Embracing Chaos

Since the dawn of time (okay, since the dawn of the internet), random generators have been an amusing diversion and webspace waster, providing random results for everything from band names to financial advice to super-heroes or villains to whole sentences to even boring old stuff like numbers.

I’ve certainly amused myself for many minutes with these and others (haha, “69”! way to go, random number generator), but recently I happened upon the Video Game Name Generator.  After spewing out an assortment of names, my designer brain kicked in and started wondering what some of these games might actually be.  So, in an attempt to legitimize the randomness, I figured I’d partake in a little thought exercise.  Here now are five random video game concepts!  No guarantees are made as to the quality, coherence or entertainment value of any resulting titles.  Remember!  None of these are real.  I made them all up.  They don’t exist, so don’t ask me if you can borrow any.

Religious Vocabulary Pinball

In the pantheon of great educational video games, long-standing classics like Math Blasters, The Oregon Trail, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego succeeded by couching the lessons in a game-y context.  Absorbing geography and history lessons is more seamless when they serve the purposes of capturing a sly international criminal or making sure little Tabitha doesn’t die of dysentery.

Then of course you have the graceless combination of game and education, just sort of sitting next to each other on the computer screen.  An assortment of spelling, counting and typing games, some with licensed characters from popular franchises, fill software department bargain bins to bursting.  In the case of Religious Vocabulary Pinball, barely any effort was made to present an engaging educational experience. Sure, the pinball tables had artwork depicting timeless Bible stories, but no thought was given as to how they could be integrated into the game. In the hands of a more inventive designed, the Tower of Babel board might have used the tower as a jackpot progress meter, new levels lighting up as subsequent score targets were met.

Coupled with the fact that the delivery mechanism for the religious vocabulary and definitions interrupted the gameplay at arbitrary intervals with a full-screen graphic, many balls were lost and credits wasted due to breaking the immersion of the pinball experience. At the end of the day, a kid playing Religious Vocabulary Pinball wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference between the eucharist and the tetragrammaton. The Garden of Eden board had some pretty nice sideboob on Eve, at least.

Mary Kate and Ashley’s Motocross Quest

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the Olsen Twins emerged as popular figures in the ‘tween’ demographic, and starred in a variety of films putting them in low-risk, sanitary peril. Another pastime which enjoyed a faddy spike around that time was motocross, so it may have only seemed natural to studio execs who greenlit the movie and subsequent video game tie-in, Mary Kate and Ashley’s Motocross Quest.

Now, when it came out in the early 2000’s, racing games were entering a new era of complexity in programming due to the expectation of more realistic physics simulations, and this was around the time that many developers tried to rely on their own programming rather than license a more expensive physics package.

The end result is a clunky, unresponsive stunt racer, pitting the sisters on pink dirt bikes against a roster of about a half-dozen Tiger Beat also-rans across an unimpressive assortment of tracks. Sure, you can aim to rack up bonus points by performing mid-air maneuvers, which you can then spend on new track suits and helmet designs, but when the only reward is witless battle-of-the-sexes banter on the winner’s podium, you’ll wonder who they thought the audience for this game would be.

Violent Fencing Trainer

In this unique take on motion gaming, undergo an authentic and excessively gory training regimen in the stately art of fencing!  Don your puncture-resistant jacket, cinch up your plastron, and adjust your netted face mask, and get ready for a physical experience like none other.

Hedging their bets, the publisher released a version on every console, utilizing Wii MotionPlus technology, the Playstation Move accessories, and the XBox Kinect’s spatial tracking cameras.  Developed in conjunction with top fencing instructors and taking cues from the Mortal Kombat franchise of fighting games, you’ll run the gamut of fencing drills from attaque au fers to derobements, passata-sottos to zornhaus.  Hone your skills with the three traditional fencing weapons: foil, sabre and épée. Once you’ve proven your worth in training, it’s time to get messy squaring off against a variety of opponents.  In addition to normal victory conditions (5 touches in 3 minutes or 15 touches in 9 minutes, as chosen by the player before the match), Violent Fencing Instructor adds its own unique spin with signature finishing moves.

You’ve knocked your opponent down and he’s begging for mercy?  What better way to grant it than with a swift decapitation?  A powerful strike has loosened their mask… now is your chance to impale them through the face!  Feeling saucy?  Carve your initials into their torso and set their entrails free!

