Special Topics In Gameology

Bart Simpsons and the spirits of video game conscience

Games Go To Hollywood: The Simpsons, “Marge Be Not Proud”

Bart Simpson’s video game obsession scares even himself.

By Steve Heisler • February 4, 2013

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 gaming. Previous entries covered ’90s Friday-night mainstay Full House, Nickelodeon spook show Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, second-rate ’80s family sitcom Mr. Belvedere, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In this final installment, we look at Bart Simpson’s struggle to resist the allure of the ultra-violent game Bonestorm.

Bad kids don’t know they’re bad. At least, that’s been my experience as a former camp counselor and as a current volunteer creative-writing teacher. Little kids can lack the self-awareness to know how their actions affect those around them. The world is a haunted house of stimuli, and they can’t help but laugh. It can be frustrating, especially when my agenda is “teach you to write” and my more nebulous, overarching concern is “keep all the kids safe.”

I was recently humbled by a boy in one of the toughest classes I ever taught. It was up in the Bronx and full of troublemakers. Nobody would listen, and kids would regularly get up and punch each other for no apparent reason. This particular boy, a kindergartener, had zero attention span, and when I say that, I mean he didn’t even respond to his own name. He would make us chase him around the room to calm him down. One day, a teacher came by the classroom on her way out, and this boy gave her a big hug and fell asleep on her lap. She stroked his head as she explained the situation: He took three buses to get to school every day, lived a troubled home life full of brothers and sisters, and his family didn’t have much money. After that, the troublemaker seemed more human.

Bart Simpson is the quintessential bad kid. He talks back to his teachers, picks on his sister, and (at least in early seasons of The Simpsons) he’s quick to tell any figure of authority, “Don’t have a cow, man.” He pours hours of his life into plenty of things other than homework—throwing water balloons off the bridge above the highway and watching copious amounts of The Itchy & Scratchy Show. But he’s not an especially malicious kid—most of his hijinks are relatively harmless.

A video game changes all that. In “Marge Be Not Proud,” Bart attempts to steal a game, Bonestorm, from the Try ’N’ Save store. A tough-talking security guard (played by Lawrence Tierney) puts the scare in Bart and bans him from the store. It’s a slap on the wrist for Bart, not much different than staying after school to write, “I will not steal” all over the chalkboard.

Bart craves Bonestorm—a new violent fighting game akin to Mortal Kombat in which six-armed guys bash each other as bloody limbs rain from the heavens for no real reason. It promises a mindless outlet for his inexplicable angst. It’s so paramount to his psyche that his desire for a copy borders on primal. Bart scares even himself, and for the first time he considers that he might really be a bad kid after all.

No one is more surprised than his mom. Marge spends the episode as a slave to childish routine. She puts the marshmallows in her childrens’ hot cocoa for them, and spearheads a family snowman-building initiative. Every night, she sings a makeshift lullaby to her children while tucking them in, and the tradition of “The Tuck-In Express” is starting to wear on Bart. He says as much to Marge, that he’s getting a little old to be treated like a little boy.

Bart’s mom still thinks of him as her “special little guy,” an impressionable child who ought to be protected from Bonestorm’s gratuitous bazooka-Santa violence. She refuses to get the game for him—even as a Christmas present—and Bart bristles at her parenting. It’s at this moment he runs into town malcontents Jimbo and Nelson, demonstrating their shoplifting prowess. It’s something Bart never considered doing. After all, he’s not really that bad a guy, just a tame hooligan. Jimbo convinces him otherwise: “Shoplifting is a victimless crime—like punching someone in the dark.”

It’s fitting that a video game is Bart’s gateway into darkness. It’s seductive enough to worm its way into Bart’s child brain, but not scary in the way that drugs or sex might be. Those vices seem remote to him, anyway: A wild sugar rush from an all-syrup Squishee is the most powerful high he can imagine, and given that he’s afraid of even articulating his crush on his badass babysitter, his hormones aren’t a major influence yet. But a video game? He knows what this does to his brain; he’s an old pro. And he knows it’s exactly what his mom does not like—perfect for getting out from under her thumb. He can do this.

There’s a moment—after the bad-influence spirits of Mario and Sonic whisper larcenous encouragement in Bart’s ear, and after Bart slips the game into his never-before-seen purple hoodie—that he thinks he got away with it. For that split second, he feels relief. In this moment, the possibilities of the new game are pure. It’s a vice capable of serving as a time dump, filling hours where he doesn’t have to acknowledge that his dad’s kind of an idiot, his sister’s a little know-it-all, that the only people who dare to be Bart’s friend are those who slightly fear him. When he plays the game, he won’t be a bad kid.

But Bart is caught—and as the title of the episode suggests, Marge be not proud—and it’s a fitting last hurrah to his childhood. He’s reached the point in his life where the world is no longer the kaleidoscope of good a boy might see; there is some evil, too. And that’s scary. Bart realizes that he’s capable of stealing—capable of carrying out a bad act. And of all the things to take, he chooses a video game. He’s using his newfound nefarious powers to grasp desperately for an escape. The powers work, but the escape doesn’t happen. For a minute, this bad kid realizes he’s bad.

