Daily Lists, Movies, Video Games

9 of the Best (Worst) Fictional Games in Actual Movies

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?In The FP, which is currently playing in select theaters, it seems Hollywood has seized the very last wrinkle on the dystopian future genre. In the movie, a pair of flamboyantly dressed, rival gangs vie for control of Frazier Park the way most miscreants apparently will decades from now: by playing a high stakes knock-off of Dance Dance Revolution called Beat Beat Revelation.

Of course, BBR isn’t the first time a videogame has been created for a movie. Even before the game industry started outselling the movie industry, Hollywood was inventing fake videogames to be plot points, backdrops, objects of terror, cheap jokes, and more — and because Hollywood wasn’t really in the business of making games, they weren’t particularly good at making them up, either. Here are nine of our favorite movie videogames that we also have no real desire to play.


9) Arcade in Arcade

Think of it as a 1993 update to Tom Hanks’ stunning 1982 emergence as a leading man in Mazes and Monsters. Only, replace the commentary on the perils of Dungeons & Dragons (role-playing games only appeal to neurotic individuals and can trigger schizophrenia) with a commentary on the growing arcade scene (videogames are like evil digital voodoo machines that nobody understands and can somehow their circuits run on brain cells from those who play them). Anyway, as if the name didn’t give it away, Arcade is thoroughly unimaginative and uninspired. Although the players are literally brought into a virtual world when they play it, you do little more than evade dragons, spikes, lasers, and ships that look like giant skulls that also shoot lasers and spikes. It’s like the developer just scooped up all the leftover ideas from Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace and tossed them into a warmed over B-movie. Wait, that’s exactly what they did.

8) eXistenZ in eXistenZ

Not to be confused with those stupid rip-off male enhancement supplements that don’t work even though they claim to be doctor-approved and clinically tested, eXistenZ was director David Cronenberg’s Big Statement on videogames. In case you didn’t get it, existence itself becomes a game here, with drug-like addictive qualities. As the lines between reality and virtual reality blur, the player can’t distinguish which is which, or which is more appealing. Spoiler alert, the whole game itself is tranCendenZ, which is being played by other players. It’s basically like World of Warcraft, if you played a version of it where you controlled someone really pathetic playing that game instead of just playing it yourself. Do you have a headache yet?

7) Domination for the EMS Vocoder-System 3000 in Never Say Never Again

It’s never exactly thrilling to watch someone else play videogames, but the minds behind this James Bond movie thought it would be positively cinematic to show viewers a seven-minute game of Domination. It’s a game created by Maximillian Largo, the movie’s bad guy, and surprise, surprise he’s really freakin’ good at it. The game essentially is a visualization of foreign policy, if the makers of Battleship wrote it. The game, which emits Virtual Boy-like visuals onto a polygonal globe, is played with two joysticks: the left controls your shields, the right, your missiles. Missiles are launched at a randomly selected country, and it’s up to the other player to defend (we also learn that Spain is worth only $9,000. Sorry, Spain). Domination also administers a shock to players who fail to protect their country, which is a lot like an idea I had for a fighting game where every hit you take fills up a blood bag that gets donated to the American Red Cross.

6) Stay Alive in Stay Alive

Imagine a survival horror game where your survival is pretty much not guaranteed – and if you die in the game, you’re murdered in the same way in real life. Yeah, it sounds totally cheesy, and sure, the players are using PlayStation controllers even though it’s clearly supposed to be on Xbox, but the game actually looks kinda cool (also Frankie Muniz and one of the McPoyle brothers from It’s Always Sunny are in it). It’s too bad, y’know, you can get murdered if you lose. Protip: That should probably be the last achievement you try to unlock in the game.

5) Space Paranoids in Tron

In Tron, master programmer Kevin Flynn designed a game called Space Paranoids… which his boss Ed Dillinger then took credit for and wildly profited off of. It’s clear to see why he stole it: It was light years ahead of its time, if you ever considered Faceball 2000 on the SNES a cutting-edge title. Space Paranoids, honestly, is a fine, if unremarkable game by modern standards: You drive around, shoot airborne enemies called Recognizers, and repeat. Sure, the game certainly looked awesome back in 1982, but honestly, after about a minute you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer. Flynn would be further pissed off by this, but in 2010, some enterprising soul took it upon themselves to turn it into a real game you can play for free online. So, to recap: This is a modern fake game remade into a retro real game, really. Right. So, to recap: In 1982, this was a futuristic (at the time) game (that was fake). In 2012, this is now a retro game (that is real) that seems fake.

4) Society and Slayers in Gamer

Ostensibly, Gamer is a meditation on what it means to be a videogame character blasting guns at other characters without much cause, and what happens when that grunting violent maniac decides to rail against the system forcing him to do so. There are two games here, with Society being pretty much like The Sims or Second Life (only with way more fornicating and binging on indulgent junk food) and Slayers, wherein criminals vie for their own freedom by surviving 30 matches. Basically, these games are uninspired have been around for a long time – if you want to shoot strangers or see strangers terrorize you with their disembodied penises, there are plenty of options out there already. Unfortunately.

3) The Big Score in Private School

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?We’re never actually shown any gameplay of The Big Score, but the movie’s about a teenage couple trying to have sex for the first time and there are so many gratuitous scenes with naked ladies in them – like a nude woman horseback riding, which has to be really comfortable – that you can likely imagine what this game entails. Just in case you have no imagination, here’s how it works: There are two buttons, one for “thrust” and another for “withdraw.” It might only cost a quarter to play, but in a way, it costs you something a bit more: A horrible reminder that even pixelated women think your button technique sucks. Plus, there are more pleasurable ways to get limp wrists and calloused palms. Or so we hear.

2) Military Simulators in Lawnmower Man

Okay, so this isn’t really a game, it’s a military simulator created for chimps who use “infrared battle helmets” to train for combat, but it a) looks a lot like a game and b) was turned into an atrocious SNES and computer game, so it counts. The “game” itself looks eerily like those trippy, computer-generated Mind’s Eye VHSes peddled in the early ’90s, only with a gun onscreen as the player careens around hugely digitized – but still mind-blowing, for its time – vistas. Hey, if it’s good enough for chimps to play, why can’t a human? Oh, right, because it makes people who play it go insane.

1) Game Over in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

You know, for a virtual reality game created by a demented master criminal who lures players in to unwittingly free him by completing level 5 – “which is unwinnable!” – it’s surprising how… kid-friendly this game is. It makes Bubsy 3D look downright face-meltingly mature by comparison: The main character – who’s an 8-year-old retired spy, we’re expected to believe – scoops up coins, avoids “pogo-toads,” and maintains eye contact with a pigtailed Salma Hayek without popping a pre-teen boner. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah. This game is limp, lame, and not nearly as cool as its players act like it is – even if it is in 3-D.