A photo of actor Rik Mayall (RIP) as his namesake Rik in UK television show ‘The Young Ones.’
Actor Rik Mayall, whom we lost four years ago this past Saturday, will never be forgotten thanks to his lasting gift of making us laugh at his own, beautifully executed expense. During his career, Mayall played wild fictional characters with enviable viciousness especially his highly-quotable namesake Rik on UK series The Young Ones and for most American audiences, his role in the much-loved doleful comedy, Drop Dead Fred. So when Nintendo made a power play in the UK in the early 90s to try to compete with popular rival Sega, they hired Mayall to appear in a series of television commercials. According to the website Nintendo Life, the company hoped using Mayall as a spokesperson would help them appear less “family friendly” to consumers.
Not only the star of the commercials, Mayall helped write dialog for many of the ads along with Black Adder producer John Lloyd. At the time Mayall was one of the biggest celebrities in the UK, and Nintendo lined his pockets generously for his work which Mayall used to buy a house he nicknamed “Nintendo Towers.” Seven or so spots were shot over five-weeks, and more were planned, but Nintendo’s Japanese owners didn’t “get” Mayall at all and ended his contract with the company. Since I’m fully confident our Dangerous Minds readers get Rik Mayall I’ve posted footage of his nutty Nintendo commercials below. Game ON!
After the video game crash of 1983, it was Nintendo more than any other manufacturer that showed the way forward for video games. Today there is a whole generation for whom Nintendo Entertainment System games from the late 1980s that supplied the key formative experiences, with such homegrown hits as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. Unlike its main predecessor Atari, Nintendo was highly aggressive about pursuing licensed games based on movie and TV franchises, such as Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles, Batman, The Simpsons, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
In some cases (Alien) it’s all too easy to imagine what the gameplay might be, but in many of the others, it’s a little harder to imagine. Does The Shining have a level in Dick Hallorann’s bedroom? In Ghost World, is the final boss Blues Hammer? Does They Live have a no-fighting bubble gum mode? So many questions!
More of these delightful NES games that never were, after the jump…...
Est-ce que celà vous regarde? // Does this concern you?
Here’s a ribald glimpse of the swinging Sixties from the land of yé-yé, la France! The title of this card game is La Grivoise, which translates as “The bawdy wench” or something like that. The women initiate the action by taking a red card and reading aloud the question to the men, who answer with the blue cards. I think. The notion of mixing and matching answers has some vague resemblance to Cards Against Humanity but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
On the package, pictured above, the text reads, “Un jeu marrant! pour rire et s’amuser,” which means, “A funny game! To laugh and have a good time.” My French is OK, but I must confess I didn’t understand everything. I used Google Translate where I wasn’t sure, so don’t blame me if the English renditions of the phrases suck. The pictures and the general vibe are really all you’re gonna need, though.
You can actually buy an English “deadstock” version of this game on Etsy that appears to be identical. It costs only $8.99, which is kind of a steal if you’re in need of a sexy card game ASAP.
There are more cards, and you can see the entire set in the Flickr photostream of “patricia m,” who for years ran the indispensable Agence Eureka blog.
Un homme ferait-il votre affaire? // Would a man do your thing?
That moment in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner hears a voice saying “If you build it, he will come” was really bad financial advice. You gotta advertise that suckerfirst before people will show up to hand over their hard-earned greenbacks. No matter how shitty the ad might be, the punters still gotta see what they’re getting first.
These cheesy vintage gaming ads from 1980’s Japan offered consumers a sense they were hot, sexy, in control, and (apparently) tough as fuck. Video games were a globalist wet dream. Here was a product like sport, movies, television, and pop music that created a global culture that offered the same experience to thumb-bandits in Tokyo as it did to those, in say, Moosefart, Montana. Here was the next evolutionary step from pinball machines.
History, traditional culture, and social standing were no longer the dominant forces in shaping young people’s lives. It was now about who could afford to buy a games consul and spend their money in gaming arcades. It was a revolutionary moment, unlike these ads for the likes of Nihon Bussan, Sega, and Capcom, which relied mainly on text, hot young women, muscled-up beefcake guys and dayglo bright colors to sell their shit.