That is, until he owns up to his mistake. Floored by his maturity, Marge buys him a video game herself, and Bart seems content with her choice: Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge. It’s no Bonestorm, but Bart no longer needs the escape offered by that sensory overload. That’s the retreat of a child, and he’s now a man, one who may, at some point, have a cow.

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  • HobbesMkii

    I have never read the other games on that rack before. They include: Canasta Master, A Streetcar Named Death, Robot Stampede, and SimReich.

    I will add that this show was quite realistic in its portrayal of video games: those early golf games are pretty much as dull as the real thing.

    • Citric

      But Mecarobot Golf had robots!

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      I dug ‘em back then. And aren’t early golf games pretty much the same as modern ones? Is the old choose club/watch meter fill up/push button to determine power/watch meter go down/push button to determine accuracy game that I believe was already in Leaderboard no longer in vogue?

      • Citric

        The really cruddy ones were coded quite badly, so adjusting your angle would sometimes take several minutes as the scene had to be redrawn over and over.

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

       For most of my childhood, our family didn’t have enough fluid assets to buy a computer, so we made do with the intermittent hand-me-down PC from my rich yuppie uncle.

      Invariably, because he was a rich yuppie, these would come loaded with multiple golfing games, mostly editions of “Links,” which my brother and I would play from time to time simply because they were there on the computer (and we were probably stuck at some point in the King’s Quest games his daughters had installed on there…).

      Yeah, Lee Carvello’s putting challenge is about right. Those games were dull as dirt.

    • stakkalee

      Some other great games available at the Try-N-Save: Angus Podgorny’s Caber Toss, Celebrity Autopsy and Save Hitler’s Brain.  (Thank you, obsessive nerds at SNPP.com!)  I love Simpsons’ throwaway gags.

      • Electric Dragon

        At least it wasn’t Angus Podgorny Tennis.

        • Effigy_Power

          “THEY MEAN TO WIN WIMBLEDON!”

        • stakkalee

          Science Fiction Sketch is my favorite Python bit – surreal, and absolutely hilarious.  Graham Chapman’s deadpan scientist, Michael Palin and Terry Jones as Mr. and Mrs. Podgorny, the absurd and terrible Scottish accents, even Donna Reading as the love interest, it’s all classic.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      The Simpsons is one of the few shows on TV where the writers’ perception of games is informed by the games themselves rather than by cable news outlets.

      • Effigy_Power

        Which is especially funny considering what network the show airs on.

        • George_Liquor

          Remember when Fox threatened to sue itself over a joke news crawl in The Simpsons? And then backed down when it realized it was going to sue itself? Oh Fox, you’re TV’s favorite angry drunk uncle.

      • Electric Dragon
    • djsubversive

      The voice that announced the title of “Pebble Beach Golf Links” for Sega Genesis haunts me to this day.

    • Graphite

      “Operation: Rescue” appears to be some kind of abortion protest sim.

  • Citric

    Ever since this episode, I have wanted an open-world golf game where the ball could go in the parking lot. Nobody has ever made it.

    • Colonel

      Would you like to play again?

      You have selected, “No.”

    • Nudeviking

      You selected POWER DRIVE!

      • WL14

        May I suggest “Feather Touch”

        • Colonel

          POWER DRIVE!

        • George_Liquor

          Ball is in parking lot.
          Would you like to try again?
          You have selected no.

    • Electric Dragon

      What’s especially weird is that it’s a “Putting Challenge” game in which you can select clubs other than putters.

    • HobbesMkii

      “Where have you been all day?”
      “Uggh…fishing my ball out of a water hazard I hooked it into.”
      “Oh, you went to the golf course?”
      “No.”

  • vinnybushes

    I should preface this comment by saying I don’t have any kids myself, this is just my humble opinion…
        I used to sell video games for an enormous chain, and the ignorance of parents as to what they were buying for their kids consistently floored me. Parents would frequently come in with their kids in tow and request the most gory, foul mouthed, disturbing games I had, and when I would inform them of the content of the game they were about to purchase for said kid they always had the same response: “His friends all play it, and I can’t really stop him.” Yes you can! So many parents seemed to live in mortal fear of pissing off their kids as well as completely resigned to the fact that the kid would inevitably find a way to get it anyway, that they just dejectedly waved away any concern I would voice. I didn’t have this hang up if they were buying it for a fifteen-year-old but frequently the kids were anywhere form eight to ten
    years old
       Marge is an excellent example of what I liked to see. Real parenting and an understanding about the lessons of compromise and the ways spoiling your kid rotten or making them grow up too fast can really mess them up.

