game introduction’s cheerful cry of “Hey, John, you just about crashed into the Empire State Building! Wouldn’t that be cool?” Needless to say, this bit has been excised with extreme prejudice since then.

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