Back before the intricacies of the thoroughly made-up ancient language of Dothraki in Game of Thrones entranced the more dorkish among us, that same sort of person spent his/her time immersed in Simlish, a language that was created for the world of the Sims, a popular franchise created by Maxis that was first released by Electronic Arts in 2000 in which users, in the act of ensuring that their anonymized suburb dwellers took out the trash on time, often ended up ...... neglecting to take out their own trash on time (that’s how I processed the experience of playing the game, anyway).
The Sims was enough of a sensation that it spawned some sequels, such as The Sims 2 in 2004 and The Sims 3 in 2009. By the time those franchises got going, the concept of Simlish had gotten embedded in enough people’s minds that someone, most likely Maxis audio director Robi Kauker or EA music marketing honcho Steve Schnur, had the idea of enlisting some top music acts to record some of their songs in the language. (Noted spud Mark Mothersbaugh was also hired to compose the music for The Sims 2, but there was no Simlish component to his contributions.)
The expansion pack The Sims 2: Open for Business, released in 2006, featured songs by several well-known acts, all of which shared the trait of having their most fruitful period occurring well before the year 2000. Depeche Mode released a Simlish version of “Suffer Well,” off of 2005’s Playing the Angel. At least that was a new song at the time—joining them on the The Sims 2: Open for Business soundtrack were Kajagoogoo, with “Too Shy” and Howard Jones, with “Things Can Only Get Better.”
To get an idea of what a Simlish song would sound like, here’s a bit of “Na Na Na” in English and then the same portion in Simlish:
Drugs, gimme drugs
Gimme drugs, I don’t need it
But I’ll sell what you got
Take the cash and I’ll keep it
Eight legs to the wall
Hit the gas, kill em’ all
And we crawl, and we crawl, and we crawl
You be my detonator
Trubs nibby trubs nibby trubs
Weys a neeba
Westu nell anzu bar will enash and za weeba
Da megs eeba za
Mental ras gibba na
Ebwee ga ebwee ga ebwee ga
Du bas an doobie sa
In a press release, you can find the rather anodyne quotation from David Gahan, which runs, “Depeche Mode has always been open to new ways of sharing our music, but re-recording a Simlish-language version of ‘Suffer Well’ just sounded completely bizarre. Of course, that’s why couldn’t resist doing it.”
Here are some of the primary highlights from the Simlish songbook:
David Yow and Steve Albini on the set of ‘Duelin’ Firemen’ (via Bogart9)
The video game Duelin’ Firemen would have blown minds if it had been released in 1995. Think the Jodorowsky Dune of games. Much of the cast is straight out of the pages of Mondo 2000 or Fiz: Rudy Ray Moore, Rev. Ivan Stang, Mark Mothersbaugh, Timothy Leary, David Yow, Steve Albini, the Boredoms, Terence McKenna, Buzz Osborne, and Tony Hawk all had parts to play.