    • Sleverin

       It seems to be a trend these days in parenting. From my personal experience it seems to be more prevalent nowadays than when I was a kid, I had pretty strict parents when I was younger.  It’s really amazing to see these parents in my workplace who just watch their kids run around, make a bunch of noise and generally are a nuisance.  Now I know kids are just bundles of loud and energy but these parents are afraid to discipline their kids.  They ask instead of tell and like I said earlier, just generally pretend their kids don’t exist while they are making a boatload of noise.  I even had to scold a kid for being incredibly annoying and he stopped really quickly (he was doing annoying behaviors to be told not to, I’m sure if I had a psych degree I could put it into fancy words on how I recognized what he was doing and how to respond to it, but I don’t so I can’t) which was good, but his dad didn’t even notice.  Just stared vacantly into his phone.  Sure there are parents that come in who keep their kids in line, but they just don’t stick out as much in your mind ya know?

      • vinnybushes

        It always just felt like I was the last line of defense for some measure of these kid’s innocence. I have no problem with violent games and I’m entirely anti-censorship, but I just have memories of being exposed to disturbing content before I was ready to handle it. I watched my older brother play the original Fallout with bloody mess turned on, and I also fought The Butcher in Diablo and I remember feeling weird and kind uncomfortable about the whole thing for a long time afterwards. It wasn’t scarring by any means, but  I just never wanted to put a kid through that.

        • valondar

          Counterpoint: I got Quake when I was ten. I loved it! Especially when I got my hands on texture and level editors. I used to paste the photos of people I knew onto the heads of the monsters.

          Innocence is overrated.

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

          @google-ad11b5fc6e812fcfddafc59b953591fe:disqus
          Innocence isn’t overrated, so much as it’s a myth – kids role-play, draw, or imagine wildly violent situations, even from a young age, without the benefit of exposure to hyper-violent media, and without being proto-sociopaths. Fantasy play (which I guess we can include games in to an extent) is how kids navigate and explore situations that fascinate or scare them but that they can’t experience in real life, which can include flying to the moon, or being Iron Man and blowing up bad guy’s heads with lasers or whatever.

          Which isn’t to say that total laissez-faire parenting/teaching is the order of the day, of course. Kids are still kids, and their sense of cause and effect and what’s appropriate is not so great, so just letting them engage in consequence-free violent scenarios with no context or discussion probably isn’t the best idea. (Similarly, studies have shown that toddlers are racist as fuck, but American parents are so terrified of even acknowledging that racial differences exist, or even mentioning race, that kids who grow up in ultra-PC atmospheres of racial silence tend to just hang onto whatever conclusions they drew when they were little and no one corrected them, and don’t tend to be any less racist than, uh, kids raised by racists).

          So, it’s okay to let kids engage with problematic media or fantasy play, but it’s also necessary to talk to kids about it and help them reflect a little more on the conceptual frame they put around imagined and real acts of violence, and the distinction between fantasy and reality, and so on. The ‘easy’ answers of laissez-faire parenting or blanket bans on violent media (which at first seem like the only two, opposing choices) both probably aren’t the best way to go. Obviously, parents are overwhelmed, and can’t always be there, even with guides like ratings to help them (especially at friends’ houses), but luckily kids are pretty resilient, AND having processed their thoughts about violence in one game or movie with a teacher or parent, can probably map that same criticality onto other stuff they encounter “in the wild.”

        • Chum Joely

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus  Hmm, I think you might be equating/relating two things which aren’t quite equivalent. I certainly agree that kids do have violent fantasies quite on their own (I used to draw pictures of gruesomely exploding bodies, just for laughs), but with the most violent games, it’s the game itself that presents the violent scenario, in Glorious High Definition, and invites you to implement or otherwise experience the violence. So they can really be putting new violent ideas into kids’ heads, and then anchoring them there through making the player into the agent of violence.

          So far, my kids are young enough (6 and almost 4) that my policy has been simply to keep violent games out of their awareness.  I’d say this issue is more likely to come up with TV before it comes up with video games. Both kids watch Johnny Test (frequent guns and explosions, though very “slapstick”) and Adventure Time (whose objectionable moments are mostly creepy/scary), among others, and I do occasionally sit down and watch with them, so that would be an occasion to talk about it there. The “player as agent” aspect of gaming makes me want to completely steer the kids away from violent games for a while, so that they have an idea of how to think about violence in media before I actually hand them the controls of said violence.

          That racism study you mentioned has got me thinking, though. My kids are pretty sharp (esp. my 6-year-old, just by virtue of her age), so  it does seem like a good idea to start having more explicit conversations about various “big topics” rather than just trying to “shield her from the existence of evil” or something.

        • Effigy_Power

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus @ChumJoely:disqus: I think @vinnybushes:disqus has the right idea there, because there is a difference between a violent scenario born from your own childish mind and one thrust upon you by a medium that you don’t fully understand and that is designed by an older person who has a bit more experience with the terror the real world holds.
          I don’t personally like the term “innocence”, since it’s too tainted by religion and sexuality, but I think there’s nothing wrong with letting children be a bit naive for a while.
          Learning, for example, that life is finite and that we all die at some point is a hard enough pill for a child to swallow without the animation of some ghoul’s viscera being projected across the screen.

