Thursday, April 28, 2011
In which something finally snaps (Gilligan's Island)
Oh, fuck it. What am I doing here? I mean, really, what has my life come to that I'm trying to come up with anything remotely intelligent to blog about the fucking Gilligan's Island NES game? I mean, what sort of pathetic and self-important ass would I have to be to suggest that there is anything remotely worthwhile to be said about this festering pile of digital feces? There isn't. The very suggestion that this game in any way matters to humanity - that it is even theoretically possible that this game has some larger metaphorical significance - seems mostly like a crushingly rude snub on humanity.
It is not that Gilligan's Island is an unusually bad game. I mean, it's absolutely wretched, but let's face it, wretched is the norm on the NES. That's part of the reason the theme of this blog is rapidly developing into "crushing misery." Well, that any my growing realization that a PhD in English actually makes me functionally unemployable and that, given the general state of things, I will probably die penniless of a treatable illness in the richest country in the world. But don't worry. Mostly it's just that NES games really suck. I wouldn't want you to think I have a warped set of priorities or anything.
Rather, it's that Gilligan's Island flaunts its complete lack of effort like no game I have ever seen. Through and through, in every last aspect of the game, whether it be the repetitive "sitcom dialogue" apparently written by writers fired from Joanie Loves Chachi for being insufficiently funny (and let's face it, who knew such a thing existed), the clunky controls, the shit AI, or the fact that it's a fucking Gilligan's Island game, despite the fact that absolutely nobody in the world was clamoring for such a thing.
I mean, there's a famous story of market research that says that the electric knife was almost not brought to market because research showed that nobody would actually use one. Until someone noticed that, although nobody wanted one, tons of people would buy them as gifts for other people. And so, despite the fact that there was no actual demand for the product, the electric knife was launched.
But that somber indictment of capitalism seems like an Edible Arrangement compared to Gilligan's Island, the NES game. Gilligan's Island, off the air for twenty-two years at the time of the game's release, was hardly the model of a property beloved by youth and college kids with disposable incomes. Nor is "Oh bugger we're stuck on an island and bloody incompetent" the image of an exciting action game. Even Dallas would be better - characters clearly have extra lives, and you can at least shoot JR.
And so it's not that the game isn't good. It's that the game, in all its stultifying wretchedness, is actually every bit as good as it has to be to satisfy its design and purpose. It's that the game knows full well that it doesn't have to try, and thus doesn't try. It is a game made out of sheer disdain for its players and its audience, a lame cash grab for the bargain bins marketed to parents who will remember the show and not know better.
And, I mean, we should hardly be surprised. One's heart sinks the moment "Bandai" appears on the screen, given that Bandai's video game division basically spent the NES years releasing an unrelenting torrent of shit upon the world. Their games list is a fucking who's who of games I've previously complained about - Frankenstein: The Monster Returns, Chubby Cherub, Dick Tracy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... the list does not just go on, it goes on while actively torturing dark recesses of my brain with searing memories of playing this shit for half an hour at a stretch. Bandai is, let's face it, a company that exists, at least in NES terms, for the sole and express purpose of releasing crappy games. Actively. As a matter of policy, they clearly prefer to cheaply release shit than work to give the player a remotely entertaining experience.
And in the end, there's no metaphor here. There's no deep secret mystery that unlocks my childhood or anyone else's. There's just dodgy controls, stupid licenses, and pointless video games, and the sense that as an eight year old, I was being financially exploited by late capitalism.
So fuck it. I have nothing left on this one. Tomorrow is another game. Well, Tuesday. Tomorrow is another episode of Doctor Who, which is guaranteed to be better than this game. I can't even be bothered to fire it up again to get a screenshot. Screw it. Let's just slap the crappy box art up at the top of the entry and call it a day.