Is THAT what they think? Video games as they appear in music, television, and film
Games on TV
What do the film, TV, and music industries really think of games? Back in the 90s and early 2000s, video games were seen as playthings for overgrown man babies. Whenever TV or film tried to represent games, itd be through showing viewers a spotty oik, trapped in his bedroom, somehow playing a game that looked 5 years old. With his controller unplugged. His mother would probably look down at him disapprovingly, and say something like I wish you wouldnt sit in front of those Computer Video Games all day, Billy.
Things are a little better in 2014, but theres still an overwhelming sense that music, film, and TV just dont understand games. Is that fair? Or is pop culture still missing the point? Today's nonsensical list of things looks at just some of the representations of video gaming available outside of gaming itself. Prepare yourself for incorrect controller holding, "YOU ARE DEEEEAD!"-style soundbites, tedious uses of the phrase Game Over, and maybe--just maybe--some dead-on depictions of our beloved virtual pastime.
The Simpsons Various episodes
Setup: Throughout its 24-year run, The Simpsons has provided us with more memorable gaming moments than many bonafide video game franchises. There's been Lisa's obsession with Dash Dingo, Bart's trouble with Bonestorm, Homer's odyssey into Super Slugfest and even Billy Graham's Bible Blaster for the Christian crowd. Add to that a whole host of one-off arcade machines, including Kevin Costner's Waterworld, Escape from Death Row and Panamanian Strongman, and you've got yourself quite the backlog of gaming goodness.
Accuracy: By now, The Simpsons has lampooned almost every aspect of gaming imaginable, from shoddy tie-ins (the aforementioned Waterworld) to ultra violence, addiction and even lame holiday gift giving (anyone for Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge?). Awarding this show anything less than full marks for accuracy simply wouldn't be cromulent. 10/10
Stargate: SG-1 Volsiini Stasis Pod (from 'Avatar' S8E6)
Setup: Alien warrior Teal'c--who's still trying to make forehead piercings a thing--pilots a holodeck-style simulator, only for that exercise to suddenly (and rather predictably) go awry. Actual glimpses of the 'game' in action are kept to a bare minimum here, in favour of a real life point-of-view. In short--as Teal'c progresses, so does the game, with the crafty sim eventually spawning a near-unwinnable scenario. Too many virtual deaths and Teal'c himself may be totaled.
Accuracy: Despite a slightly outdated aesthetic, Stargate still gets many elements correct. AI that grows in relation to the player is already a fixture of many modern titles (i.e. Left 4 Dead), while co-oping plays an increasingly important role in bailing rubbish gamers out of sticky spots. As for that full body suspension, pain generation, and inescapable scenario stuff? Those aren't quite so authentic. 7/10
South Park - Various episodes
Setup: Where The Simpsons had so successfully satirised '90s gaming, with its endless array of thick-pixel beefcakes and licensed sidescrollers, South Park took up the call for a whole new millennium. Standout efforts include 'Make Love Not WarCraft' and 'Guitar Queer-O', which see the boys succumbing to MMO obsession and Guitar Hero addiction respectively. Then there's 'Go God Go', a two-part, time travelling spectacular features Cartman's attempts to experience the new Nintendo Wii.
Accuracy: Like much of its subject matter, South Park gives video gaming a fair shake, even if that treatment is at times rather bizarre. We've had ruminations on everything from console wars (the Black Friday trilogy) to collectibles (Chinpokomon), endless grinding (WarCraft) to full-on video gaming addiction (catch that dragon, Randy). 10/10
Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication
Setup: Flea, 'Ferrell', Kiedis and Frusciante explore the joys of shirtlessness in a psychedelic sandbox setting for this amazing Californication music vid. Activities include snowboarding, shark riding, powered flight and further shirtlessness, followed by a breakneck race to the Chili's subterranean lair. As an added bonus, the video even depicts the total annihilation of California (via earthquake), likely a direct result of the band's continuous hip gyrations.