          Apart from all that, I find that children of a young age, certainly children below 8, should have the leisure, time and opportunity to create their own ideas of things before having them tempered by media and art. Imagination is very easily co-opted by outside influences and I’ve met a lot of children (some of my own family) who have precious little imagination to play with anything other than pre-chewed toys that basically narrate themselves.
          Sure, it sounds like the usual tirade we all got from people senior to us, but I remember being fairly happy playing with inanimate objects for a while who followed the whim of my mind rather than the other way around.

          So while I definitely think that there’s an age below which certain influences are less than awesome (though to numerically define that age generally is pretty stupid), I don’t think that violence and sex are the only culprits. A very young mind should have the time to make up its own, even flawed impressions before having the world’s realism thrust at it.

        • valondar

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus I’m aware innocence doesn’t exist, yeah.

          But I was also perfectly aware that Quake was indulging in fantasy violence, and that it was one thing to put the face of someone I knew on a chainsaw wielding monster and shoot at that person with a rocket launcher, and entirely something else to do real violence to a human being. I was ten, not profoundly idiotic.

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

           @Effigy_Power:disqus I think you’re point is right about the dichotomy between child-created culture and child-experienced culture, though, as you mention in the second half of your post, I think that’s less about specifically violence and more about encouraging kids to cultivate their own ideas about things rather than have them be shaped by a (largely sexist, violent, and idiotic) popular culture.

          However, I think there’s the risk, too, there of courting a false dichotomy predicated on the “natural creativity” of children that is about as mythic as the “inherent innocence” of them. Just as in the adult culture world we are becoming increasingly comfortable with appropriation and remix culture, in the kid-culture world, there’s an increasing acceptance that kids appropriate the world around them, including pop culture, to create meaning. I myself have deep-seated reservations about much of kid culture – I think Disney movies are probably more damaging for little kids than Mortal Kombat would be, and when a kid plonks SpongeBob down in the middle of an otherwise original composition, my first reaction is a bone-deep internal sigh.

          Obviously, though, because I am a teacher and not a parent, I’m operating from a position where I don’t have much control over what culture the kids I love and work with are exposed to (though it’s arguable how much power a parent has, too, they undoubtedly have more ability to cordon off certain things from their kids’ home-life than I do), so I’m not really in a place to say this or that is bad for kids, I’m more in a place where I can work with the kids’ experience of culture and have them take that interest in new directions that are either inventive or critical. (It’s also sobering to remember how much of my creative juju in elementary school was expended on meticulously-designed MegaMan sequels to mail to Capcom, and how formative those experiences were in my burgeoning creative thinking.)

          So I can’t control the ideas about violence, gender, etc. the kids get from whatever culture they’d exposed to (I once went to a screening of Bruno where I sat in front of a family with 6 prepubescent kids…yikes), but I can get them thinking about those big ideas, and whether the way they’re depicted in culture is relevant or true or whatever. I had a preschooler once, in a chat about Batman, tell me about how he liked watching Batman fight the bad guys, but that he didn’t think there were actually “bad guys” in real life who deserved to get beaten up.

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

          @ChumJoely:disqus : The interactivity of games, though, which makes them more worrisome than passive entertainment like films in some respects, is also what makes them feel closer to imaginative play to me than simply watching a show.

          When kids engage in imaginative cops and robbers gun play, they are interacting in a very real, visceral way – aiming at and shooting their friends with an imaginary gun, etc. in a consequence-free scenario (This type of play makes me really uncomfortable, but I recognize its usefulness). This type of creative play, which you mentioned as being sanctioned, all right, and distinct from experiencing violent culture, feels to me like is has more affinity with the interactive violent pop culture which you cited as the most objectionable, which is interesting. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole situation. I’m not saying you’re contradicting yourself, so much as there’s a really interesting complexity there that your comment made salient to me.

          I’m similarly ambivalent about the kind of violence that’s “okay” for kids to see – typically cleaned-up, cartoon violence. On the one hand, it doesn’t desensitize kids to true gore and trauma, but on the other, it presents a very clean and consequence-free version of violence that seems in some ways more problematic.

          As I mentioned in my other post, I’m not a parent, so I’ve never had to answer those questions in a concrete way; I typically just complement or expand upon the (pop-)cultural stuff kids bring into the room by introducing them to new art things beyond contemporary pop culture or inviting critical reflection on the stuff they’re already invested in.

        • Histamiini

          (I posted my response in the wrong place and it seems I can’t copy and paste it here without everything turning into a fucking mess, so nevermind.)

        • Skywarp79

          When I worked in a CD store in the mall around 2000, parents would walk up with little kids and have shit with “Parental Advisory” clearly in view. Like you, I’d would warn them about the content of “The Marshal Mathers LP” or something similar. A couple times, I actually got through and they left without it.

