3 Television Shows That Should be Video Games
Being both a gamer and a fan of David Lynch's surreal 1990s drama series Twin Peaks, I was extremely pleased to see one dedicated fan's Atari-based tribute. The crude blocky graphics and tortured sound processing are pretty much consistent with what the existential terror I expect from the show itself:
Yeah, that's pretty much the show in a nutshell.
While watching the above trip fest, I started thinking about how few television shows get their own video game. Though it's standard practice for every blockbuster movie to get a crappy game to go along with it, huge hit shows like Lost or CSI rarely get anything more complicated than some simple budget PC adventure or a stupid trivia game. And the few times developers take the risk of thinking outside the box, we end up with baffling nonsense like the Home Improvement platformer for SNES.
Guess these guys couldn't afford the Jurassic Park license...
Point is that licensed titles are starting to not suck, with games like Batman: Arkham City leading the charge. But while developers fight to the death for the rights to beloved comic book and movie franchises, they seem to be ignoring the hundreds of fantastic television shows that would make for equally awesome video games. Here are my three top picks for small screen classics which deserve the interactive treatment.
Breaking Bad is not only one of the best shows currently on television, but also an incredible example of an actor absolutely destroying his own typecasting. Brian Cranston spent six long years playing the goofy out-of-touch dad on Malcolm in the Middle, but rather than go the Bob Saget route and let his career simply collapse into a pile of hookers and cocaine, Cranston shaved his head, wiped away the quirky smile, and re-emerged as the most complicated badass in all of television.
Three lead actor Emmys? What a boss.
In case you're some sort of quality-averse moron who hasn't made time for the best drama currently on television: Cranston plays Walter White, a former science-teacher turned meth peddler. Teaming up with former student Jesse Pinkman, White uses his big old brain to outwit various drug lords and thugs, like some sort of suburban Scarface. Also, he has cancer, just to make things good and complicated.
To be honest, the show mostly deals with the psychological impact Walt's new line of work has on himself and his family, but all that messy drama doesn't really seem like video game territory. Instead, I see the meth-cooking adventures of Walt & Jesse as the perfect basis for a 3DS / Vita collection of fun interactive mini-games, kind of like a "Meth Cooking Mama" mixed with a healthy dose of Sim City-style operations management.
You'll first learn to cook up crystal in your bathtub, peddling your wares around low-income neighborhoods Paperboy-style. Developing a high quality product is the key to expanding Walt's operation, and players will want to not only master the challenging touchscreen cooking segments, but also re-invest their cash in new cook labs (RV, Warehouse, Superlab), better equipment, and eventually their own fleet of distributors and bodyguards.
Don't think it'll be all smooth sailing though, as you'll also need to invest some money in Walt's chemo, and some guns in case the Mexican cartel comes knocking. And don't forget to launder that money with the help of our favorite lawyer Sal Goodman (as portrayed by Bob Odenkirk). Sure, he'll be taking a healthy 10% cut, but that's better than explaining to the feds how you made twenty million dollars on a science teacher's salary.
The game's biggest feature will be the multiple endings. Walt dying of cancer, Walt getting shot by Jesse, Walt getting caught by the F.B.I., Walt dying of cancer... so many possibilities!
(Did I mention the ability to wirelessly trade meth recipes using the 3DS Street Pass feature? Collect em' all!)
Though it has spawned countless imitators, Pawn Stars remains the essential television experience for those of us who like to watch people buying and selling crap. Honestly, it's a bit disturbing how well-conditioned we are as a society to find the simple act of engaging in capitalistic barter so wildly exciting, but shut the hell up because that sword is totally from the revolutionary war and this stupid crackhead is about to pawn it for like two hundred bucks.
Watching the show, it's hard not to dream of opening one's own pawn shop and aggressively swindling a variety of drug-money seeking malcontents. But while many are sated to live this dream vicariously through Rick and the Old Man, a truly interactive experience is what we gamers crave, and what better way to live the thrilling pawn shop lifestyle than with the most immersive genre we have?
