Citation Is Not Satire – Video Game Edition

“If I were you I really would use those quarters for laundry.” – Noiseland Video Arcade Guy

The internet is filled with people who love television and video games, and so the brief Halo/teabagging bit from last Sunday’s Zombie Simpsons was mentioned in many places.  I saw it on Joystiq first, but this description from Kotaku sums things up well:

I guess we can move the trend marker for “Teabagging in Halo” on the downward trajectory of its lifespan, just to the right of the shark fin.

That’s about right, by the time Zombie Simpsons gets around to mentioning something it’s usually well past its expiration date.  But this also provides a good excuse to demonstrate the pervasive laziness of what passes for jokes on Zombie Simpsons.

To illustrate just how flimsy Zombie Simpsons is we must look back to one of the thirteen underappreciated masterpieces of Season 1.  In “Moaning Lisa” Homer and Bart play a boxing game against each other; last Sunday, Homer sat in his fantasy bachelor apartment playing a facsimile of Halo.  Let’s compare and contrast.

You couldn't actually dance on someone's grave, even in "Punchout!".

Even in "Punch Out!!" you couldn't actually dance on someone's grave.

The boxing game in “Moaing Lisa” bears a vague resemblance to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, far and away the most famous video boxing game of the time.  But instead of simply using the game as is, the show brought its own sensibilities to it, including graphically sophisticated cartoon violence that 1990 video games couldn’t actually do.  Fast forward nineteen years and there’s no creativity whatsoever to the Halo clone in “Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh”; it’s basically a straight copy and paste job (and it’s not the only one).  The game in the episode appears more or less as it does on the XBox and the “joke”, such as there is one, is to simply show something you can do in the game.

This is just another example of the collapse of humor the show has experienced over the years.  Back then, it took a popularly understood video game concept, played with it a little to make it funnier, and worked it into the overall plot.  Now, it takes a well understood concept, unmodified in any way and completely unrelated to anything else in the episode, and expects the audience to laugh simply because they recognize the reference.  There’s no joke, there’s no satire, it’s just repetition.

Finally, let me say one quick thing as a Halo player.  I’ve been been teabagged on numerous occasions (often by opponents whose voices make it abundantly clear that their testicles have yet to descend, which makes it both weirder and funnier), and I’m not above the occasional teabagging myself.  So take my word for it when I say that the refreshingly crude culture of on-line games like Halo, essentially a forum for the unrestrained id of the American male, is a very rich comedy vein (witness Red vs Blue).  Zombie Simpsons didn’t even try to tap it.

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