      • Histamiini

        I think Effigy is correct above. The crucial difference is between violent fantasy that is controlled by the child herself and violence that is imposed upon the child by an outside force. This is in general a very basic, very important distinction. Even as adults, many things that we do to ourselves or subject ourselves to we’d consider invasive or disturbing if they were forced upon us by others. Questions of mythology and semantics don’t really arise, although we should keep in mind that a lot of the violence in play and fantasy is likely to come from various media. But what’s important is that in one case the child is safely in control of what is in her mind.

        Interesting that someone above mentioned Fallout. The only time I remember getting squeamish about a video game was over a decade ago when I played Fallout 2. It happened over time. Over time the effects of my minigun on the mutant bodies started to feel icky. At first I didn’t notice but just the sheer repetition of the same body being torn to pieces in exactly the same way did it for me in the end.

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

      My mom was pretty conservative when it came to media we could watch, and was pretty literalistic about the rating system – because we had been living overseas when America debuted the PG-13 rating, and because she as a single mom didn’t have time to personally vet every movie before we saw it, we had a “No PG-13 until you’re actually 13″ for most of my early childhood*. (She eventually loosened up, when I was about 10 and Jurassic Park came out and was too awesome to resist.)

      This felt really chafing when I was in third grade and a bunch of my friends had somehow seen the R-rated Terminator 2, and couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was, and I knew I wouldn’t get to see it for, like, 11 years.

      In the end, I turned out okay. And those kids who watched Terminator turned out okay. I don’t know if hard, fast blanket content rules are really necessary for kids, but in any case, parents showing the type of ignorance they did in your store is pretty appalling. Whether or not they let their kids engage in media with ‘adult’ content, parents should at least make whatever their decision is knowledgably, especially so if the kid is upset by the content, or does start modelling violent behavior, they can actually talk to the kid about it instead of just being like “Oh, it’s them damn videogames” or whatever.

      *Ironically, when we lived overseas, I watched a few PG-13 rated movies when I was very young, I guess because they didn’t have that rating over there. My favorite movie as a 4-year-old was Little Shop of Horrors, which also scared the willies out of me. And I also remember watching Gremlins, which left me pretty terrified.

      • DrFlimFlam

        I was 13 or 14 when my mom briefly tried to ban The Simpsons, as if it didn’t teach me more about life than school or she ever could.

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

           I had some friends in grade school who couldn’t watch the Simpsons, which I never understood as it wasn’t especially more vulgar than most other TV comedies (parents were probably thrown by how much more vulgar it was than most TV cartoons, I guess). But trying to ban it when your kid is a high school freshman seems crazily mis-guided.

          I remember my mom once ‘caught’ me watching Beavis and Butthead in maybe 4th grade, which she hadn’t out-right banned, but which felt like something I shouldn’t watch. She just kind of told me “I know what they do and say on that show, but I expect you’re smart enough to know that you shouldn’t ever do or say what they do on that show. And if you do start doing that, then we’ll have to talk.” Which was kind of mind-blowingly great.

        • DrFlimFlam

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus, it was religion’s fault. Fortunately, the ban was almost immediately overcome. The way I see it, if your kid’s vice is The Simpsons, be thankful.

        • Citric

          The only time I wasn’t able to watch Simpsons was when it wasn’t on a channel in my house. Stupid farm.

          Then CBC picked it up in syndication and there was much rejoicing.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

          @Citric:disqus : When the Simpsons left CBC syndication (2009 IIRC) a big part of me died.

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

           Ironically, the Simpsons are probably one of the few regular church-going families on TV.

          Then again, a satirical show that would actually decide to acknowledge the religiosity of much American life would undoubtedly court more controversy than a show that decided to play it safe…

        • djsubversive

          @Citric:disqus *small voice* yay.

        • George_Liquor

          My junior high banned all Bart Simpson T-shirts with such subversives as “underachiever and proud of it.” This was a public school, too. The early 90s really were a more innocent time.

        • Citric

          I think the only thing my elementary school ever banned was Pogs.

          Right after my brother made me the slammer to end all slammers – a one centimeter thick circle of solid metal, it was the destroyer of Pogs.

        • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

          I was not allowed to watch The Simpsons either because the character of Ned Flanders made fun of Christians (something that was pretty fucking ballsy back in the 90′s)

          ironically that was pretty much the only show I was not allowed to watch, something like Beavis and Butthead was ok because at least the humor was not Religious aimed 

      • valondar

         I watched Terminator 2 at a friend’s house when I was six. My mother was pretty annoyed when she found out about that. I only vaguely remember the actual film, though, mostly that guy with the knife-like liquid hands who stabbed people through the neck.

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

           …he posted, from his PRISON CELL.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I’m hoping that my generation will do better. I’ve been playing games for ages and so I am very familiar with the games my son gets to play. Right now the violence stops at Skylanders/LEGO games (and even those have some cartoon gun violence I’m not fully on board with), and it won’t go beyond that for a very, very long time.

