It's almost inevitable that any long-running TV series will contain at least one "videogame episode." Sometimes the attempt at pop culture awareness is done well, but it’s generally an attempt by clueless writers to appear hip and socially relevant by tackling the supposed implications of violent games. The conversation, as I imagine it, goes something like this:
Writer 1: You know, my son is always playing those videogames. Writer 2: I saw a report on Fox News about how videogames make kids blow up yellow vans. Writer 1: Fox, huh? Well that sounds reliable. Hey… what if we put videogames in the show? How hip and relevant would that be? Writer 2: I just ejaculated.
Okay, that depiction might be a little unfair… some of these shows were made before Fox News existed. Zing! Seriously though, as much as we like to make broad generalizations about mainstream media, some depictions of games in film and TV have been intelligent, some even brilliant. What we're really intested in, however, is the fact that there’s virtually always some kind of mind control or other “evil” involved.
Above: That’s right, Tom, MIND CONTROL!
To be fair, it isn't just videogames that get the evil mind control treatment. Virtually all electronic media has been portrayed similarly, with television probably getting the brunt of it. Every new form of media generates a certain amount of fear, plus the "evil haywire electronics OMG!" plot device is really convenient.
Speculation on the causes of widespread societal fears aside (because it's boring), we've put together this collection of our favorite examples of "evil" fictional games because, well, that’s what we do - we find things that are kind of similar, arrange them across a few pages and sprinkle them with snarky, mildly amusing cultural references. You bet’cha we do.
As great as The X-Files is, this episode could be one of the worst. It’s your typical “the game's malfunctioning and one of the characters is killing people for reals!” plot. The game in question is a virtual reality funfest called “First-Person Shooter,” a term which they probably thought was really “insidery” and cool. In all likelihood, the episode was fatally inspired by The Matrix, which was in theaters a year earlier.
Above: Scully blabs about the worthlessness of games
Without railing on every bit of techno-nonsense in the episode, this is what happens:
Some guy gets killed while playing the game. Weeeeiird. So they get some super gamer from Japan to hop in, and he gets his head cut off. Whaaaa? So, and then Mulder dons the virtual reality gear and jumps in to “get his ya-yas out,” as Scully puts it.
Above: Mulder getting his Ya-Yas out
Mulder’s totally getting his ass beat by this mysterious virtual lady, and his vitals are suffering. So Scully jumps in and starts blasting shit up.
And then they totally have to delete the game. But... what's this? The game room is empty! Oh whew, Mulder and Scully reappeared off to the side and regained their composure just fast enough to rattle off something snarky. Yeah, the game sucked in their physical bodies or something. Whatever.
South Park yields one of the exceptions to the general rule that videogame references in TV shows will always be unintentionally naïve and stupid. Chinpokomon is, of course, a parody of Pokemon, complete with a TV show, videogames, and merchandise. The only real difference is that Chinpokomon is a not-very-subtle mechanism to brainwash the kids into participating in a second attack on Pearl Harbor, whereas Pokemon is just about the money.
The Japanese plotters manage to quell suspicions for most of the episode by commenting on the parents' “huge penises” whenever they complain. No, it isn’t very clever, but it’s still funny, dammit. You can watch the full episode here, if you want. You don’t have to or anything.
Kicking buttski. Making you laughski. The Academy is backski! Mission to Moscow, the seventh Police Academy film, revolves around an evil Russian guy who is marketing a super-addictive GameBoy game called "The Game." With his sequel, "The Game 2," he plans to gain access to police and government computers around the world.
"The Game" doesn't seem to have any basis in real games - we see a character walking around on a grid (in color, despite being on an original GameBoy), then a bear punching a guard and saluting Russia? Whatever it's about, its Russian origin is pretty clearly a parody of the super-addictive Tetris. Please, someone attempt to make a real game based on it, I want to play as that crazy Russian bear.
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