Listen. I watch a lot of TV and movies. You watch a lot of TV and movies. We all watch stuff and sometimes when you watch something, you have that moment where you go ‘hey. Hey, that’s not how you do that. That’s not realistic at all’ and maybe you’re willing to let it slide because you’re a normal human being who doesn’t get extremely petty about things. But I am not a normal human being. I do get petty about things. When I see something done wrong I go on the internet and I complain because that’s my duty as an online citizen. My particular area of interest and complaints is video games.
So now I am here, writing this Obscure Pixels about a few of my favourite (absolutely least favourite) times I have seen games represented in other media. Normally it’s something I can tolerate, although begrudgingly, and maybe at worst it will deserve a snarky tweet. ‘Oho,’ my tweet will say, ‘look at this movie, using Pac-Man sounds for a 3D FPS. This is ridiculous. That is not at all the kinds of sounds modern video games make and I am offended and appalled’ and this is only tweet 1 of 204, all intended to explain my personal distaste.
These times, though, I have instead decided to go beyond my meager Twitter followerbase and instead share my disdain and frustration with a wider audience. Directors, cast and crew all partaking in what should probably be listed as a Sin on those old stone tablets Moses had, and it probably was, but they’re old, and the part that says ‘please stop doing video games wrong in movies and tv’ has just faded over time, but it was definitely on there.
The earliest example I can recall is Charlie’s Angels. I was young and enticed by hot ladies, as I’m sure many of us were. And then lo and behold, to a younger me’s absolute delight, comes a scene where Drew Barrymore herself drops into some kid’s backyard, entirely naked. Though my young eyes were quickly taken off her and instead onto the absolutely grotesque scene happening inside the house. Two kids, innocent youths, being subjected to the directors misunderstanding of Square classic, Final Fantasy VIII.
Both children had controllers in their hands as one of the battle scenes played out and I realized, horrified, it was a single player game. The delight of naked Drew Barrymore far from my mind, all I could think about was these poor kids being forced to pretend this single player JRPG was, in fact, a multiplayer experience. And so began a long series of disappointment as I discovered this was the norm. This is what people thought video games were. That they could just throw whatever at the wall and it would stick, like those sticky hands. But, much like those sticky hands, as time goes on and it turns up later under your couch covered in all kinds of nastiness you didn’t know you had, so too did these scenes wind up on the internet.
It began a lifelong bitter fascination with the phenomenon that some call ‘Pac-Man Fever’. The concept of video games never evolving in the public eye beyond the arcade era. This is despite the fact that video games are kind of a bigger deal now, with consoles being in most homes and even my mum having an understanding that video games are not just Pac-Man (to be fair, my mum finished Crash Bandicoot, a feat I myself was never able to accomplish, though she hasn’t played any games since).
And so I continued to keep my eyes peeled for crappy examples in media. And I was rewarded for my vigilance with a lifetime of suffering.
Law and Order: SVU
Perhaps the ultimate reward/kick in the face was the classic Law and Order: SVU episode, ‘Intimidation Game’. It was about Gamergate. I feel like that alone is enough to know this isn’t going to be a good experience. It was an awful experience.
Ice-T’s classic line, “I read on Kotaku it’s better than Civ 5” is, for me, right up there with classics such as “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” or perhaps “Here’s looking at you, kid”. A piece of media history. The entire episode is like this. Logan Paul is in it to give an indicator of quality. Or. Lack thereof. I think the final scene is supposed to be some kind of FPS thing like ‘ha ha, see, he thinks real life is video games!!!’ like the end of the Doom movie but even worse. Remember the Doom movie? Remember the first person bit at the end? If you can imagine that, but in a Law and Order setting then you know it’s less than ideal.
NCIS is another contender. Something about high scores in MMORPG’s? That’s not a thing? That’s now how that works? Most of what they’re saying doesn’t make any sense at all? It’s like someone just put a directory of vague video game terms together and tried to fit them into a script the best they could. Instead of appreciating their effort I’m just kind of disappointed and upset.
And this! From CSI Miami! Remember CSI Miami? Remember how good the memes about the opening were? This particular episode featured the classic trope, ‘gamers can’t tell real life apart from video games’ and had the criminals playing some GTA clone and that translated into ‘if we kill people in real life we get points and level up’. Or. Something? “Five-thousand points, bitch” is the sort of script writing that I’m sure many writers could only hope to emulate in their careers. I know if I was an actor I would refuse to partake in anything unless I was guaranteed lines of this quality.
Of course, this isn’t even including all the instances of people playing a handheld console without a cartridge (even Neighbors, of all things, is guilty of this), or random arcade sound effects over a game being played on a modern console. If I went into all of those I could be here for a while. I could start my own goto.game that was just this one specific niche topic.
I think at the end of the day, we should all just aim to portray games like they are in The Simpsons. The Simpsons have contained the only good examples of video games, like the classic Dash Dingo or Bonestorm. Or even, the masterpiece that is Lee Corvello’s Putting Challenge. In hindsight, this should have just been a piece about ‘awesome games on The Simpsons that I wish were real’.