A video game showing up in a movie or television show always seems so alien, something uncanny or unnatural that shouldn’t be there. Maybe it’s just that way for those who spend a lot of their time playing games (or just thinking about them) and so they feel close to home in a way that doesn’t really fit. Doesn’t seem right.
And then there’s appearances like these, which are just weird regardless of whether it’s a video game or not.
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John: House of Cards plugs the PS Vita
I honestly can’t think of a show that has less potential crossover with the PlayStation Vita than House of Cards: a bleak political thriller where every character is a high-level political figure in the US government or otherwise entrenched in US politics. While I’m sure the first season (released in February 2013) was filmed well before it was clear that the Vita was basically doomed, it’s still hard to picture any point in time where organising this plug made any sense at all. Was Kevin Spacey playing a PS Vita really going to convince any of the older middle-class white folk who watched House of Cards to sink $349.95 or $449.95 on a mild gaming curiosity, even if it was for their kids? I doubt it.
Though, admittedly, I’ve seen the first season of House of Cards and also happily own a PS Vita, so could there be some underlying logic to it? (No.)
Jake: George Costanza’s Frogger moment
I was super late to the Seinfeld party, having only seen an episode here and there before watching it with my fiancée. In spite of that, I knew the general gist — one comedian’s take on then-current events and fads, in sitcom form — so I thought I knew what to expect from the show most of the time.
George Costanza literally Frogger-ing a Frogger machine across three lanes of busy New York City traffic, however, was something I definitely didn’t expect to see. Especially considering the way it ended, with the Frogger machine pulverised by a truck because, well… The frog never struggled to lift a heavy arcade machine over a curb.
In hindsight, I probably should have expected it, given that the entire episode revolved around George — a character so beloved for his desperate, unwavering commitment to even the most mundane of goals — trying to keep his high score alive on a Frogger machine a restaurant was getting rid of, but this particular stunt is just so unlike George: this is a guy who would often go to absurd lengths to keep himself out of physical danger, and here he is pushing a 350lb (158kg) arcade machine through traffic.
It made for damn funny TV, though.
Jake: Coca-Cola becomes Final Fantasy IX canon
Funnily enough, Square Enix (then known as Squaresoft) had a pretty fruitful partnership with Coca-Cola around the turn of the millennium, mainly centred around collectibles — including a set of figurines that I now really, really want — but partnerships like those are pretty standard (see: McDonalds partnering with literally everything to make Happy Meal toys). It’s when I found out that the studio actually made a Coca-Cola advertisement that I thought “hey, this is a little zany.”
The ad itself is nothing new when you think about soft drink advertisements: a Coca-Cola bottle cap floats through the city of Alexandria, shedding magical pink sparks that suddenly add colour and joy to everyone it passes. Of course, the effervescent Zidane is chasing after the bottle cap, with Garnet, Vivi and Steiner joining in the pursuit as the young thief bolts past them. The ad comes to a climax when the bottle cap reaches the market square, with a large pink explosion signifying the start of some sort of party.
The ad itself really isn’t all that weird, to be honest — it’s actually pretty cool, and really not outside the realm of possibility when it comes to Final Fantasy, especially with IX (and Zidane in particular) being a little more upbeat than its predecessors. It’s more that Final Fantasy and Coca-Cola are a pair of properties I never thought would intersect until I started researching for this topic.
Ty: Hiding from John Wick playing some Dust 514
At this point, I’m pretty confident in saying that everybody knows about John Wick, a film series that is popular not only because of its megastar, Keanu Reeves, but because of its sleek, well-directed action choreography and the stylish aesthetic that envelops its surreal setting.
What isn’t as well-known, however, is Dust 514, the first-person shooter that EVE Online developer CCP Games released on PlayStation 3 (remember that detail for later) as a kind of experiment to test “cross-game” mechanics — whereby player decisions in Dust 514 would shape the world of EVE Online as well. It was a humble little free-to-play title that never really saw massive success, which I can vouch for given that nobody I know has actually heard of it, and CCP Games shut it down in 2016 due to a lack of players.
With that in mind, I was pretty stunned during my first viewing of John Wick with the boys, when I saw one of the film’s villains playing Dust 514 while trying to hide from the title character. It’s a surprisingly tense scene as well, with quick clips of the game spliced throughout as the tension rises and Wick carves his path to his doomed target.
There’s not much more to say about it, really; it’s a surprisingly obscure reference that I found somewhat charming. Couple that with the fact that it’s one of those games that, at a quick glance, looks like a “fake game” that they put together just for the movie, and it’s also quite funny for those in the know.
There’s one thing I can’t get past, though… Why in the hell is it being played with an Xbox controller?
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