But unlike other worthy computer games that were actually produced in order to suck away vital months of my adolescence, such as DEVO’s Adventures of the Smart Patrol and the Residents’ Bad Day at the Midway, Duelin’ Firemen never passed from becoming into being. All that remains is a seven-minute trailer and a seven-inch record with David Yow on one side and the Boredoms on the other, both embedded below. From 23 years ago, here’s Rev. Ivan Stang’s account of the shoot:
12.21.1994- Run-n-Gun! filming
by Reverend Ivan Stang
I’ve been in Chicago for the last week, and although I took the modem with me, I never had time to plug it in. I was being an actor in a CD-ROM interactive video game called DUELIN’ FIREMEN being produced for the 3D0 system by a group of SubGenius filmakers and computer animator/vr programmers called Runandgun. It’s a combination of multiple-choice filmed scenarios and v.r. game situations, all taking place in Chicago while the entire city burns to the ground. I have played two roles in it so far—first an evil Man-In-Black and second, Cagliostro the evil 1,000-year old Mason whose spells started the fire. What sets this game apart from anything else I’ve ever seen is the TOTAL MIND-RAPE HILLBILLY SPAZZ-OUT STYLE of it. It makes Sam Raimi look like D.W. Griffith by comparison… makes Tim Burton look like Ernie Bushmiller. It is sick, twisted, weird and ‘Frop-besoaked like nothing on earth. It stars Rudy Ray Moore aka DOLEMITE as the main fireman with cameos by Tim Leary, Mark Mothersbaugh, Terrence McKenna, David Yow of Jesus Lizard and all manner of local Chicago freaks and jokers. (YES! I spent the week WORKING with DOLEMITE. We DO BATTLE in a scene and you get to “PLAY” us in the game section. Now is that cool or what. Of course, you’re probably too SOPHISTICATED to even KNOW who Rudy Ray Moore IS!!! (None of the crew did, although the winos outside the set recognized his VOICE.)) The real stars are the animation, fx and sets. It’s like a LIVING-SURREAL CARTOON from the mind of a CRAZY MAN (in this case, director Grady Sein). The Runandgun crew are like this commune of crazed hillbilly technoids. I had the time of my life. The game won’t be finished till July ‘95, though.
The trailer’s quality reminds me of the way videos looked on the screen of my Macintosh Performa during the late Nineties, except that back then they were about the size of a matchbox. What I’m trying to say is: prepare your mind and body for ugly fat-pixel video…
I’ve never really cottoned to 60 Minutes. I’ve always thought their approach was rather heavy-handed, pushing a simplistic line through bullying interviews and repetition of facts that might be considered innocuous when viewed in a sober frame of mind. One of the best takedowns of the 60 Minutes method comes from the talented writer Michael J. Arlen, who published a lengthy critique of the show in The New Yorker in 1977—and his criticisms stand up perfectly well in the present day, in my view. (You can read Arlen’s piece in his 1981 collection The Camera Age.)
In 1985 the show turned its attention to Dungeons and Dragons, and the results were predictably overwrought. The 1980s were an unusual time of “moral panic”—over drug use and satanism, sexual lyrics in rock songs and D&D and drunk driving—there was hardly an aspect of teens’ lives that parents couldn’t blow up into a huge threat to the safe and featureless suburbanism in which so many of the teens lived.
The 60 Minutes reporter on the case is Morley Safer, whose very calmness is an ideal conduit for the moral panic at issue. He idly puzzles over the funky-looking dice—one young enthusiast tells him that the 4-sided die is mainly used for damage from daggers and darts—before getting to the condemning testimonials, most heartbreakingly the sister of a teen who had committed suicide. An alarmist psychologist is trotted out—this one employed by the University of Illinois—I’m sure that such people would never use the moral panic to enhance their own bank accounts, no sir.
Fortunately, Gary Gygax himself is on hand as well, to supply a reasonable analogy to Monopoly, in which the money lost isn’t real. With the perspective of decades, it’s all too clear that D&D may at best have been a symptom of deeper problems like alienation and loneliness, rather than a driver of violent deaths.
According to Hans Ree’s book The Human Comedy of Chess, there was an occasion in the mid-1960s when Marcel Duchamp played a game of chess against Salvador Dalí in public, to a soundtrack provided by the Velvet Underground, at the behest of Andy Warhol. The context for this remarkable event was the display in 1965 of a work of Duchamp’s called “Hommage à Caïssa,” a readymade featuring a chessboard. The incident merits direct quotation, so here it is:
At the vernissage on the roof of the building on 978 Madison Avenue, Duchamp played a game of chess against Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol had the band Velvet Underground sent to provide background music. After the game, chess pieces were sent into the air by balloons.
It’s notable that Warhol himself didn’t play in the game—I can’t find a reference to Warhol playing chess anywhere, which doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
An early work of Warhol’s dating from 1954 is entitled “The Chess Player”—it looks like this:
It’s speculated that the work was executed at one of Warhol’s coloring parties, which were hosted at the trendy Serendipity 3 café.
