Special Topics In Gameology

Have mercy!

Games Go To Hollywood: Full House, “Stephanie’s Wild Ride”

Adults can face video game addiction, too.

By Steve Heisler • October 1, 2012

Special Topics In Gameology is an in-depth look at a specific corner of the gaming world, in miniseries form. For this edition of the feature—Games Go To Hollywood—we examine the terror prevalent in classic TV episodes about video games. This week, we look at Full House and “Stephanie’s Wild Ride.”

Full House, the ’90s sitcom about an extended San Francisco family—the Tanners—who live in a house—a full one—is probably best known as a show with an Important Message. Each episode had at least one scene where someone sits down with another family member to impart sage wisdom about growing up. Sentimental music plays, of course, the kind you might hear in a Hallmark Channel movie of the week or at your coworker’s awful smooth jazz quartet that you feel obligated to see live. This hugging-and-learning formula carried Full House through eight seasons of cultural ubiquity as part of ABC’ vaunted “TGIF” Friday-night lineup.

The main storyline of the eighth-season episode “Stephanie’s Wild Ride” focuses on the middle child of the Tanner household, a Jan Brady for the ’90s. Stephanie runs into some high-school boys at the mall and pretends to be older to catch their eye. They offer her a ride in their car and drive really fast. (Teenagers!) Later, older sister DJ learns of Stephanie’s misadventures and forces her to stay home as the hooligan teens go out and enjoy an evening of almost getting killed. Stephanie is pissed at her cock-block of a sister, until the car has an off-screen accident, and suddenly she’s appreciative. They share a tender moment. The audience lets out an “aww” as a brush with death brings us all closer.

But behind this tale of irresponsible motorists is a story of a more pernicious threat—one that tears the very fabric of the perpetually paper-thin Full House universe: video games. The scourge of the ‘90s, Dennis Rodman notwithstanding.

“Stephanie’s Wild Ride” casts games as an arcane milieu of terror and addiction. The B-plot kicks off when young Michelle fires up a new video game for her Super Nintendo that’s called something I can’t entirely make out over the girl’s adorable little kid lisp—translating from cutespeak, it sounds like Montazana’s Quest, maybe. The game’s premise sounds equal parts boring and claustrophobic: It involves finding three magical keys by traveling in a magical kayak and eating magical power biscuits, fighting giant wombats in the Pasture Of Lost Hope. It seems less like an actual video game and more like what an old man imagines those little rapscallions are playing nowadays, with the beeping and booping.

The game proves seductive. Michelle is settled in for a long play session when Uncle Jesse walks by—he’s the suave one—and decides to have a go. He’s hooked. Uncle Joey, the stand-up “comic,” comes along shortly after and rips the controller from Jesse’s hands. Danny arrives, scolds them for their obsession, notices a toxic waste spill in the game, and grabs the controller. Because he’s a neat freak, get it? Eight seasons, people.

The family is powerless in the face of the game’s charms; it’s a veritable electronic Arsenio Hall of charisma. Eventually Aunt Becky joins in, as does Comet the dog. Stephanie is off almost ending her life in a moving vehicle, and no one’s the wiser while enchanted jingle-jangle goes unclaimed. When big sister DJ calls the Tanner clan for dinner, the adults realize they should probably take a break—which means wolfing down their dinner to maximize playing time.

So the hook is set, but for the viewing audience, the draw of the game remains elusive, as it doesn’t register on the screen as anything more than background Space Invaders-style chirping. The specifics are scattered and confusing, existing only for dubious comedy value. (The “Pasture Of Lost Hope” is full of cow dung, you see.) But the game’s not supposed to be specific, because it’s a stand-in for an entire pop cultural phenomenon—one that does a number on the Tanner family. Their obsession culminates in a scrum over the gamepad. Michelle resolves the fight by yanking the cartridge out of her Super Nintendo (while the unit is still on—not advisable). The message of “Stephanie’s Wild Ride” is, this is what games do. They transform even responsible, safety-conscious adults into bickering idiots.

The episode played off the collective irritation of America’s Parents, many of whom had surely witnessed a similar mind-sucking transformation happen before their very eyes in their own, comparatively drab non-Full House universe. They only watched a few seconds of these games every so often—because let’s be honest, they didn’t give a shit—so they only saw fragments. No context. Like five random minutes of five random David Lynch films. Montazana’s Quest reflects that collage: Get the key by piloting the enchanted kayak; eat the power biscuit to zonk those wombats.

Full House was validating the concerns of Baby Boomer parents. Video games equal zombie children, simple as that. Kids, however, must have seen “Stephanie’s Wild Ride” as a grand “See?!” to parents who were quick to dismiss those Nintendos and Genesiseses. Maybe the oldies and the youngies could play together.