Accuracy: As far 15-year-old music videos go, Californication remains pretty damn impressive. As a vision of things to come, the digital Chilis put even the mighty Nostradamus to shame. Wait, make that Nostradamus wielding Biff Tannen's sports almanac. It's just that accurate. So make way, Assassin's Creed, Cali already took to the skies in Michelangelo's flying machine. Similarly, Resident Evil 4 can move over, as Flea was outfoxing chainsaw-wielding maniacs way back in '99. 10/10
Def Leppard Let's Get Rocked
Setup: British rock outfit and perennial spelling bee failures Def Leppard take time out from their 'hearing aids for panthers' initiative to bring you THE FUTURE. First released in 1992, the video for Let's Get Rocked--an early homage to CG animation--tried to take advantage of then-recent leaps in the field (courtesy of Terminator 2 et al) yet somehow ended up positing an even more nightmarish future than the one faced by John and Sarah Connor. Starring a mumps-ridden, teenaged Reggie Fils-Aimes, Let's Get Rocked never draws from any one game in particular, though its obvious similarities to the medium remain plain to see. Just be sure to equip your radio-dial horror eyes first.
Accuracy: Had Nintendo decided to create a Paperboy platformer in the mid 1990s, we might well have seen this clayfaced abomination everywhere. As it is, gaming largely bypassed this era of awful human animation, thus ensuring the untroubled sleep of millions of children worldwide. While the video certainly nails the whole 'running/driving in a 3d environment' thing (GTA 3 was less than seven years away at this point) no developer has yet fulfilled Def Leppard's dream of human to lawn mower transformation. 4/10
Crime Dramas - CSI: Miami, Law and Order, and loads more
Setup: A cop show screenwriter needs a theme--fast--and which modern hobby causes more crime than TV shows? GAMES! Bonus points are awarded for naming your wild stab at digital hipness something like 'Game Over!' *Gigantic sigh*. It's no exaggeration to state that this entire article couldve been filled with painfully inaccurate police dramas, so thank your lucky Z-list stars it isn't.
Accuracy: Let's just get this one out of the way nice and early shall we? 0/10. Great, now we can sit back and enjoy some of the most cringeworthy 'game dude' dialogue ever committed to screen. "The bloodthirst is unquenchable!" "plug this back in! This is level 20! This is the Kingdom of Galagore!", "I'm driving along, and I see a woman, so I run her over.", "Wow, look at those gibs fly!", "You better watch your grill, Johnny Law, we're still in play!" "You single-handedly killed the entire skank horde from the Isle of Kardyas in Blood Fun 6!", "Life is like a video game, Ray, everybody's got to die sometime!" Profound, accurate stuff I'm sure you'll agree.
Setup: Lo-fi icon Beck emerges from the grave to smash skeletons, walk a floating dog and ride the giant spider bike. A promotion for Beck's 2005 album Guero, the E-Pro music video plays out like the greatest indie hit there never was, fusing 80s style vector graphics with quirky 2.5D sidescrolling. It's one part Shovel Knight, ten-eighths Vib Ribbon and 16 bits Battle Zone, all squeezed into one oddly compelling package.
Accuracy: For all of its brain punching, self-lobotomizing oddity, E-Pro actually nails several gaming conventions. There's an obvious boss monster, several unique stages and some incredibly bizarre power-ups -- "where oh where are my tree-dwelling diamonds?" Plus, that whole walking bike thing is a dead ringer for Half-Life's Striders, so yeah, there's that 8/10
The Lonely Island Doubt: Flynn's Revenge
Setup: The Lonely Island boys relive the nonstop thrill ride of Catholic-church-scandal film, Doubt (2008) via the official video game--for Sega Genesis. Taking place after the events of the film, 'Flynn's Revenge' casts players in the role of the eponymous Father Flynn, a friendly priest and suspected 'sexual deviant'.