After having been bombarded with multiple factoids involving Andy Warhol and chess, you will surely be primed to purchase the Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup Can Chess Set, which has recently been made available by Kidrobot and The Andy Warhol Foundation:
This chess set features Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans as chess pieces on a pop of color chess board complete with felt accents. Each vinyl 3-inch Campbells soup can is labeled and printed on top with its corresponding piece to bring a pop art look to any game room.
Because the pieces are very difficult to distinguish from one another, they have little labels on the top with the words “ROOK” and “KNIGHT” or whatever.
Those on a tight Christmas budget will be disgusted to learn that the groovy plaything has a price of $499.99. Surely your landlord/mortgage officer will cut you a break this Christmas season?
We’ve noted before that the merchandising arm connected with Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie of 1979 didn’t seem to know anything about the movie. (For example here are a bunch of trading cards Topps put out, with bland text that seems pretty clueless about what’s actually in the movie.)
Apparently nobody had gotten the memo that Alien was an R-rated thrillfest in which an alien creature gorily bursts through the chest of one of the characters—this movie was clearly not intended for nine-year-olds, which made the attempts to market the movie to nine-year-olds all the weirder. (Actually, I myself was nine years old when Alien came out—I didn’t see it, but I vividly remember a classmate of mine telling me all about it. Obviously the chestburster scene was the main thing he talked about.)
So here’s another kid-targeted mindfuck…. an actual Alien board game, put out by Kenner!
On BoardGameGeek, the world’s greatest resource for board game enthusiasts, the user reviews for this game are all over the map, and it’s easy to see why. A glance at the board reveals that the game is probably a pretty lazy rehash of Parcheesi, which is basically true. (If you were given a single day to design a board game as a tie-in for, say, Kong: Skull Island, you’d probably end up with something along the lines of Parcheesi, too.) But at the same time, there are some clever touches.
The object of the game is to make your way through the Nostromo to reach the Narcissus space station. Each player has three Astronaut tokens and one Alien token. You roll dice and move players around, and a player can use his or her Alien to take out the opposing Astronauts. Now right there you have an instant contradiction: The whole point of the Xenomorph is that nobody “controls” the fucking thing. It is inherently uncontrollable. The dictates of symmetrical gameplay that would have reigned in the 1970s meant that you couldn’t have one player as the alien and other players representing the Nostromo crew members, which is how the game probably should have been designed.
Anyway, I mentioned clever game design. The main feature I wanted to point out was the introduction of “air shaft” pathways that are only available for the Alien to use. I like that idea quite a bit. Parcheesi doesn’t have that feature, right?
Also, in the game instructions there appears what is maybe the greatest sentence ever to appear in an instructions manual for a game designed for kids. The sentence is: “Aliens are never eliminated.” Eek!
It’s interesting that the understanding of Ripley as a movie character for the ages had not solidified yet. Sigourney Weaver’s image doesn’t appear anywhere on the box. Here’s an interesting custom logo that Kenner must have cooked up for the game:
If you paid the original price for this game in 1979, you lucked out by obtaining what would eventually become a collector’s dream acquisition.
T-shirt design company Mondo has announced a product it will be releasing for Halloween, and it’s a reeeeeal good one: a board game version of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing, in which Kurt Russell does battle with a shape-shifting alien lifeform that is causing havoc at an Antarctic research station.
The full name of the game is The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31. The game is a collaboration between Mondo and USAopoly’s games division Project Raygun. In a cute touch, the Mondo “exclusive version” will be limited to 1,982 copies in honor of the year the movie was released.
Players can choose one of a dozen characters from the movie, and there is surely a social detection component to the game, in which players must “gather gear, battle The Thing, expose any imitations ..., and escape Outpost 31.”
This is actually not the first board game based on The Thing. In 2011 Mark Chaplin released a self-published game that also used the movie’s plot as an inspiration for gameplay.
Only thing I don’t get is, what part of the game do you say, “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding”?