The episode’s uneasy generational cohesion doesn’t last long. Once the adults sober up, they slink off, leaving Michelle all alone with her game. She smiles, puts the cartridge back in, and prepares for hours of unencumbered joy, not so much as letting Comet place his paw in the general vicinity of the controller. The moment—thankfully devoid of poor man’s Kenny G—delivers the Grand lesson to the pre-teens who comprised the show’s target audience: Adults will never truly understand; games are for us.

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  • BarbleBapkins

    Are you somehow implying that Full House is not a very good show? CUT. IT. OUT!!

    *makes scissors sign with hand, kills self*

    Ahem.

    This is actually the only episode of this show that I still remember anything about. Even as a kid I sensed that no one on the show really had much of an understanding of what videogames were like (or cared to know for that matter).

    The depiction of videogames on TV has not improved much over the years, sadly. I guess it serves as decent shorthand, as many actual videogames look and sound increasingly like real life, but if I hear one more goddamn Atari beep or bloop come out of an Xbox I will write a sternly worded letter to someone of import.

    • George_Liquor

      It’s weird how actors have finally convinced themselves that fake-driving no longer means ridiculously jerking steering wheels back & forth, but they still think fake-gaming must involve wildly mashing buttons & waggling joysticks.

      • Citric

        I’ve always wondered if the wildly jerking the wheel back and forth was some sort of weird actor in-joke, since surely they’ve all driven cars.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        That’s how my Dad plays Capcom fighters.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Me, too!

          I guess what I’m saying here is, “Hello, son.”

      • BarbleBapkins

        That reminds me of an episode of NCIS I saw at my parents’ house one day (and thanks to them I think I have actually seen every episode of that show over the years), where the “goth” chick is trying to hack into some computer-business and can’t do it in time, so one of the other agents starts typing away on the same keyboard she is on to help speed up the process.

        Surely the writers must know how keyboards work!

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Within the first five episodes of NCIS, there is a scene where said goth chick is playing an MMO, and is typing 10,000 keystrokes per minute just to get her character to walk slowly down a hall, and maybe swing her sword once.

          So basically, the writers know JACK SHIT about computers in general OR games.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus That’s not nearly enough keystrokes.

        • Citric

          I’ve heard that actually is an in-joke among the writers of these shows, they like to see what they can get away before people catch on that their tech stuff is nonsense.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @Citric:disqus : I’ve heard that, too. And after seeing some of these (a particular treat is the one where they access encrypted data by playing Prince of Persia), I’d sincerely hope that that was the case.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        Also they tend to incorporate so much physical motion, bouncing and moving all over the couch, despite the fact most gamers sit fucking still.

        • Citric

          My sister-in-law actually does play games like people in television shows. Leaning over, bouncing around, flailing around with the controller during intense sequences. It is hilarious.

        • frogandbanjo

          Good gamers sit still. Most gamers aren’t good.

          When I was growing up, it was an all-out war between childhood obesity and some weird version of television-resistant ADHD to determine whether a shitty young kid in my neighborhood would sit still to play games or bounce around like an epileptic electron.

          The ADHD won out more often than not. I imagine it’s become a closer battle as the obesity rates have risen.

          Also, I feel like handhelds lend themselves more to being still, so you don’t drop the damn thing or run out into traffic or get caught by the teacher. Something something darwinism.

      • JuliusKassendorf

        Obvious you haven’t played Super Smash Brothers.

      • HobbesMkii

        Actors still don’t bother to look at the road, though. Fun fact (that I just made up): The ratio of looking at the passenger to looking at the road in TV & movies is inversely proportional to the ratio of looking at the passenger to looking at the road in real life.

        • Electric Dragon

           I can’t be the only person who finds himself yelling “Keep your eyes on the road!!” at TV characters.

    • Col. Roy Campbell

      One of the few times I’ve seen the proper sounds being used was on The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon is playing an emulated version of Super Mario 64.  He keeps having to pause it and it makes the right pause noise.

      I think the most I’ve been angry was watching that kind-of sequel to Jumanji (but in space) and the two kids were playing Jak 3 but in some magical co-op mode.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         ”magical co-op” is how most games on TV are played.  good term for it.

      • http://twitter.com/roundthewheel RTW

        I thought it was pretty funny in the Charlie’s Angels movie when the two kids were playing two-player Final Fantasy VII.

        • JuliusKassendorf

          It takes two to play FFVII.  1 to use the controls, and 1 to cry and express rage whenever somebody important dies and takes all your equipment with them.

        • Citric

          I don’t remember if it was in FFVII, but you could play multiplayer co-op FFVI. Seriously. In battles, you could set it up so each controller controls different characters. I don’t know if anyone ever used this feature, but it was there.