Pawn Stars RPG: A Sword of Gold & Silver
Thing is, somebody already made the equivalent of Pawn Stars: The RPG. It's called Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. So all I basically want is that game, with the adorable anime girl protagonist replaced by Big Hoss and Chumly. As the show's two stupid fatasses, players will have to scour through dungeons in search of rare loot to sell in the Gold & Silver pawnshop. You won't be beating up monsters though, as these two Subway-loving miscreants are much too portly to wield a broadsword. Instead you'll be haggling with skeleton knights and poisonous slimes to try and get the best possible deal on their loot. Do you point out to the horned demon that his ancient box of eternal evil is lacking the original magic seal? Do you lowball the pixie fairy knowing full well that her enchanted staff of healing is worth at least a grand?
Thing is, there's only so much these two knuckleheads can carry, forcing players to make on the fly decisions about what to lug back. And though that jewel-encrusted broadsword looks like it could be a big seller, you'll have no way of knowing whether it's authentic or not unless you've taken the time to properly train and level your antique expert companions. Making the right decisions and you'll soon have a fully stocked pawn shop, ready to bilk stupid tourists out of their money. Screw up and you'll be eating Subway sandwiches with walls of crappy rusted equipment looking down on you.
Seriously though, could the Subway product placement be more obvious in that show? They talk about how much they enjoy eating five dollar footlongs in almost every episode.
If there's one show that convinces me reality television has gone too far, it's A&E's Hoarders. The show's premise seems innocent enough: finding people whose homes have been overcome with clutter, helping them to organize their collections of junk, and returning their life to a livable state. However, every episode seems to focus less on the whole "helping people" bit and more on humiliating them in for the delight of a television audience, the show's wide variety of freaks breaking down and crying as viewers remark with a sadistic glee how disgusting these people are.
Also, if you ever needed a good incentive to clean your room, seeing these cockroach-infested hovels will get your ass in gear.
Obviously, a show about cleaning out a house doesn't really lend itself well to any of the action genres, which is why I'm getting a bit abstract with my game concept on this one. Hoarders is equal parts lugging crap and managing the nervous breakdowns of these slobs, which is why I'm proposing some sort of Chu Chu Rocket-style puzzle game.
Players will have to drop arrows down on the gameboard to keep their cleaning crew moving, grabbing bags of trash and useless knick-knacks from around the house and rushing them out a door. Thing is, the depressed 400 pound homeowner will be lumbering around the house, dropping constant piles of new trash. You'll also have to balance her emotional state as you go, avoiding line of sight while tossing out items with high emotional attachment values. Get caught throwing out a supposedly sentimental object (picture of a third uncle she's never met, broken coffee mug she got from her dead mom) and you'll soon be washed away in an endless stream of tears. Toss something the homeowner mistakenly believes has intrinsic value (stack of Field & Stream magazines from 1988, crate of Beanie Babies) and you'll soon be trying to dodge red hot beams of fury.
The obvious goal is to get all the trash out of the house without being buried alive, skillfully maneuvering your crew to the door while guiding the homeowner to a calming snack or other distraction. If you become truly overwhelmed, players can call in a family member to try and overwhelm the homeowner with a healthy dose of shame (not to mention, bolstering your Nielsen ratings combo). However, let your slovenly nemesis's emotional state overload and you'll find you and your camera crew kicked out.
You know what, when I started this article it was meant to be a joke, but while writing out my thoughts on how to make each television show into a game I realized, "Wow! There really is a ton of potential here!" Point is, if you're a swarmy TV executive who's stumbled across this article, know that all of the preceding game concepts are copyright Vito Gesualdi Enterprises LLC, though I'll be happy to part with any of them for $40,000USD.
No? How about $20K? 15? Ok, I'll settle for the entire series of Pawn Stars on Blu-Ray.
- Vito Gesualdi