Which Sitcoms Would Make Great Games?
Obviously, Seinfeld should be a point-and-click.
Unfortunately, it still, somehow, isn’t. The two quintessentially ‘90s phenomena passed each other like Lechuck’s Ghost Ships in the night. Despite the Clinton years being as ripe a time as any for licensed tie-ins, Jerry Seinfeld’s beloved show about nothing never spawned the mythical video game about nothing.
A few decades after the fact, Jacob Janerka is seeking to right that wrong. The journey began in 2016 when Janerka tweeted pixel art of George Costanza in his puffy Gortex coat in Jerry’s iconic apartment, to a slight, but positive, reaction. In the years since, he’s continued to flesh out the idea with collaborator Ivan Dixon, director of Childish Gambino’s animated “Feels Like Summer” music video. When, last spring, Janerka tweeted that the pair had launched a website to officially pitch their unofficial game, the announcement received thousands of likes and retweets and write-ups at most major games sites.
Still, though, no word from the higher-ups.
As Janerka waits to hear back from Jerry and/or Larry, I caught up with him to brainstorm a few back-up ideas, just in case. Sure, Seinfeld and point-and-click adventures are the perfect match. But, I like to believe that every sitcom has a video game soulmate just waiting to hook up, if you will, like a marble rye at the end of a fishing line. Here are the best ideas that Jacob Janerka, acclaimed game developer, and I, a guy, could come up with.
It’s Always Awful in Terratus
Andrew King, A Guy: So, back in 2016, Obsidian Entertainment released Tyranny. Like the studio’s Pillars of Eternity games, Tyranny is a CRPG set in a fantastical setting. Unlike Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny’s story begins after the arch-villain, Kyros, has already won, conquering the fictional land of Terratus. “Sometimes, Evil Wins,” reads the tagline. You play as one of Kyros’ Archons, a powerful officer in the dark lord’s military. And, as a result of that macabre set-up, your choices are limited to bad and worse.
You know who else always makes awful choices? The gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Drink 70 beers during a single cross-country flight? Sure. Voluntarily develop a crack habit? Why not. Rum ham? Now we’re talking.
There aren’t very many comedy RPGs, but the ones we have — like South Park: The Stick of Truth and Disco Elysium — are terrific. RPG fans love making choices but tend to be goody-goodies when it comes down to it. Tyranny’s conceit, which our Sunny game could borrow, gives players an excuse to be total scumbags.
Jacob Janerka, Game Developer: Speaking of Disco Elysium, our Sunny RPG could include a side quest where you play as Charlie trying to solve a crime during the episode where they work in the post office. I’m thinking it could be funny if in the game you have to play within the parameters of being in Charlie’s mind. So everyone around him is acting normal, and confused with what Charlie is doing, but Charlie’s dialogue options reflect what’s actually happening in his head.
Andrew: I like that, and there needs to be a corkboard covered in red string that you can use to locate Pepe Sylvia. Maybe with realistic physics for the string, depending on our budget.
Jacob: I am more than willing to put people into crunch, potentially ruining their family’s life, to implement said string physics, as this is a project of passion, and I won’t have anything less than Art.
Bonus Always Sunny Idea:
It’s Always Sunny in Hades
The currently very popular rogue-like would be a perfect base for an Always Sunny game. Instead of escaping Hades, you’re escaping Philly, and all the main cast characters are the ‘gods.’ They are already basically mythical beings, anyway. For example, Night Man.
Ron Swanson’s Tower Defense
Andrew: Tower defense: the game genre that gives you a tower and says, “Defend it.” Assemble traps. Wield weapons. Build convoluted hallways ending in blind corners filled with explosives.
All of these are, likewise, options available to Ron Swanson. Parks and Recreation’s mustachioed man’s man doesn’t like government and, in his role as a government functionary, tries to do as little as possible, as a result. Leslie Knope, Tom Haverford, Andy Dwyer — all these oversized, overexcited personalities want to impede on Ron Swanson’s carefully guarded bliss.
You cannot allow this to happen. Block their progress using famous Parks and Rec objects, like Lil Sebastian, the pit behind Ann’s house, all the bacon and eggs you have, Jean-Ralphio’s house arrest ankle bracelets and a newspaper with the frontpage headline: “Ice Town Costs Ice Clown His Town Crown.”
Jacob: I am imagining there would be a sudden death round, and suddenly you hear “TREAT YO SELF”, and suddenly consumer goods start barreling through and breaking many of your traps before the next wave of government employees and general public start barreling through.