      • Bad Horse

        UltraHLE plays Mario 64 just fine, or it did in 2005.

      • Asinus

        Are you implying that a non-shit emulator was unrealistic? I’ve had awesome luck with Project64… but I’m kind of lousing things up by taking your joke literally (and by having lice). 

        • Maudib

           Seriously.  Priority #1 of adventurers is to loot the corpse and redistribute their gear.  Tracking down the cadaver of a fallen comrade is a quest in and of itself.

        • Citric

          N64 emulators are fiddly as hell though, I suppose that’s going to happen when you use the plugin system, but I’ve found that trickier games tend to require a byzantine combination of settings to get them to work correctly.

          Getting Mario 64 to work is super easy though, if unnecessary since it’s available in a billion different forms now.

      • PhilWal0

        I think Spaced did a very similar thing with Resident Evil. Tim paused the game by pressing the Start button? Amazing!!!

        • Mike_From_Chicago

          Whoa, whoa. Spaced has its bona fides, all right. Tim was playing resident evil 2, which mapped inventory to circle and pause to start, unlike the original. Unless things were different in England (I hear the d-pad is on the other side of the controller there).

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I remember it bugged me that they were playing an SNES with an NES advantage – and in other episodes they used stock sounds from the NES Donkey Kong (the same stock sounds that tend to be used today with Xboxes,etc, as you noted). And then the game they described didn’t actually make sense as a game anyway.
      Maybe it was too much to expect Full House’s creators to pay attention to even the most basic of details. Then again, the cynical asshats behind Barney the Dinosaur managed to give him the anatomically-proper 2 fingers-per-hand of a Tyrannosaur (something which was a frequent oversight on toys and cartoons, and something which also rankled Girard the Grade School Pedant), so you’d think the cynical asshats behind Full House could muster the effort to, say, use a controller that matched the system, or write a game that was actually a game.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         If Breaking Bad can’t even figure out that Rage isn’t a light-gun game, I don’t think we can ask a TGIF sitcom to use the right controller.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           At least Breaking Bad limits their “errors” to the same generation of hardware… And I’m inclined to see what they did as a deliberate choice – having Jesse wield a plastic pistol is an arguably more compelling image, and fits thematically into the show better than him holding a dual-shock – whereas with Full House I’m more likely to suspect lazy generalization.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Whoah, Barney was supposed to be a Tyrannosaur?  With all of the other stupid crap on that show I’m surprised they based anything on “real” dinosaurs.

        Animaniacs’ “Baloney the Dinosaur” episode was great.  When the Warners show up, the other kids make excuses to get away fast before the mayhem starts.  “I have to do my homework.”  “And I have to ….iron my bed!”

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          “Baby Bop” appeared to be some kind of green, frilled hippo that never, ever existed. So it’s likely that Barney’s anatomical accuracy was more a fluke than anything…

          Look at that. I just made you read the phrase “Barney’s anatomical accuracy.”

      • George_Liquor

        By no means am I defending this feculent little turd of a TV show, but it looks like they’re playing their SNES with a Super Advantage, not an Advantage. I’m sure they got that part right purely by accident.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Advantage

      • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

        One of the very, very few moments I can remember from Full House that was even kind of funny was the episode where they were taking the piss out of Barney. (It was an orange version of Barney whose made-up name I can’t remember but it was obviously supposed to be Barney.)

        The kids had ordered a Barney doll that was shown in commercials as able to speak, move and being the size of a housecat, but that when they got in the mail was the same size as one of the packing peanuts in the box.

        Then Uncle Joey calls the customer service hotline and they hear a prerecorded message with a listing of other common customer complaints from the Barney merchandise (“Press 3 if you purchased the Barney iron-on T-shirt patch and it has turned your entire laundry load orange.”)

        It was, all in all, actually kind of a decent satirical jab at how the Barney “empire” made its money from ridiculous levels of merchandising and capitalist greed, and an example of how one of the few times Full House was funny was when it was mocking something dumber than itself — which in this case is a failure because old-school Nintendo is in fact awesomer than Full House.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

      Clearly you have never experienced the hours and hours of euphoric RETRO-JOY afforded by the amazing XBOX 360 GAME ROOM!

