Five Horrible Depictions of Gaming in Mainstream Media

Video games and mass media do not make a great combination. When Grand Theft Auto V isn’t being blamed for the world’s atrocities, entertainment writers all over the world are searching desperately for a way to write gaming into their scripts for a few forced laughs. While the news is certainly no ally to our favorite medium, TV and movies don’t exactly do it justice, either. The next time you’re watching your favorite sitcom and a controller is unplugged while the main characters get their Halo on, just remember we’re watching too. Here are five of the worst TV/video game transgressions out there. For shame. These are some pitiful attempts at staying relevant.

1. Age of Conan, The Big Bang Theory 

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As if the show weren’t nerd-repellent enough, it gleefully perpetuates stereotypes about gamers and MMOs. One particular episode finds Penny addicted to Age of Conan (does anyone still play that?) and turning into a “slob” while she grinds day and night, gradually looking less like what society thinks a woman should 24/7. In the end her mouth is covered in Cheetos dust, which is horrific on a whole other level. That’s less of an issue than the terrible in-game shots of Penny and other players or the quests she describes to Sheldon. It looks much more like someone with three days’ worth of 3D animation experience took the wheel, jotted down some typical, MMO jargon, and vomited out a half-baked sitcom scenario for audiences to continue laughing at “weird nerds” like the rest of the world. Please stop. No one is laughing with you. We promise.

2. Law & Order SVU, “Bullseye”

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One particular 2010 episode of Law & Order: SVU was so heinous that it’s immortalized forever online in hundreds of blog posts about how pathetic it is. Two parents obsessed with video games neglect their daughter, who falls victim to a sexual predator. It’s a believable story, until the “game” in question is actually shown on screen. From there on, things become so cringeworthy that it’s hard to believe the writers have ever seen a video game before, let alone played one. The parents in question sit playing a fantasy game where there’s a child in-game they’re trying to save while their own real offspring are off being abused. Actual lines in said show are “Hurry, Caleb’s hands are slipping!” and “Like I don’t know that!” as the parents wear comically strained expressions. They wildly mash the buttons on their controllers, but the animations don’t match what they’re doing. Crime dramas, man.

3. Couples Retreat: Guitar Hero Showdown

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In the film Couples Retreat, a Guitar Hero duel takes place that involves moves and dialogue that should never have left Vince Vaughn’s bedroom during his private pretend time. As Vince’s character engages in a guitar battle with another, we’re treated with the most uncomfortable, cheesy montage of air guitar faces, “competition faces,” and edits that strongly resemble an over-eager video blogger’s first time with Final Cut Pro. Let’s not forget the frenzied strumming on what clearly resembles medium or hard mode on Billy Squier’s “Lonely is the Night.” If you ever needed a reason to cringe more over Guitar Hero in yet another TV show or movie, here you go.

4. Charlie’s Angels: Final Fantasy VIII

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To be fair, calling Charlie’s Angels a movie or anything other than an atrocity is pushing it, but for the sake of this piece we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. It commits a pretty significant movie sin, not because of the game featured (the excellent Final Fantasy VIII), but because someone was dumb enough to have two children playing the game as if it supported two players. Dylan can be heard saying “A little help here?” to his partner. Because nothing says teamwork like picking up a second controller and pretending to interact with a single-player game as if you could magically drop in and gang up on Ultimecia. Shameful.

5. Criminal Minds: “The Wheels on the Bus…”

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This time, an entire episode is committed to creating a video game atrocity. “The Wheels on the Bus…” is a particularly sad tale surrounding gaming and the “corruption” of young minds. Two gamers kidnap an entire bus full of students so they can re-enact their favorite game, Gods of Combat. What happens next is about an hour of the most contrived, “video games are the devil” drivel you’ve ever seen. The two culprits strapped shock collars on all of their victims and sent them out into teams to kill each other. Because of the game, right? The games made them do it. These TV shows are making my brain leak out of my ears.