Accuracy: As movie tie-ins go, a film about abuse in the clergy is a clear non-starter, though in the age of the Sega Genesis it might well have had a chance. You see, back in the day, any old developer--*cough* LJN--could secure themselves a license, code up a crappy title and have it stacked on store shelves before anyone could scream 'shovelware'. Main offenders included the Frankie Goes to Hollywood game that Ocean did during their notorious 'license anything!' period, Paul McCartney's Give My Regards to Broad Street, and Toys: Let the Toy Wars Begin--based on Robin Williams infamous box office bomb. Throw in some well-executed visuals, crackling audio effects and vintage sidecscrolling gameplay and you have yourself one accurate pastiche of the 'official movie game' era. 9/10
Gamer The whole, shoddy Gerard Butler movie
Setup:Set in 2024, Gamer posits a world in which brain implants can control the minds of willing (and unwilling) participants alike. One mode called Society' stands in for The Sims, allowing 'the classic Hollywood pervert nerd clich' to bump uglies via beautiful people. Another mode, 'Slayers', places death row inmates inside of a real-life kill zone.
Accuracy: I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that convict-splattering Hunger Games won't be on our real TVs this time next decade, though lifelike graphics do remain a possibility. As for controlling real people via your nifty next-gen Oculus Rift... that may well fall under the sticky umbrella of sex slavery. Again: unlikely to happen, thankfully. 5/10
Wreck-It Ralph Hero's Duty
Setup: Space marines battle brainless bugs in a nightmare sci-fi setting. The only goal: eternal glory. Despite its singularly grim demeanor, Hero's Duty remains a regular source of amusement throughout Wreck-It Ralph--and that goes doubly for American readers, as US fecal slang and Vanellope's constant misunderstandings conspire to render its title as 'Hero's Poo'. Charming.
Accuracy: Mashing up the likes of Metroid, Gears, COD and Halo, Hero's Duty offers a relatively faithful take on the modern FPS aesthetic. Controlled via lightgun and set along an on-rails path, Duty deals out death and dismemberment at an electric pace, with nary a cover mechanic or slow-mo death sequence in sight. As for Ralph's glitchy interference--well that's par for the course in an industry of 'buy now, patch later' titles now isn't it? Accuracy boost unlocked. 9/10
Moby Wait For Me
Setup: This music video sees a sad-eyed Peter Moore enduring the virtual day from hell, juggling pitfalls and personal issues in a 16-bit city. With marital trauma, callous coworkers and a whole heap of unwanted stress to contend with, old mini-Moore stands on the verge of doing something drastic. It's sad stuff, really sad--somewhere between 'hearty sigh' and that honking noise you make while sobbing. Not that I ever cry or anythingI'm Internet-tough.
Accuracy: Ever wondered what would happen if David Cage and company got their mitts on the Mario license, maybe by raiding Ninty HQ ala Die Hard? Well wonder no more, as 'Wait For Me' is the closest you're ever likely to get. Visually indistinguishable from a real 90s title, Moby's melancholic video also observes many of the rules that govern these games. Everyday items are a hazard, gigantic monsters are a given, and jumps to the top of the head almost always result in death. That being said, we can't recall ever playing a genuine midlife crisis sim for the Super NES. 9/10
Peep Show Fantasy WarQuest (from 'Mark's Women' S5E6)
Setup: Self-loathing salaryman Mark Corrigan shares his love of RPGs with two equally geeky colleagues. Their game of choice: a bare bones MMO by the name of 'Fantasy WarQuest'. They quest together, they bond, Mark misses out on love again when Gerrard gets together with Dobby for some +69 magic outside the game. If you know what I mean. Of course you do.