      (Is that thing still even up? I mostly get my Atari bleeps and bloops from free Flash clones in my browser.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/obiwankikobi Kiko Correa

      when as kid my dad let me “drive” the car for a minute on some back road i immediately started jerking the steering wheel back and forth. Just going with what i know dad.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Dave Couiler’s shapeless, albino, fungoid visage and body with it’s too-fussed over mullet has officially replaced the silver back gorilla in clown makeup as my antagonist of choice for night terrors.
       The rare instances of a video game acting as an avenue for self-discovery or familial healing are of such dubious pedigree, they hardly merit mentioning.
       The Last StarfighterThe WizardLawnmower Man… probably a handful of c-rate 80′s exploitation films…
       The curse of a young medium, I guess.  I’m not exempt from feeling like one of my premier hobbies is a waste of time, but given that I tend to think that even the books I read aren’t the books I should be reading, that’s more my own bag than video games.

    • HobbesMkii

       I’ve started to wean myself off the idea that it’s a waste of time. If I watched a movie, no one would really criticize, even if those movies were insipid trash. And yet, I’d be using less energy and possibly brain power to do so. It’s not like I’m putting off stuff to game. I go to work and do it, and then I come home for my personal free time, so I’m free to use it as I will. Is it as much an accomplishment as building a bookshelf? No. But, I’ll tell ya, I can’t make a good bookshelf, but I can drive a car made out of pixels around a track (also constructed of pixels) really well.

      • The_Misanthrope

         I don’t necessarily considering playing a well-made game (or even a mediocre game with some compelling ideas in it) a waste of time, but I do recognize that it does take up a lot of time, so balancing my many other interests can be a bit tricky.  I try to keep a couple of quick, twitchy games in my repetoire just to feed that itch, but even that doesn’t always work.  For example, last weekend, I just picked up and replayed Castlevania:  Symphony of the Night on XBLA, assuming I’d just play it for a bit and then move on to something else.  Next thing you know, four hours drift by and I’m most of the way through the right-side-up castle.

        • HobbesMkii

           Yeah, the quicker the game, the higher the sticking potential for me. Only got half an hour? I’ll jump into Sleeping Dogs, where I can accomplish one mission and then take off. Got half a day to twiddle away? Finally, I can finish three stages on Super Meat Boy.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         Yup, good point.  The only thing I do less because of VGs is watch movies/TV.  I pretty much only watch TV when I’m with my wife or friends, otherwise I find it way too passive (“Breaking Bad” being the rare example).  Maybe that’s the real reason TV shows cried about the dangers of video games in the 1990s — they were scared they’d lose their audience.  And they were right.

        • Bad Horse

          Full House was the passive-est of all. You could play 100 hours of CoD in a week and still be in better shape mentally than after 10 hours of Full House.

        • Mike_From_Chicago

          Ten hours of full house? Like there are ten hours of full house to watch. I mean, the show was only on for… Eight seasons? But that’s such a long… Each episode was only ten minutes long, though, right? No? Wow. Well, consider this my suicide note.

      • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

        How far are you in Sleeping Dogs now?  I had a highly enjoyable 30 hours or so before I could pronounce it ‘done’.

        Besides going to check if @Merve3 beat my Clean Drive record.

        • HobbesMkii

          I have no idea how far I am. The one thing that makes me anxious is how often the game leaves you with little to do but story missions, because whenever I play these sandbox 3rd Person Shooters, I like to accomplish as much as I can without progressing too far in the story. So, I’ve met Uncle Po.

          Merve says he topped your record, by the by. I managed to climb into #1 for most parking meters run over.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

           Very true.  As you say, I’ve since come to the conclusion that even if I weren’t playing video games, Id be doing something equally sedentary, there’s no sense in quantifying my leisure time any further.
           Also, Being fortunate enough to have a job that allows for a decent amount of creative expression, I’m much less anxious that my free time be spent drawing or creating something, since I’d just spent eight hours pushing a Wacom stylus around.
           And hell, even with both those excuses firmly in place, having a family pretty much relegates my gaming to an hour a night after everyone else is in bed.  Even by my neurotic standards that’s hardly an alarmist amount.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          OBVIOUSLY that hour a night should be spent developing a cure for cancer, dude. What a slacker.

        • ChumJoely

          Same here, it’s very liberating now that I’ve decided not to worry about how I SHOULD be reading X number of articles a week in my backgrounded-but-not-dead academic interests, or learning another foreign language etc., and instead enjoy that delicious hour or so after kids are in bed by playing video games.

          And yeah, it’s way better than TV.  I was playing Portal 2 just recently and really enjoying the idea of “interactive science-fiction”.  Your brain is just more awake and you see all the details of the situations your character is in, not just the ones the TV director/writer chose for you.

    • caspiancomic

      I sort of challenged myself here to come up with some examples of video games “acting as an avenue for self-discovery or familial healing” and ended up with two fistfuls of nothing. I know that there was an altogether pretty bad Adam Sandler/Don Cheadle 9/11 capital-S Serious movie that used Shadow of the Colossus meaningfully and symbolically (and Sandler and Cheadle actually learned how to play the game, if memory serves), but I don’t think it rescued the film from its own pretensions (though I wouldn’t know for sure, you couldn’t pay me to watch it.)