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      I started playing M rated games, including Grand Theft Auto 3, when I was 12 and I can honestly say it really doesn’t fucking matter 

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    Pity that this is the final installment of this feature. A show that would have been great to feature is an episode of The X-Files called “First Person Shooter” (recently reviewed over at the AV Club by the always awesome Todd WanDerWerff), which follows our heroes as they investigate a virtual reality shooter game where a rogue program inexplicably gets in and starts offing game participants because they deserve it probably. The rogue program, who is of course a tall busty young lady who laughably symbolises female empowerment or some bullshit, feeds off the sweaty male testosterone exuded by the players which it uses to get stronger, breastier, plot-holier and violentier.

    This episode taught me that games cause people to behave out of character, that men are naturally violent nasty bastards (ok, fair point), and also that cover in a shooter is not necessary if your name is Dana Scully especially when you are fighting cloned amazonians sitting on tanks. It also taught me that games can be horribly dull, a fact that I refused to believe until I accidentally tried to play Yakuza 3, when that message became all too real.

    I encourage all Gameologicalogists to seek out this abomination. It is worth it if only for the very last bit, where we SPOILERS see that the rogue lady program has turned into an awful awful Scully’s head pasted on the top of the aforementioned amazonian body thing. I watched this last week and still have no idea what that was supposed to mean.

    • DrunkPhilatelist

       i miss the days when it was taken for granted that virtual reality was the future of gaming. it seemed like in five, ten years tops we would all be shaking Mario’s hand or punching johnny cage in the nuts with a sense of real tactile immersion. such is life i suppose.

      also, i hereby resolve to work the word ‘breastier’ into my everyday speech.

      • valondar

        I still like to think it’ll eventually be a thing. I mean once we attain completely flawless photorealistic CGI… on our 2D screens… where can ‘realism’ go next in gaming?

        • DrunkPhilatelist
        • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

          Realistic characterization and writing?

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

         On the other hand, even as a kid, all of those prototype VR games looked hopelessly lame and clunky. Freakazoid did a pretty good sendup of the tropes prevalent at the time.

        Then again, we’ve got Oculus Rift coming, which may make VR plausible again, especially with the recent move to motion controls. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a nanobot holodeck thing within our lifetimes.

        • DrunkPhilatelist

          the old VR games were strikingly reminiscent of some sort of cubist exercise in monotony endurance. still, there was an inherent optimism in those start-up arcades that i miss.

          i recall going to one such VR arcade in las vegas back in the nineteen hundreds. there, one paid twelve bucks to get a dubiously clean helmet strapped to them and you were placed in a simple cockpit with pedals. after you donned the even more dubiously clean gloves, the mundane reality of the strip mall fell away and you were magically transported to the much sought after virtual reality. unfortunately, this reality was also mundane. unless your idea of a good time is clumsily piloting a low-res mech across a moonscape a la combat-less robot jox.

          at the time i recall thinking that it was pretty lame, but with that as a technological base things were only going to get breastier. thus far, no such luck.

        • Mistah Chrysoprase

          Love that ep, especially for referencing probably the only halfway decent VR game of that whole era: Dactyl Nitemare. Clunky as hell, of course, but it used some legitimately good ideas, and damn it, we had fun.

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        it will probably still happen one day though, it’s just taking a hell of a lot longer than anyone predicted 

    • valondar

       Cover is NEVER necessary in shooters. Especially back in the good old 1990s.

      • Asinus

        Cover just gets in the way of fun (I define fun in a shooter as running 35+ mph, jumping off a 50 foot wall while firing rockets down at some poor bastard’s head or cornering him with a multi-barreled machine gun). 

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

       I recently started re-watching the series in earnest. I’m thoroughly enjoying the ‘TV-cheese’ component that went thoroughly over my adolescent head, and am totally looking forward to this episode!

    • DrFlimFlam

      Besides completely ignorant portrayals of games on film (like two kids trying to play Final Fantasy VIII together), it always shocks me how terrible many made-for-TV/Film games are. No one wants to play these terrible games that all of your fictional teenage boys are playing.

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

        …THAT ALL USE THE SOUND ASSETS FROM 2600 DONKEY KONG FOR SOME REASON.

        • DrFlimFlam

          Sometimes I wonder why I even have external speakers when all of my games make bleep and bloop sounds exclusively anyway.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        Wait, FFVIII wasn’t co-op multiplayer? My older brother lied to me!

        Fun fact: FFVI actually did have a rudimentary co-op mechanic.

  • DrFlimFlam

    This is an episode I both love and hate. I love it because it is, of course, hilarious, tapping into the culture of fear we have surrounding video games, but I hate it because of how accurately it portrays both sides of the divide, and the discomfort that comes with it. I am sure we have all had that moment when we disappointed our parents so badly that they didn’t even have to punish us; the punishment of our own conscience was so severe they couldn’t come close.

    On the other side of the equation, as a parent now myself, I can attest to Lisa’s timeless wisdom and perception. “Her heart won’t just wipe clean like this bathroom countertop; it absorbs everything that touches it, like this bathroom rug.” That’s part of being a parent. Loving a child that will disappoint you, shock you, and occasionally crush you. That’s a very small part of it, and doesn’t compare in quantity to the good times, but those moments don’t ever really leave you, either. Being a parent is about taking all of that in and still loving your child no matter what, as they grow and change and both do and do not make you proud.

