Eighteen Years Of Progress
May 06, 2008
When people discuss advancements in the world of video games they typically focus on ever-increasing storage capacity, processor power, displayable colors, or some other form of techno jargon. Not all progress can be measured in bits and bytes. Consider, for instance, how video games are portrayed in television sitcoms. Most game-related jokes are played for a quick laugh, so there's not usually an incentive for the production staff to make sure the gag makes sense to those of us familiar with the games in question. It's not uncommon for consoles to be played without the proper controllers, with the wrong number of players, or even without a cartridge in the machine. The mainstream non-gaming audience will not notice the error. Thankfully, as time marches on we're starting to see some accuracy in these types of situations.
For instance, I was watching an old episode of Night Court over breakfast yesterday morning. The episode "A Closer Look" from 1990 featured a joke in which one of the characters demoed his office computer for a reporter and explained that at the push of a button he could display all kinds of court case files. Then, when he pressed the button, recorded footage of Super Mario Bros. appeared on the screen while music and sound effects from Super Mario Bros. 2 played on the soundtrack. The canned laughter took over from here and the scene ended, and while that probably got a hearty laugh back in the day from the ungaming masses, those of us with gaming in our veins can spot the problems right away, particularly 1) Super Mario Bros. running on a computer instead of a Nintendo Entertainment System (remember, this joke is from a very pre-emulator 1990) and 2) the sounds are actually from the game's sequel.
Last night over dinner I watched a new episode of The Big Bang Theory. "The Shiksa Indeterminacy" revolved around three geeky guys fighting to determine which of them would attempt to woo a fourth character's attractive sister. They eventually decided to settle the matter with some boxing in Wii Sports. Not only was there a Nintendo Wii and a sensor bar present with their television, but the characters played in groups of two with proper Wii remotes and nunchuks. We even got to see the characters' Miis punching at one another. Most likely this was just blatant product placement, but I'm willing to let that slide. Wii Sports fit into the context of the story, and the little details about the game and how it's played were correct. Maybe it took an advertising buy to get it right, but either way I'm just glad that we weren't expected to accept Donkey Kong played on a Microsoft Xbox 360 with sound effects from Pac-Man. There may be hope for Hollywood after all.