Accuracy: Despite only making the briefest of appearances, the game's inclusion does raise some interesting points. For one, it works to highlight the social and communal nature of video gaming, allowing Mark to grow closer to his love interest without ever embarrassing himself. Of course, television loves nothing more than to pair up lovelorn geeks via video games. Thankfully, Peep Show treats the subject with an appropriate nuance and restraint. 8/10
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Techpocalypse (from 'Charlie Rules the World' S8E8)
Setup: Sunny's gang of self-absorbed misfits become addicted to the latest social gaming craze a 'something-ville'-type timesink named 'Techpocalypse'. Set on post-Armageddon Earth, the game tasks players with rebuilding a shattered society from the ground up. Unfortunately for us, the Paddy's pub players arent much interested in progress.
Accuracy: Aside from its convincing rendition of a Zynga-style social game, Sunny also scores points for of its dead-on depiction of crazy, game-related behaviour. Danny Devito's Frank switches sex to attract attention, Mac works up an ego-stroking avatar, Charlie gets a job as a gold farmer and Dennis hates on all of gaming. They pretty much covered everything, and still have time to squeeze in one of the most accurate analyses of social gaming ever uttered: "It's, like, when I'm doing good in the game, I'm doing good in life". 10/10
Brass Eye - Pantu the Dog (from 'Paedogeddon')
Setup: Brass Eye, aka 'the British equivalent of the Onion', aired this controversial episode back in the summer of 2001. The object of its mockery: sensationalised TV news. Oh, and lots and lots of gullible celebrities. One standout sequence involves an online game named 'Pantu the Dog', an innocent enough title that appears to have been taken over by scores of evil sex offenders.
Accuracy: Tabloid rags love nothing more than a good public outcry, a fact that makes gaming--and its general unfamiliarity to older folks--something of an easy target. While Brass Eye may have been aiming its ire at the larger scapegoating culture, it also mimicked many of the nonsense stories that would soon assail gaming. Expert advice includes such timeless gems as "online pedophiles can actually make your keyboard release toxic vapours that make you suggestable" and "this man has plugged his groin into his computer". Marvelous. 8/10
Super Furry Animals Lazer Beam
Setup: Psychedelic Welshmen The Super Furry Animals sit down to tackle their very own video game. Cue Metal Slug 11: Bearded Boyos Edition. Tidy.
Accuracy: One of the more accurate odes on this list, Lazer Beam packs in more references-per-second than the average laugh-starved writer can in an entire article. Is the band's logo seen masquerading as the Nintendo crest? Check. Does the vid feature authentic graphics, gameplay, how-tos and HUDs? Also check. Do we see the guys gawping together at a tv screen, clearly agitated and unwashed--that's a big 10-4 too? I guess somebody really knows their video games. 10/10
Futurama Future Challenge 3000 (from 'Reincarnation' S6E26)
Setup: The Planet Express crew receive the retro gaming treatment, courtesy of a colourful 16-bit makeover. Styled after the platforming and/or adventure titles of the mid-90s, 'Future Challenge 3000' follows Professor Farnsworth's attempts to answer every single question in existence. With a little help from the one true building block of life i.e. the humble pixel, he eventually cracks the code, only to become despondent at having nothing left to learn.
Accuracy: Loving tributes like this make me wish there were more old school tie-in titles on the market today. Its 100% better than the crappy Futurama game we actually got! Simply put, Future Challenge 3000 looks, sounds and acts the part of a quirky Tim Schaefer effort, with knowing nods to the likes of Dig Dug, Tapper and Punch Out arcade only sweetening the deal. 10/10
Stop getting games, er, a bit wrong!
What do you think? Were there too many delicious 10s handed out here today? Alright, let's make everything a 3. Are you happy now? No, no you've never been happy have you, you hateful little man. You'll pay for this. Don't think you won't payYour opinions on a postcard, or preferably in the comments section below.
Wnt mr gmz wrds? Sorry, all the vowels temporarily fell off my keyboard. Here's a feature on the best metal covers of video game soundtracks, and something else on 12 games that fake game over screens. Ooh, those cheeky, little cock-monkeys.