Welcome back to AVQ&A (Gameological edition), where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s question is something of a follow up to our last Q&A about in-game pop culture, and it comes from Gameological contributor Samantha Nelson: What fictional game—from a movie, TV show, etc.—do you most want to play?
I’m a big baseball fan, but I’d be lying if I said it couldn’t sometimes use some jazzing up. In recent decades, the game has introduced expansion teams, a tougher steroid policy, the designated hitter rule, and a more-inclusive playoffs. Who is to say that in a thousand years, it might not look something like blernsball, the national pastime of Futurama? Besides mandatory steroid injections, blernsball incorporates aluminum bats, balls attached to elastic cords, a player riding on a giant tarantula for no obvious reason, hoverbikes, and the seventh inning grope. I’m not 100 percent clear on the rules, but it doesn’t seem appreciably harder to understand than baseball. The important thing to remember is that blernsball, like baseball, is a game that cherishes tradition. Where today we honor Hank Aaron for being one of the greatest players of all time, in the future they celebrate Hank Aaron XXIV for being the worst blernsball player of all time. It’s the history that matters, even if that history is in the future.
Paul Robertson is no stranger to the world of video games. He’s provided character designs and animations for plenty of them, including Scribblenauts, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, and Adventure Time: Hey Ice King, Why’d You Steal Our Garbage. He’s also produced two 16-bit-inspired short films, Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 and King Of Power 4 Billion%, both of which left fans clamoring for playable game versions. While those films are frantic, seizure-inducing freak outs, it is Robertson’s comparatively serene music video for Architecture In Helsinki’s “Do The Whirlwind” that most makes me want to pick up a game pad and explore its video game world. “Do The Whirlwind” showcases a brightly colored world of laid-back adventure, as a motley crew of eye-catching characters prepare for a battle of the bands. Choose between the bass-playing lizard, the trumpeting bubble girl, the bearded fish drummer, or the hula-dancing keyboardist as you venture through locales like a giant sushi bar and lovely cloud kingdom. Keep the rhythm with your bandmates while competing against the zombie surf rockers and the dreaded Pete and his mechanical shark death trap. It’s the California Dreams video game I’ve always wanted, only with a zombie girl playing the triangle.
There is a special place in my heart for the Sega Game Gear, a once mighty rival to the original Game Boy. At least, it was mighty to my eight-year-old eyes because it was in color and had an X-Men game. The one game missing from my library was the mystical and alluring title placed very prominently in Surf Ninjas, an early ’90s movie about two teenaged ninja brothers trying to kill Leslie Nielsen with surfing. The younger brother was too weak and tiny to fight directly, but he was armed with an ancient ninja weapon—a Game Gear. Like many famous ninjas, the younger brother was able to control the world around him by playing a video game that resembled his surroundings. Most memorably, he psychically willed his older brother to slap a ninja with a fish via the game. If there was one thing I truly wanted growing up, it was to make my older sister hit herself with a fish. They did make a Surf Ninjas tie-in game, but that just ran through the movie’s story. I wanted the one that let you take control of the world around you, and some part of me still does. No matter how old I get, seeing my sister slap herself with a fish would still be pretty hilarious.
Anthony John Agnello
Playing a super-advanced arcade game that even used polygons back in 1984 sounds great (I, Robot being the only other one around), but getting drafted into an interstellar, interspecies war would be…actually no. No, playing Starfighter sounds awful! I’d just like to play the arcade game from The Last Starfighter without any of the added responsibilities. The film itself is a solid space opera story and features some early examples of computer animation that heralded not just where movies would head in the ’90s but video games as well. It was clearly fantasy. The arcade game, though, as advanced as it was, was real. Using the same controls as Atari’s successful Star Wars arcade game—yet another direct link between The Last Starfighter and George Lucas’ movies—you pilot a spaceship from a cockpit view and try to survive onslaughts of enemy spaceships. Not only did the game feature early use of polygons for an unusual, futuristic look, it also had snazzy heads up displays for your ship’s weapons and shields. Making the game all the more desirable is the fact that it was playable. Atari made prototypes of the cabinet, one of which was used in the movie, but never put the machine in full production because it was too expensive.
Spike Jonze’s love story Her is set in a future that’s just a bit cooler than ours but still profoundly relatable. One of the ways the film sets the scene is with the two video games that Joaquin Phoenix’s character can be seen playing. One, Perfect Mom, seems like an even more neurotic version of Diner Dash. Instead of playing as a restaurant owner trying to make all her customers happy, you’re trying to stop your kids from losing their sanity to sugary snacks and making all the other moms jealous by showing up at school with cupcakes. Perfect Mom is the sort of thing I could easily play on my PC today, but more impressive is the unnamed game that Phoenix’s character plays at home. Using a holographic display in his living room, he explores an alien planet, complete with the chance to get help from an incredibly foul-mouthed alien child by speaking to him rather than selecting predetermined dialogue options. That’s the sort of seamless interaction I dream of, and it makes that future way cooler than ones that just focus on flying cars.
The game I’d want to play above all others isn’t necessarily the one that looks like the most fun, but how could I not want to check out something with commercials that star a badass Santa Claus smashing through a wall and firing game cartridges out of a bazooka? I’d run to my parents in a heartbeat and tell them to “buy me Bonestorm or go to hell” if it were real. Originally appearing in The Simpsons episode “Marge Be Not Proud,” Bonestorm is the epitome of super-violent, super-’90s fighting games, complete with blood-spewing volcanoes and Mortal Kombat-style multi-armed monsters punching each other to death. I distinctly remember being a stupid kid and thinking that Bonestorm looked really cool when I first saw this episode. My only concern would be that Milhouse seemed to get tired of Bonestorm pretty quickly. Maybe it doesn’t have the legs of a beloved classic like Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge, but those first few seconds when I enter my name would be pretty awesome at least.
The Librarian’s Quest is one of Nathan Fielder’s ingenious methods for covertly scoping out his clients on the Comedy Central show Nathan For You. Built to look like an ’80s arcade game, the Quest cabinet is a barely portable hidey hole for Fielder, who locks himself inside and observes the day-to-day practices of the business he’s looking to help. The hope is that the game looks so boring, with buttons labeled “Read,” “Index,” and “Shhhh…,” that no one would dare play it—let alone pay the price of a single game, 80 quarters. The banality of the subject matter would have the opposite effect on me if I saw this machine in the wild. It’s completely at odds with its ’80s arcade contemporaries, which were so often fast-paced action games starring spaceships and warrior beefcakes. How could I not be drawn in by something so bizarre? Honestly, I wouldn’t be willing to pay 20 bucks for it, but I’d have an insatiable curiosity about the thing. Its cabinet is designed for three players. Are they working together to clean the library and expel any boisterous punks that dare break the silence of their hallowed grounds? Or maybe players compete to see who can shush the most screaming children while returning books to the proper shelf. Or maybe you can choose between the two! I don’t know about 80 quarters, but I’d probably shell out a solid four to give that a shot.