      On TV, Spaced had a relatively accurate, if not entirely wholesome, depiction of the medium, since it was a pretty large part of Tim’s character. Although rather than an avenue for self-discovery, he used it to vicariously drown his ex-girlfriend. The Tim and Daisy argument that’s intercut with a Paul vs. Nina punchup in Tekken is pretty inspired though, even if the conclusion of the scene is a little on-the-nose.

      For my money, though, the healthiest depiction of a fulfilling relationship with video games? Adventure Time. BMO isn’t just a pastime for Finn and Jake, s/he’s their friend! Also, while F n’ J play video games pretty regularly, they also, you know, hang out, meet girls, go on adventures, and are generally upstanding members of their community. That’s a pretty healthy message, I think.

      • IntotheNightSky

        I think Community provided a rather stellar example in Digital Estate Planning.  [Spoilers Ahead]
        http://www.nbc.com/community/video/digital-estate-planning/1402221/

        You can tell that the nefarious Octogenarian who designed the game they play in the episode expects the players to become complete monsters towards one another.  But right off the bat the characters decide they’re going to work cooperatively and win the game together, because they’re, you know, friends.

        Later in the episode, the game is straight up used as a medium for “familial healing”.  Gilbert’s chance to confront his and Pierce’s father gave him a chance to finally resolve a lot of his emotional burden, and also allowed him and Pierce to potentially have a relationship.  And that’s not even including “the lost scene”, which never got produced because Chevy Chase didn’t come in to shoot it.

        Less significantly there was also Abed’s relationship with an NPC.  While it is portrayed as somewhat creepy, and rightly so, I think they also did a good job near the end of recognizing that video games inspire real and strong emotions in people.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        The Undergrads episode “New Friends” centred around a game of “Quake”. They didn’t try too hard on the details (probably for copyright reasons) but the entire episode is worth it for a line from the training sequence:

        “You must master your joystick, as a fisherman master’s bait.”

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Good references, both.  By pairing them together, you’ve made me realize there’s more than a passing thread of connection between Spaced and Adventure Time.  Both have the same loose creative collage assembled from a broad swath of pop culture, but in a deft, loving way.  Spaced, by virtue of being a bit ahead of it’s time was often, as you put it, a bit on the nose, but succeeded far more often than it failed.
           The main difference between the two is Spaced is much more misanthropic and cynical, as opposed to Adventure Time’s very welcome upbeat energy.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Banish those Coulier night-terrors!
      Good night, sweet SpaceMonkey,
      And flights of Lori Loughlins sing thee to thy rest!

      • Effigy_Power

        I once dreamed that I was being stabbed with the Olsen Twins and not in the good, sexual way.

        Because they’re so skinny. And jagged.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           That is an interesting choice of preposition – were they doing the stabbing, or were you all being stabbed together by a fourth party?

          Also, no discuss of Olsen Twin nightmares is complete without this video.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I will show you fear in a handful of strained Popeye impressions.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       I’m constantly thinking to myself “sure, I’m reading . . . but are these the message-boards I should be reading?

      • Effigy_Power

        Typical left-wing liberal namby-pamby terrorist communist abortion-plex Anti-American attitude.

        Wait, sorry, forum-mode was activated. I meant to say “Yes”.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Yeah, I keep on trying to get into the Sylvia Plath message board, but all the banner ads for GE and KitchenAid ovens get distracting.

        • stakkalee

          Liked for being truly tasteless.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          That reminds me about this project. New Media artist Corey Arcangel (I think he’s mostly famous for his NES ROM hacks) did a project back in ’04 where he made a webpage juxtaposing Kurt Cobain’s suicide note with Google adsense ads which based their content on the text in the page. It mostly generated kind of quacky ads for relieving social anxiety disorder, and life coaches and stuff, nothing too overtly ironic.

  • HobbesMkii

    Some day we’ll look back at the 90s and see how terribly one-note it all was. I don’t recall this episode of Full House (although, I can’t say I was a big “fan” of it either), but it doesn’t surprise me. This was the era where video games were out to get us.

    Entirely unrelated to this post (by the by, excellent job, Mr. Heisler), we’ve lost members in the Gameological Steam group which makes me unhappy, so if you didn’t realize there was one and you’d like to join it, it’s here (and is also reachable by the big Steam button under “Our Many Tendrils” (thank you, Mr. Teti):

    http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gameological

    Unrelated to that, if anyone dabbles in World of Tanks and there’s enough interest, I’d like to found a GS clan there, so we can all play together (and possibly, if we feel like it, compete against other clans to obtain gold). It’s a game full of rude, obnoxious children (for the most part), so I would find a clan of calm, articulate adults to be a welcome change. If you post here with your WoT name, I’ll friend you and then look into how to go about it. My name is MrHavok (because I was briefly trying to reinvent my online gaming identity).