Deep Space Plumber Romance

Japan just does some things differently than the west. Eroge, or erotic games, are a long-standing staple of the PC gaming market that just don’t jibe with most peoples’ expectations of what computer games should be for.  They may also be known as dating sims or h-games, taken from the Japanese term for “perverted”, hentai.  Ultimately, the “sim” appellation is misplaced, as they are almost always structured as a kind of choose-your-own-adventure resulting in pornographic images.  Localizing these games remains a niche, though, and a dedicated fanbase continues to champion the genre, though they’d be wise to keep it to themselves.

Japan has a habit in the titling of their media to be particularly descriptive, favoring titles that tell you what to expect vs. artful or evocative ones. Take for example the Japanese titles of Pixar’s recent films, Brave and Up. In Japan, they are known as Merida and the Frightful Forest, and Grandpa Carl’s Flying House.

Therefore, in considering the peculiar title of Deep Space Plumber Romance, realize that this is exactly what you’re getting. Even still it’s only a close approximation of its original untranslated title, 宇宙配管工の蠱惑 (Uchuu Haikan Kou no Kowaku).  The original logo even has a clever heart-shaped plunger integrated.

As with many titles in this genre, the player is in control of a nameless, faceless avatar (literally… any artwork depicting the character fades to a grey mask of emptiness if his head is in frame). The player can enter any name they like, and the game’s cast of female characters will refer to it in dialogue. Following a visual novel structure, the player navigates a storyline set on a faraway space station crewed only by an assortment of women, portraying a variety of body types and personality profiles. The stern ship’s nurse, the easily frazzled navigator, the captain who hides her deeply affectionate side behind a cold exterior, etc.. As the sole male on the ship, and somebody the crew places great trust in to fix myriad and unexpected plumbing malfunctions, the player frequently finds themselves in a position where the grateful women can think of no other way to repay him than with increasingly explicit acts of physical intimacy. Sure seems a lot less salacious when it’s explained in that way, eh? Almost sounds boring.

Downtown Punching Gang

A copycat emerging from the golden age of side-scrolling arcade brawlers such as River City Ransom, Final Fight and Fatal Fury, Downtown Punching Gang puts players in control of one of five teenage toughs, all of whom appear essentially the same but with different colored vests.

To the developer’s credit, each fighter has a unique super-attack used to clear the screen of foes.  On their odyssey of indiscriminate brutality, the Downtown Punching Gang will face off against rival gangs, local law enforcement, enraged citizenry, and perhaps a few sewer mutants along the way.  Punch, kick and grapple through grey brick back alleys, busy sidewalks in front of boutique storefronts, and lush city parks.  Collect power-ups for extra health and protection, and rack up a high score by collecting loot as you go.  As with many games from this era, boons are found in the strangest of places.  Knock over a trash can in hopes of finding a steaming hot roast turkey to refill your health to full, or kick loose a fire hydrant and ride the geyser up to collect a stick of dynamite, which imbues your fists with the power of explosions!  At the end of each stage, square off against the leader of the opposing gang, or the chief of police, or the most hideous of all sewer mutants, or the head of the PTA.

Since this was a knock-off of better known titles, not flying the banner of a recognizable studio like Capcom, Sega or Takara, it was a decent investment for establishments with limited budgets.  Downtown Punching Gang cabinets can still be found in a few pizza parlors and skating rinks in the midwest.

An online message board of arcade machine aficionados recently located a machine in a dry cleaner in Chanute, Kansas with original cabinet graphics.  This is significant because most machines have had the artwork on the right side completely removed or at least had the lower half cut off, due to the presence of some borderline racist caricatures.  The machine was up against a wall, so it went undiscovered for nearly 15 years until a mechanic who frequented the  message board was called out for maintenance on that particular machine.  Thus, may serial number YU-534773-2481-8 forever stand as a badge of honor for the top 3 fiercest warriors on the high score list.  We can only assume those initials belonged, perhaps, to Arnold Sanders Smith, George Alonzo Yglesias, and Frederick Ulysses Kyle.

And those are ideas you can take to the bank… the money bank!

I suppose the ultimate lesson (conquest) to take from this experiment (adventure battle) is that (fiery trouble) inspiration can come from anywhere. What you do with it is up to (the legendary secret castle of) you.

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