Tag Archives: Felicity

SPLASH DAMAGE: Videogaming in “Undeclared”


Unlike my videogaming habit, I try to stick to watching a single TV show at a time. This allows me to stay immersed and connected with the characters and storylines and not have to juggle a billion different happenings in my limited headspace; of course, due to the wealth of shows out there and number of places you can watch stuff for free or relatively cheap, I’m juggling three to four shows at the moment, namely Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Top of the Lake, and, lastly, Undeclared. Actually, I’m only one episode away from finishing Top of the Lake, which is a hauntingly beautiful and sad show filmed and set in New Zealand, and Tara and I only catch up with The Walking Dead every week and Downton Abbey every few weeks. So really, for me, it’s just been Undeclared over the last few days because I wanted something light and breezy after finishing up Breaking Bad recently–hey, check out my newest comic if you’re a Heisenberg fan–and that third season of Louie did not cut it.

Undeclared comes from cult favorite Judd Apatow and closely follows up on Freaks and Geeks, a show I very much adored. But instead of high school and hour-long episodes, we’re now in college with a potpourri of freshmen and 30-minute long episodes. A lot of the same themes are present here, such as taking responsibility and accepting who you are, but they are buried pretty deep beneath general goofiness, zany character motivations, and bombastic plots. At one point Adam Sandler playing Adam Sandler shows up. It’s not amazing, but it’s okay and bite-size, and I’m enjoying seeing many actors in their prime that I follow now, such as Lizzy Caplan, Seth Rogen, and Amy Poehler. Will Ferrell also appears in episode 7, “Addicts”, and his performance and script and the way he acts when it comes to videogames only confirms for me that Elf was and will always be his best, as well as that most people in TV have no idea how to portray entertainment gaming or those that like it.

In “Addicts”, Ferrell plays a townie called Dave who, for a small fee, will write papers on any subject for struggling–or lazy–college students. This works out well the first time, getting our leading lad a high mark, but the next set of papers turn out simply terrible, and it’s then that we realize that Dave is supremely messed up, on drugs, and unable to distinguish reality from videogames. See, Dave just got a PlayStation 2, and you can clearly see him enjoying Kessen, a real-time tactics simulator set in feudal Japan. As he plays, he is literally mashing on every button and moving the controller in his hands as if it covered in butter and he can barely hold on. When confronted about how bad the papers were, Dave says it’s because he was “this close to getting to level 24.”

As far as I can tell, in Kessen, there are no levels, not at least in the traditional sense. The game is broken up into different events, such as the Skirmish at Kuzegawa or Escape from Minakuchi, each with their own objectives, and I don’t think if you even added up everything in the game you’d come up with 24 somethings to do. Though I could be wrong. Still, it comes across as Dave just shouting gibberish, a phrase better associated with something like Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog–though not perfectly. If Dave was really into the game, as they show he is, he could’ve been more specific, like saying the name of the final war encounter. Later, he also refers to it as “that ninja game” when he is out of his mind on speed and trying combat the trio of college freshmen in his own house. It’s over-the-top and embarrassing, and only reinforces negative stereotypes of what a gamer looks like (well, in 2001)–college dropout, skeezy, on drugs, hyperactive, and unable to keep a grip.

If you’ll remember, I also ran into some problems with how games like Crash Bandicoot were handled in Felicity, and many of the same stereotypical dramatizations happened there as well. I wonder if Judd Apatow and J.J. Abrams shared emails with one another.

Anyways, you can watch clips of Dave being a loosely wired videogame freak from the show here, but the action really starts around the 4:00 mark:

SPLASH DAMAGE is a non-scheduled feature on Grinding Down that examines the way videogames are handled in different types of media, such as comics, movies, and TV shows. Basically, whenever I see them being grossly misrepresented, I’ll write about it. Expect a lot of grumbling over people thrashing around like wild beasts when holding a controller and shouting out strange things that many non-gamers might assume a gamer would say. Also: obvious links to drug addiction tendencies. Seriously, we can do much better than this.

Crash Bandicoot is the ruiner of all relationships in Felicity

Videogames are just the evilest. At least that’s what TV shows want to say, as every now and then an episode pops up to remind us all that these digital universes are gateways through Satan’s butthole and that they consume human life just as swiftly as someone falling into a woodchipper. I remember Full House doing it. CSI: New York did it with little intelligence or Googling. South Park did it with great jest when World of Warcraft was infecting fans left and right. And now, as of this weekend, I learned that Felicity–yeah, that show from 1998 to 2002 about a hairy girl going to college and finding herself–also partook in educating viewers on the damaging voodoo magic of controller-powered entertainment.

The episode “Crash” from Felicity‘s second season is described as so:

When Julie suggests that dating B-list people is a good way to get over her breakup with Ben, Felicity agrees to Prof. Sherman’s request to try dating her son David (Henri Lubatti). Meanwhile, Ben and Maggie (Teri Polo) shift to a more intimate relationship despite her concerns over their age gap; and Noel and Elena become obsessed with a video game.