    • Effigy_Power

      Also it’s cool, because I am part of it already and the might of my shitty Tier 2 tank from Societ Russia, where tank drives you, will lead us to “wictoree”.
      Guess what my screen-name in WoT is, I dare you.

  • George_Liquor

    I’m sorry, Gameological, I can’t… no. Full House does not deserve this treatment. I don’t care if you are presenting this as a cautionary example, there’s no reason to revisit this slimy little cockroach of ‘wholesome family entertainment’ unless you have a bulk-eraser in hand. 

    • Effigy_Power

      I agree. It’s another patch of the dried smudge of Thai-food throwup the already soiled shoe of “Family-TV” was caked in thanks to the 90s revival of moral messages.
      If the episode shows everything, it’s that TV-writers research their material about as well as newspaper-journalists who forward “The Onion” articles as legitimate information.
      It’s a well written article, as per usual, but the subject makes me glad that I spent most of the mid and late 90s smoking weed, hanging out in malls dressed like the Crow and making sarcastic remarks about everything to protect my flimsy teenage emotions rather than watch TV with my assembled family.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         That was how you spent the mid-to-late 90s, Eff, but it seems like you’re deliberately omitting the early 90s, when you were likely glued to TGIF like the rest of us who were too young to know better…

        • HobbesMkii

          Oh, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Will Friedle, where have you gone?

        • Effigy_Power

          Actually my TV-time was limited, because my mom was on some sort of trip about limiting it for our sake and I used almost all of my time watching cartoons.
          Not the good ones either.
          Mostly toy-adaptations like the fucking Huggle Bears and all that, or whatever they were called.

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        as a little kid, I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED shows like Full House and Saved By The bell 

  • RidleyFGJ

    Cool idea for a feature. Surely, it won’t be long until we get to the Citizen Kane of “video games being central to the plot” thingies: Surf Ninjas.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      I seem to recall thinking that movie was funny when it came out.  Rob Schneider ranting about knives, Leslie Nielsen getting stepped on by an elephant, and the “Barbara Ann”/Baba Ram song?

      • RidleyFGJ

        It’s a bad movie, but to its credit, it’s never boring and it is almost assuredly the best kids film to involve ninjas and Leslie Nielsen.

        I always wondered how much Sega paid for the product placement.

  • Citric

    Why is it that games described in shows like this never sound any fun? This sounds like something LJN would crap out.

    • The_Misanthrope

       I’m always bothered when shows take on faddish pop-culture things like this–whether to acknowledge, make fun of, and warn against–and they don’t really have any idea about it.  If you are going to take these things on, either get to know your subject or hang a lantern over your own ignorance. 

      Any one remember any other out-of-touch portrayals of video games in mass media?  I remember a pretty shitty episode of King of the Hill that tried to take on video game addiction, as well as a Star Trek:TNG one where all of the crew (except Wesley who saved them, of course) got hooked on some ball-shooting game-visor-thingie.

      • HobbesMkii

        This post is funny now, as @TaumpyTearrs:disqus has now cited that exact King of the Hill episode as a good depiction.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         I think you are too hard.  Both of the things you mentioned are relatively good depictions of what is satisfying about video games.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        I always thought it ridiculous that such a simple game would take off in the 24th century. But now we have the App Store, so what do I know.

        • stakkalee

          I had the same problem with the episode.  They live in a reality where the holodeck can produce a fully-immersive reality of whatever the heart desires, and then someone comes along and says “Try this – it’s like skee ball but much more boring!  And you can never lose!”

        • Effigy_Power

          “Wow, I really feel like I am playing Virtual Skeeball!”

        • Electric Dragon

          Well, it’s clearly what Zynga are working towards. “Mr Data, lay in a course for Starbase 314. But before you do, please accept my friend request as I’m one short of a Talaxian sheep trough”.

          Just looking up the ep on Memory Alpha – there’s a great quote from the immortal Frakes: “They told me [the game] was going to be this incredible graphic, and all it was… was a tuba on a checkerboard”

        • Citric

          It’s funny that in the ’90s, I thought the game was ridiculous, but given the popularity of Angry Birds and WhateverVille, it actually seems strangely prescient. 

        • Channel 8 News

          To be fair, the game did tie directly in to your central nervous system. It activated the pleasure center of your brain when you successfully put the disc in the funnel.