The Good Place: Gold and Silver
Andrew: So, to this day, Pokemon Gold and Silver — for the uninitiated, that’s the second round of Pokemon games, which followed the phenomenal success of Red and Blue — did something I’ve never seen replicated. After defeating the Elite Four, the quartet of trainers who serve as the game’s final bosses, you’re invited to return to Kanto, the region where the first game took place. It’s not just an epilogue, either: you can play through the entirety of Red and Blue again inside of Gold and Silver. An entire game’s worth of content — all the gym leaders, the Elite Four, every town and landmark — is recreated in Gold and Silver.
You know what other story has a second act that happens after the initial story concludes? Well, many people believe… life! And, after life, you go to the afterlife. The Good Place, or The Bad Place, as the case may be. There’s a show about this called The Good Place, in which [SPOILER ALERT] a group of characters end up in The Good Place, but some may not belong.
Our game doesn’t need to include any of the characters, though I am fond of Michael and Janet and Jason and Eleanor Shellstrop. Instead, this Good Place game would begin with a 100-hour choice-based RPG, where you can play as a Good person or a Bad person (being a so-so person results in a Bad Ending). When your character reaches their death, which could occur, permanently, at any time, you are transported to a second RPG. In this second game, you will face the consequences of your actions.
Parappa the Rapper, but it’s Troy and Abed
Jacob: Troy and Abed’s friendship bond is arguably the strongest that exists in all of sitcom history and is only maybe (maybe) rivaled by Charlie and Frank Reynolds’ connection and their passion for their game “Night Crawlers.” One of the most iconic elements of their friendship is that they’re a killer rap duo, and it only makes sense to make a rap rhythm game starring the two based on Parappa the Rapper.
Andrew: Quick question: Lots of rhythm games, like Guitar Hero, Samba de Amigo and Donkey Konga, used plastic peripherals. A whole closet at my parents’ house was devoted to storing my Rock Band equipment. Should our Troy and Abed game have a unique peripheral, or should we stick with a controller like Parappa the Rapper?
Jacob: I think we should stick just a controller; HOWEVER, when you buy the physical copy, it comes with a whole pillow fort, roughly 10 pillows and 3 blankets.
The story begins with the two going about their classes, using the power of phat beats and rhymes to maximise their learning potential. It is then revealed to be a technique the whole college begins to adopt, which proves to be highly effective and raises their score average considerably. Unfortunately for Dean Pelton, this means losing multiple money grants, which hinge on being in the top 1% of worst scoring colleges in America. This leads the Dean to announce a battle rap competition, with him being the final encounter and the grand prize being two free credits. Ultimately this distracts everyone from actually studying and learning, lowering everyone’s scores.
The game continues as you play as Troy and Abed, having rhythm game rap battles with many of the show’s favourites: Magnitude, Star Burns, The Study Group, Pierce, etc. Eventually, Troy and Abed must battle each other. This almost destroys their friendship, but they vow that whoever wins will split the credits with the other. Troy eventually wins and faces off against the Dean. As in all good boss battles, you think you’ve beat him, only for him to fully heal and change costumes. There are 10 costume changes. Troy wins, the school goes back to the top 1% of worst scoring colleges in America, and all is back to normal.
We also can’t deny that Community is ripe for game tie-ins, so here are some rapid-fire ideas.
-A third-person shooter based on the paintball competition
-A Pillow Fort management Sim
-Persona, but at Greendale Community College.
Star Trek: The Next Generation but its Coffee Talk
Jacob: Coffee Talk is a chill talking simulator in which you listen to people’s problems while also making them a nice brew of coffee. This would be a perfect setting to play as Ganon, TNG’s very own bartender, serving drinks to your favourite characters, Picard, Crusher, Worf, Riker, little annoying boy. While TNG had its fair share of political intrigue, alien battles and space-faring action, what truly made this show special was the minutiae of everyday life on the USS Enterprise. Really, I just want to just serve prune juice to Worf and help him talk through his problems, like how Picard almost never listens to him. You could also talk to Riker and ask him why he never sits on a chair like a normal person. The possibilities are endless.
With the obvious popularity, this game would have, there would be a spin-off for Deep Space 9, as you play as Quark the bartender. Except instead of listening to people’s problems, you take advantage of them, and probe them so they would drink more, and thus you get more profits.
Andrew: I’m not familiar with Deep Space 9, at all, but I would love a rhythm game based on The Original Series. I want to try to press buttons in time to William Shatner’s odd speech patterns.
Jacob: Yes, and midway through the game, it’s just Shatner breaking the fourth wall and looking at the camera telling you how he was the best captain, as stipulated in his contract.