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Video Games Go Prime Time

Mike Musgrove

Video games have been creeping into TV shows more than ever in the last few weeks, seems to me.

Last night, Comedy Central's Freak Show, an animated series featuring the voice of David Cross, featured some Capitol Hill grandstanding against some gay content in a video game called Blood Crusade 3. (And sheesh, how timely is this? It was just last week that anti-game activist lawyer Jack Thompson was decrying some boy-boy kiss in Rockstar's new game, Bully.)

And the recent season premiere of South Park took place largely within the game World of Warcraft, as the lads teamed up to take down a powerful and tyrannical player who was slaughtering everybody in the world... of Warcraft. Another new episode just the other day had Cartman freaking out because the wait for a Nintendo Wii console is driving him crazy.

Funniest yet: The Office had a hilarious episode recently that incorporated a World War 2 computer game into the storyline. In that episode, the messy-hair guy transfers to another office where the co-workers play Call of Duty all day long. Messy-hair guy is completely incompetent at the game, and gets chewed out by his boss and his colleagues as a result. In a wistful goodbye scene, he playfully chucks an imaginary grenade at his female co-worker before he heads out the door.

On The Wire, the kid with the ponytail is occasionally seen relaxing at the end of the day by playing on an Xbox 360. In the most recent episode, we get a hint that one of the students at the school has some heretofore unknown computer skills, because he knows how to use cheat codes to get ahead in a puzzle game on the school's computer. In yet another scene, a character is playing some handheld game and the game's pings and blips accentuate the dialogue. (Anybody know what that game is? It was driving me crazy when I watched the episode last night.)

And let's not forget Weeds, where the mom occasionally plays on the Nintendo DS, and her youngest kid has sometimes wielded a PlayStation Portable-- this one had the distinct whiff of "product placement" to it, to me at least.

It isn't new this year that video games are featured in TV shows, but it does seem new that they are actually, sometimes, being put to clever use. Or is that just me? For me, watching for the appearance of a video game in a TV show or movie has become one of those side pastimes, sort of like watching for which characters use Windows computers and which use Macs.

My favorite appearance of games in TV shows of the past might be from a CSI Miami episode last year. In it, a bunch of college kids are running around performing bank-robbing and mayhem-y missions because they are re-enacting a game that is clearly a stand-in for Grand Theft Auto. Anti-video-game fear-mongering at its best!

Anybody care to add to, or correct, the list I've got so far? Not sure if this is for an article or column, or just a way to pass the time on a Friday, before I go home to watch TV and play more video games.

By Mike Musgrove  |  November 3, 2006; 9:52 AM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

The characters name on The Office is Jim. Just because it's a blog doesn't mean you can be a lazy reporter.

Posted by: Andrew | November 3, 2006 11:57 AM

Simmer down Andrew. It's not lazy -- he's using descriptions for all the characters he mentions, not their names.

South Park: "the lads"

The Wire: "the kid with the ponytail"

Weeds: "the mom" and "the youngest kid"

Don't get your panties in a bunch just b/c he doesn't use the proper name of your favorite character. I, for one, wouldn't have known who he was talking to if he said "Jim," but knew exactly who he was referring to by "messy-hair guy."

Posted by: Anon | November 3, 2006 12:32 PM

Video games gone mainstream? Who-da thunk it!

Just another highly relevant and timely blog entry that comes around and says the same thing about once every year or so. (A Super Mario MOVIE??!)

But the burning question for me is, who's better at gaming, Moms or Dads? Should Moms be allowed to game from home? Over to Leslie on that one.

Posted by: shocked gasp | November 3, 2006 1:24 PM

BTW, Leslie's next book should be "The Mommy Clan Wars".

Posted by: shocked gasp | November 3, 2006 1:35 PM

here's one: In the Jodie Foster movie Inside Man, a kid gets hassled by a bank robber for playing a violent video game on his PSP.

Posted by: sg | November 3, 2006 2:04 PM

This was a while ago, but you can't mention video games in the mainstream without talking about swingers. Swingers NHL 93 scene is probably the best video game scene in any major entertainment piece (tv or movies.) its a must watch.

Posted by: Thats Money, and you didn't even know it | November 3, 2006 2:05 PM

Totally. "Make his head bleed."

Posted by: money | November 3, 2006 2:29 PM

I am to the point now that I spend much more time on the computer playing games than I do watching TV. I am probably not the typical gamer being in my 30s and married with kids. Any others finding themselves gaming more than watching TV?

Posted by: Troy | November 3, 2006 2:30 PM

He also refers to Cartman as such. To refer to Jim as the messy haired guy once would have been fine, but the fact that he uses it twice says to me he was too lazy to look it up or too lazy to come up with another way to reference him.

Posted by: Andrew | November 3, 2006 7:58 PM

In that episode, Jim transfers to another office where the co-workers play Call of Duty all day long. Jim is completely incompetent at the game, and gets chewed out by his boss and his colleagues as a result. In a wistful goodbye scene, Jim playfully chucks an imaginary grenade at Jim's female co-worker before Jim heads out the door.

Posted by: this is for you, Andrew | November 6, 2006 3:59 PM

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