See that last part? Yeeeeeah. The videogame in question is none other than Crash Bandicoot, the mascot that never came to be for the Sony PlayStation. It starts innocently enough and almost feels like a blatant advertisement for the game, with Noel gushingly playing solo, eyes wide and unblinking, remarking about how great these graphics are and how fun the game is and how much he ate up Super Mario Bros. one summer. Immediately, there are problems, with the constant habit of having gamers move erratically while being filmed, as if they themselves are dodging bullets or rolling boulders. Plus, the sneering from Elena is unfortunate.

Anyways, the other plots of the show move along with little interference. At some point, while Noel is on the phone, Elena picks up the controller and begins to play. When Noel sees this, he ejects, “You’re ruin my lives!” Which makes no sense as a videogame-related phrase and something a girl he is interested in overhears on the phone. Then he begins shouting at Elena to “repause” the game. “Repause!” he cries. “REPAUSE!”

Um…what? How about just “pause”? Sigh. And it gets worse.

After a really bad blind date, Felicity swings by Noel and Elena’s apartment only to discover them engrossed in the glow of the TV screen. Apparently, there were original plans to all go out, but now the two of them can barely mumble a response and Felicity leaves, but not before making a smarmy remark about “going outside” to her gaming friends. Eventually, the two of them get stuck on the final boss of Crash Bandicoot; Elena mentions she “knows a guy” who can help get them past it and grabs to the phone. The tips don’t help, and Noel ends up calling the guy a moron, which brings up tears and the revelation that the guy is no guy, but a seven-year-old kid, commenting again on the fact that videogames are just for younglings.

In horror, they turn the PlayStation off, and in the morning, Noel tells Felicity that he’s “too mature” for those things and regrets what it did to him and Elena. Sunlight warms their collective skins. Everyone’s diseases are cured. The horrible beast has been flayed. Cue happy song–something by Sarah McLachlan. The end.

Yeah. This was an infuriating episode to watch, to listen to. The way Noel talked about Crash Bandicoot was not even borderline close to how a normal college kid would talk about games. I would know. I did it all the time, with Final Fantasy X and Jak and Daxter and more being discussed amongst friends. You talk about them like you would a movie or a book or a class or a person or anything really. There’s no need to throw hundred dollar terms around or speak about processing chips. They are experiences, good or bad, and they can be shared without a feeling of shame, without rolling up excuses as to why I spent my Saturday night collecting the last Power Cell or whatever.

Ugh. I don’t watch much TV these days so I don’t know if the treatment of videogames has gotten any better. But in 1999, with Felicity, it was just the worst. Still not as bad as when she chopped her hair off though…

Suikoden III is forever “now loading”

I…I think I have some bad news. I say it like that because I don’t want to admit to myself that any of this is true, as I am a man that holds on and hopes, even as everything around me crumbles, but things do look a little dire. My PlayStation 2 disc for Suikoden III, a game I have been searching for high and low over a number of years and only finally just acquired last year, is busted. Has to be. If you’ll recall, I ran into a nasty loading problem during the first hour of the game, wherein the disc spun unremittingly while the words NOW LOADING flashed at me with malice. Well, it happened again, different spot. And once again after that.

Currently, I’m in this weird place. I spent a week or two burning through all four Blackwell point-and-click games with Tara and then proceeded to kick Mass Effect 2‘s ass to the curb and then systemically achieved 30,000 Gamerscore on the nose. And then…well, I haven’t really known what to do with myself when a moment of spare time opens up. I’ve dabbled a bit more in Rage, played some more Cave Story on my 3DS, and watched maybe too many episodes of Felicity at once. Eh, let me take that back; I could watch Felicity all day long, but only up until the episode when she chops all her delicious hair off.

And so, the other night, I decided to hop back into Suikoden III and see what was happening; I had played beyond the first hour for maybe another forty-five minutes, stopping at an impasse where my party had to wait a little bit before they could meet with the higher-ups of Vinay del Zexay. Turns out, we just needed to stay at the inn two or three more times, which is kind of annoying as the inn–seeing as it has no competition in town–charges a hefty 300 suikobucks each time. After your party has rested enough, Sergeant Joe suggests heading back to the town hall to see if we can deliver our message. And we can. Hugo and friends are invited inside, there’s some small talk, and then the screen goes dark to–I assume–load an important cutscene. Only, the game goes nowhere–it just sits on that loading screen, and I sit staring at it until I realized I’ve sat for probably too long. I don’t immediately think it’s locked up, as Secret Agent Clank taught me that some PS2 games take forever and then some.

Disappointed, I shut off the PS2, examined the game’s disc, and then turned the system back on. That kind of worked the last time. I stayed at the inn two more times again, went back to the town hall again, chatted again, and watched as the NOW LOADING screen mocked me again. Well, boo to that. I have to suspect that the discoloration on the disc is problematic for loading cutscenes. That said, I’m not giving up yet. I’ll keep trying to play for as long it lets me play, and whether that means going off on one of the other main characters’ adventures, then so be it. Maybe Hugo and I weren’t meant to be. Maybe I’ll run into the same problems elsewhere. Maybe, maybe.

It might just be worse to have an unusable copy of Suikoden III in my collection.