          Still a pretty bad episode, though.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          @Channel_8_News:disqus  – Thank you, I was trying to remember if there was a mind-control or brain-affecting addition to that game, but failed and was too lazy to look it up.

          So, to correct the description – “extremely simple game, you can never lose, and gives you mini-orgasms.”  Slightly more difficult to resist at least trying it out.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       As a kid it used to enrage me when a movie would show two characters bashing on their controllers at the same time, but when they showed the video game screen it was Super Mario standing there.  TWO PLAYERS DON’T PLAY SUPER MARIO BROS. AT THE SAME TIME!!!!  I was easily upset as a child.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        Haven’t you ever given your cousin the second controller while playing a one-player game? It keeps him quiet.

        • Citric

          It was one of the genius things about Super Mario Galaxy, the second controller could do something useful but not important, so people with nephews or little brothers could play in peace.

  • TaumpyTearrs

    For anybody looking for a good depiction of videogames, the King of the Hill episode (to lazy to look up title) where Hank gets addicted to a Grand Theft Auto-style game that some kids made about him ironically.

    It captures something about GTA-style games that no one else has, which is that people can play their own way and NOT just randomly murder people. Hank gets into making deliveries and stopping purse-thieves. I remember reading a review for Vice City where the reviewer said his sister played the game for hours and never killed a person, she just rode around on a scooter exploring the city and seeing the sights, doing some of the odd jobs.

    I also like the 30 Rock episode “Re-spawn”, where the male writers spend the entire summer playing an endless Halo game because every time one of them is going to get killed, they kill themselves instead, so no one can win. It was fun to see the ridiculous competition that can result between friends in these games, and once again we a non-traditional play style.

    Alot of the fun people have with games doesn’t come from doing exactly what they are supposed, it comes from experimenting and dicking around. I myself have caused dozens of game freezes and crashes over the years by thinking “what if I stack this on this so I can get here, then throw away the object I need and take a running jump into this blank space?”

    Also the recent Gravity Falls ep Fight Fighter was an absolutely perfect depiction of old school fighting games, with some beat’em up jokes thrown in for good measure
    “Where did you get that lead pipe?”
    “I punched an oil drum and it came out.”

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       Yeah, I spent more time driving people to the hospital in San Andreas than any other job, including the main missions.  I agree with you that the KOTH episode captures that well.

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    Mr. Belvedere had an episode where the title character was obsessed with a pinball machine.  Strangely so.  Insanely so, actually.  I remember him screaming at Wesley over it.  Come to think of it, I think maybe it was an allegory for cocaine.  That show had some strange episodes.

  • apathymonger

    Maybe too modern, but I hope the William Gibson episode of The X Files makes an appearance. So, so terrible.

  • stakkalee

    Another thing to remember is that the early 90s were when the initial freak-out over Mortal Kombat and video game ratings was going on.  There were even congressional hearings (Thanks, Joe Lieberman, you awful scold!)  New technology always produces a panic in the older generations – television and even radio were suspected of causing moral decay when they were first introduced, too.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       so were books and ballpoint pens.

      • stakkalee

        Movable type!?! A blasphemy against God!  The only good manuscript is an illuminated manuscript.

        • Effigy_Power

          “I am worried about our son. Ever since he uses animal blood to paint on the cave walls, I feel he’s pulling away from us.”

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I wonder if there were readers who took Don Quixote as a literal indictment of reading too many novels rather than a satire of such an indictment. Literal-minded folks needed something to misinterpret and freak out about before the Onion and its abortionplex!

        • HobbesMkii

          I generally don’t read anything that a monk hasn’t gone blind while copying it out by hand.

        • stakkalee

          Give me a good old-fashioned clay tablet any day.  Gilgamesh and Enkidu is all the literature I need!  And none of that heiroglyph bullshit, Sumerian cuneiform or GTFO!

        • Effigy_Power

          It’s only Old school if it’s written in Linear B.

        • caspiancomic

           You kids and your fads! One day you’ll put away those childish things and get down to enjoying a good ol’ bloody hand print accidentally left against a rock, like the rest of polite society!

        • Effigy_Power

          There’s a lot of joy to be found in a random pattern of deer-poop on the forest floor you hipsters don’t understand anymore.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      In retrospect, maybe the 2000 election wasn’t so bad. Could you imagine the censorship storm that would be created by a dual-headed Tipper Gore / Joe Lieberman monster?

      • stakkalee

        Bite your tongue.

        Although I’ll confess a certain schadenfreude at seeing Lieberman lose.  The man is just insufferable.

        • BarbleBapkins

          Say what you will about Jon Stewart’s impersonations, but Lieberman as Droopy Dog is really an inspired choice.