  • The_Misanthrope

    “He just came to teach them to write, but they taught him to care.”

    Dangerous Pens:  The Steve Heisler Story

    Starring Steve Carell as Mr. Heisler
    Jeffrey Tambor as Mr. Thompson, the principal who has given up on the kids
    Rosie Perez as Ms. LoveInterest, the sassy Spanish teacher who believes in Mr. Heisler
    and one of Will Smith’s kids as the troubled student who only Mr. Heisler can teach

    [Disclaimer:  The snark and free-floating satire above may not accurately represent the author's view on the noble (yet often poorly represented in mass media) profession of teaching.]

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

      After some executive re-tooling, the title has been reworked to capitalize on Carell’s concurrently-released “Dan in Real Life Cameo” and the studio’s ownership of the similarly-themed 90s movie “Dangerous Minds.”

      Coming this fall: “Dangerous Minds 2: Back 2 tha Minds”

      • HobbesMkii

        Also, one of the new executive producers is a fervent Randian, so the movie has been cut and reshot to portray teachers’ unions as evil. 

        • The_Misanthrope

           Oh great, my fake movie is no more than an hour old and it’s already in development hell.

        • HobbesMkii

          @The_Misanthrope:disqus Uh oh…looks like the studio head has a raunchy hard-R teen comedy called “School of Hard Bongs” that prior to this he’s been unable to get off the ground. Most of the gags from the existing “Hard Bongs” script will be inserted into the script for “Dangerous Minds 2: Back 2 tha Minds” utilizing a new character named Randy played by Dave Franco. Luckily, using the magic of green screen technology, Franco can be seamlessly inserted into the existing footage.
          Randy will also be anti-union.

        • Electric Dragon

          Following the failure of unrelated film “Dangerous Man”, the studio heads have all been sacked. The new studio heads have decided that a) the failure was caused by the word “Dangerous” in the title and b) all films greenlit by their predecessors must on no account be allowed to succeed lest it reflect badly upon them.

          The film has been renamed “School’s Out” for no good reason, its budget has been cut by 70%, no trailers will be issued and the film will be released on two screens in North Dakota in the middle of January.

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

           Unfortunately, because of School of Hard Bongs’ troubled production history, the porn parody, School of Hard Dongs has already been released, and achieved such market penetration (huh huh), that to release “School of Hard Bongs: Back 2 Tha Minds” would court too much controversy for appearing to allude to the now ubiquitous porn version.

        • HobbesMkii

          *BREAKING NEWS*
          After the current studio president was fired, ”School of Hard Bongs: Back 2 Tha Minds” has been rewritten. The new movie, “Bongs 2 Mind,” will be an indie-drama starring Dave Franco as an otherwise slacker high schooler who starts a marijuana growing/dealing business and grows a strain of pot that improves his academic performance and mental capacities (like that terrible Bradley Cooper movie). Rosie Perez will play his street-wise teacher who enters into a forbidden romance with the now-ensmartened Franco. Tambor will now play the FBI agent tasked with taking him down. The movie will touch on themes of adolescent isolation and prevalence of drug related crimes in the inner city.

          As Steve Carell could not be convinced to leave, the character of Heisler appears only in the first five minutes of the movie, where he is gunned down by a group of local hoodlums outside the school. He does not have any speaking lines, as Dave Franco’s narration plays over the entire scene.

  • PaganPoet

    This was always my favorite episode of the Simpsons. So many great funny lines, always funny, and yet somehow realistically sad and honest about the way parents see their children.

    • Sleverin

       I always loved it for the stealing scene, especially Sonic just screaming, “TAKEITTAKEITTAKEIT!”  I never really saw all the other stuff until I was an adult, Lisa’s line is definitely more poignant for me now than when I was a child.

      • PaganPoet

        Mario: Take-a the game, Bart. 

        Luigi: The store, she’s-a so rich!

        Donkey Kong: Duh, it’s the company’s fault for making you want it so much!

        Lee Carvallo: Don’t do it, son! How is that game going to help your putting average?

        • Sleverin

           In the same season (I think) they had Donkey Kong appearing as a mascot to meet in person at the arcade.  The guy tells him to go home, and that he just doesn’t draw a crowd like he used to.  Kong responds by throwing a barrel at him…”Hey, he’s still got it!”  Always loved that.

    • stuartsaysstop

      Mooom, Bart’s smoking!

    • Asinus

      I’d completely forgot about the “boring” fighting game in the Bonestorm ad– the guy fighting the tank hand-to-”hand” is such a funny throw-away gag that made the Simpson’s so great. Come up with something like that and present it in a blink-and-youll-miss-it scene shows how confident they were in their ability to come up with more hilarity than they could stick in one episode. 

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

    Lord knows that my Mom wasn’t perfect. But, at that time in my life when I only received a new videogame once every few months, she never got me a terrible game. She always made me rent a game before she’d buy it, and that has averted some disasters.