        • Effigy_Power

          @BarbleBapkins:disqus: Almost as good as Colbert’s version of Karl Rove as a hamloaf with glasses.

  • LoveWaffle

    “Classic” TV gaming stories?

    Can’t get much better than Frogger on Seinfeld.

    • BarbleBapkins

      HOLES! I need HOLES!!

    • Bad Horse

      Defender on Newsradio.

      • Electric Dragon

        Missile Command on Chuck, complete with “Tom Sawyer” on the soundtrack and Miranda Lawson Yvonne Strahovski kicking ass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlK8lS6TrmE

        And speaking of that song: “It’s Saturday night. I’ve got no date, a two liter bottle of Shasta and my all-Rush mixtape. Let’s rock.”

      • JohnnyLongtorso

        Ahem, that was *Stargate* Defender.

  • http://profiles.google.com/roe.ryan Ryan Roe

    Any recovering Full House would do well to check out “Full House Reviewed,” a website that’s reviewing every episode of the show. It’s often crude and mean-spirited (Michelle is frequently referred to as “the ugly baby”), but it’s really funny.

    http://www.fullhousereviewed.com/

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      “(Michelle is frequently referred to as “the ugly baby”)”

      So it’s cruel by being accurate then?

      Sorry…the Olsen twins were kind of homely children.  And I say that with the knowledge that they couldn’t possibly care from on top of their forts made of stacks of $100 bills.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        Reportedly, the Olsen Twins were cast because they were the only babies that didn’t cry during the audition.

        Buried in that anecdote, I think there’s the seed of a thesis on institutional misogyny: “The sexual objectification of women is subordinate to the silencing of women. When a man is given the choice between a woman who he finds quiet but ugly, and a woman who he finds pretty but loud, ‘quiet but ugly’ wins every time.”

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           If there’s anything beer commercials and the Beaver Boys have taught me about misogyny, it’s  that when a man is given a choice between a pretty woman he finds loud or TWINS!!!, ‘TWINS!!!’ wins every time.

    • Bad Horse

      That reviewer must really, really hate himself/herself.

  • http://twitter.com/Smalleyalley Andrew Buckley

    Simpsons ripped this off with “Lisa Gets An A”…? Noooooooooooooooooo…

  • Steve McCoy

    “The game’s premise sounds equal parts boring and claustrophobic: It involves finding three magical keys by traveling in a magical kayak and eating magical power biscuits, fighting giant wombats in the Pasture Of Lost Hope. It seems less like an actual video game and more like what an old man imagines those little rapscallions are playing nowadays, with the beeping and booping.”

    I dunno, that sounds like a possible Darksiders 3 to me.

  • Army_Of_Fun

    How is that I read through 111 comments and have come across zero mentions of eXistenZ? The only Hollywood-ish product I can think of that just totally nailed video games.

    I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 2 lately and for whatever reason, it keeps getting tangled up with eXistenZ. It might be related to a decision of a co-worker to start ME2 at the same time I did. Our respective offices are separated by a Great Lake, so the ME2 discussion has only taken place over IM.

    ME2 is an incredibly immersive experience (generally). In our discussions about the game, ‘Shepard’ and 1st person references get mixed and traded by us without missing a beat. We also like to trade notes on the ME2 misses which pull you back into your seat. Standing uncomfortably close to parties while Shepard eavesdrops. The looped dialogue Shepard often has with other characters. The list of examples goes on. It’s to the game’s credit that these sort of game conventions and limitations of the medium pull you out of its world. Most games never get that chance because everything else is equally artificial.

    Which brings me back to eXistenZ and how it comments on just how bizarre these gaming quirks really are. eXistenZ role plays what it would be like to have a real life person repeating themselves ad-nausem to you, until you complete a few other unrelated steps. Or how incomprehensible some puzzle combinations are, when Jude Law’s character assembles a ‘gristle gun’ out of various entree items. eXistenZ oozes a familiarity with games and their conventions that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

      Of course the problem is that most games are fun, cool, exciting environments based off of familiar and comforting cliches. eXistenZ is a lot like a game, yes, but the game it’s like would be some bizarre indie game that was itself a weird deconstruction of the medium — it’s a game that takes place in a world that’s all gross biological gunk and depressing grungy abandoned neighborhoods and whatnot.

      Which it’s to say it’s a game I could easily imagine I, myself, buying and enjoying. But that’s what I think made it feel weirdly off the mark to a lot of gamer critics (who tend to be literal-minded folks).

  • ChicaneryTheYounger

    Parents just don’t understand.

  • http://twitter.com/pws4 pws

    Now do that horrible episode of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose!

    I mean the video game one, in case that was too non-specific.