    • Citric

      My mom generally got my brother to pick them out, which lead to a pretty varied level of quality, though as a kid I played it all. Total Carnage for Gameboy may have been terrible, for instance, but goddamn I beat it.

    • Fluka

      Parents: their harsh judgement is correct sometimes!  (Despite @vinnybushes:disqus ’s anecdotes above…)

      Raising a girl is probably easier in this respect.  We only had a PC, and the whole Doom/Quake/etc genre didn’t appeal to my sensitive self, so they bought 10 year old me lots of Maxis Sim games and other historical city building games (like Caesar and Pharaoh).  I learned a lot about proper aqueduct placement.  Of course, I also learned that slave labor was really useful for building Egyptian monuments, so maybe the influence wasn’t all good.

      I also got to play a really crashy copy of Myst.  That taught me anger management.

      • Moonside_Malcontent

         I spent many an hour hunched over the family PC playing Pharaoh.  I remember one brief exchange with my mom while trying to build an especially egregious monument to my divine incarnation:

        Mom: Are you using slaves to build that pyramid?
        Me: They’re not slaves, they’re laborers that work in the fields during the dry season and then pull sledges for the monuments in the wet season.
        Mom: …

        • Fluka

          Hey, better than the Sims.

          “Ooo, what are you playing?  Is that the Sims?  What are their jobs?  Why does the one keep swimming?  Why is the other one lying on the floor and crying in a puddle of water?  Where are the doors and windows?  What happened here??

        • djsubversive

          @Fluka:disqus I think removing all the doors from your house and all the ladders from your pool is a time-honored Sims tradition.
          I once had a family burn their house down within ten minutes of moving in. I didn’t even get the chance to remove the doors! After the firefighters left, their punishment was that they got haystacks for furniture, and one bed between the four of them.

          It was a miserable household.

    • DrFlimFlam

      Like many of my generation, I received an NES for some birthday or Christmas at some point as a child. Unlike the rest of my generation, I did not receive Super Mario/Duck Hunt with it. I received WWII submarine simulation Silent Service.

      • George_Liquor

        I know the feeling. My brother bought the fam our NES for Christmas, but he picked up the console only. Bright & early Christmas Morning, I was bumming games off my neighbor. To this day, I haven’t beaten Super Mario Brothers.

        • DrFlimFlam

          The only Mario game I’ve ever beaten is New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS. Very proud of beating that game. Even if it is rather easy.

      • Cornell_University

        SOMEONE TO SHARE MY PAIN.

        My Grandmother bought my brother and I an NES (to spite our hippie free love parents), and we were allowed to buy one game each.  I chose wisely: TMNT II.  My brother, bless his heart, chose Silent Service.  Of all the NES games in the world, he wanted that one.  He was never a WW2 buff or anything either.  I dutifully tried to play it when I grew tired of gatecrashing the technodrome, but neither of us ever really were much good at it.  I always did like the animation of the captain abandoning ship (we saw that a lot).

        • DrFlimFlam

          I don’t think I ever got any good at it. Eventually I got Marble Madness and Captain Skyhawk and had lots more fun with those. And then Swords and Serpents and its bugged password save system.

        • George_Liquor

          For what it’s worth, Silent Service II is a terrific game.

  • duwease

    The Simpsons and video games.. I could not have asked for a better birthday present.

    Man, it makes me miss the Simpsons back when it had character moments and plots instead of non-stop gags though.  But it’s been non-stop gags for so long I don’t know if they could even go back without it being hollow.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    “One copy of Bonestorm please.”
    “Get two, I’m not sharing with Karen!”

    ————

    “That poor boy’s mother.”  
    “Shut up, Mom!”

    ————–

    “Wow, he must be the happiest kid in the world”

    I could quote Simpsons all day.  Oh wait, there’s a place for that.  BRB heading to the AV Club comments.

    • djsubversive

      The best part is that on the AV Club, it doesn’t even need to be a Simpons-related article!

      • Electric Dragon

        AV CLUB NEEDS REFERENCES

        COMMENTING PLAN

        (I’m so sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

        • Fluka

          Now give this man 200 likes! 

        • Electric Dragon

           @Fluka:disqus thanks, but, following the precedent set by David Beckham, I will donate those likes to those less fortunate than myself. Did you know that hundreds of people comment on Disqus boards every day without getting a single like?

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema Reuben

    Where are all the Simpsons quotes? Gameological is bizarro world. 

    BUY ME BONESTORM OR GO TO HELL!

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema Reuben

    Why didn’t I get a Simpsons (Classic) notification for this!?

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    remember when The Simpsons was good?

  • Asinus

    BOUND BY BONE!

  • Michael

    My mom was extremely lenient with regard to what I watched growing up, and she helped to cultivate in me an early and lifelong love of horror movies. However, this ran counter to the parents of most of my friends, and I recall her calling said parents before my 11th birthday party to see if they would object to our watching The Silence of the Lambs. You can imagine how well that went over.