Note: A special thanks to codeman38 for providing various corrections. They have been implemented.
I apologize for going on a long rant before savaging a long-forgotten awards ceremony, but context, people. We need context.
Rumor has it the year was once 1994. And in the couple of years preceding it, the Western video game industry is creating some damn masterpieces, foreshadowing a coming decade where predominantly-Western computer game developers would create quite a few more. Released in 1993, id Software’s Doom has just blown open the doors on the expectation of what a video game can do and the entire industry is taking notice. But when it comes to sales and prominence, Western developers are still getting their asses kicked by the Japanese. Unbelievably, the American game creators have yet to dig themselves out of the hole created by the Crash of 1983. (The Crash would sully Atari’s hardware reputation to the bitter end of the Jaguar.) Yeah, NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat are billion-dollar arcade phenomena. Yeah, Doom is making waves. But Sega and Nintendo rule home video games, and in 1994, that’s where most of the money and recognition can be found. For the best Western developers, product quality is not a problem. The problem is publicity and earning the financial rewards that come with it.
So what did they plan to do? What all companies try to do: Separate themselves. Make a product that stands out from the rest. The Japanese are developing icky games that use terms like “gameplay” and “depth” to win audiences. Well, in 1994, the biggest buzz-word in technology is “multimedia”, an incredible revolution where people would be able to—get this—listen to music and watch videos…on their personal computer. Over the course of the early nineties, CD-ROM players are continuing to decline in price, getting into the homes of consumers, and becoming the obvious choice for the future of media distribution. As Nintendo would painfully find out, even the consoles couldn’t avoid the optical disc revolution. And with that massive increase in storage space came untold potential for video games. Bigger games with bigger rule sets and more enemies and more levels and better graphics. That is, better video games.
Instead, Western game developers had a different idea. In their twisted minds, the future of video games lay in the selling point of the multimedia revolution: The integration of computer tasks and software with full-motion video. Yes, Japanese companies such as Sega and NEC would release CD-drive add-ons for their established game consoles. Ultimately, between the Phillips CD-i, the 3DO, the Atari Jaguar, and the rise in popularity of home computers, the development of FMV games would take on a predominantly American flavor. Roughly fifteen years before the release of L.A. Noire and Heavy Rain, Western companies bet the farm on live-action movies that could be manipulated with the occasional press of a button. This is the way that they were going to compete with the Japanese: Bad games with “realistic graphics” and “compelling narrative”. Sound familiar? These developers went all-in with a pair of twos, and oh my God, did they ever lose.
At the time and not in retrospect, 1994 was the year of the Sega CD, the Phillips CD-i, the 3DO, and the Atari Jaguar. This was the apex of the movement. All of those devices were firmly embedded into the marketplace and at the forefront of consumer electronics shows. The question was how much of a market that those devices could steal from the Super Nintendo or the Sega Genesis. But as early as 1991, anybody who actually played the games for those optical-disc-based systems answered the question very quickly, and it finally caught up to the industry. By 1995, the Sega CD was done and dead in favor of both the dead-on-arrival Sega 32X and the Sega Saturn, the Phillips CD-i would have its legacy established in Hotel Mario “YouTube poops”, and both the 3DO and Jaguar thoroughly failed to impress anybody. The industry hoped these devices would make lots of spaghetti and they did not.
That same year, a Sony game device by the name of “PlayStation” would get its Japanese release and was about to leave the severed corpses of nearly every established game hardware manufacturer on public display. The difference? The developers who built games for the PlayStation learned the lesson. They would use the extended capabilities of optical media to enhance tried-and-true game systems. Yeah, the
best-selling game “killer app” for the PlayStation was Final Fantasy VII. And yeah, it was a bloated mess that used obscene amounts of full-motion video to sell itself. But even that piece of shit used a genre archetype conceived on computers in the seventies and adapted to consoles in the eighties. It was still a video game as video game audiences knew video games.
And with the wild success of the PlayStation and the calamitous failure of “multimedia”, the legend of Cybermania ’94: The Ultimate Gamer Awards only grows greater, with the cars at the back of the train finally reaching the crash in front of them. (Do note that this event is not to be confused with the video game reality television show World Cyber Games: Ultimate Gamer. But I’m sure you already knew that.) This was the original attempt by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences to create an awards ceremony, and it is best described as a two-hour infomercial for “the future of Western video games”, the future of multimedia. It would prove such a failure that the AIAS web site makes no mention of Cybermania ’94, only the Interactive Achievement Awards that would launch four years later and continue to this day. And after you become familiar with the second-rate actors, bad comedy, and inconsistent selection process that define this relic within the failed multimedia revolution, you’ll realize that the Spike Video Game Awards sucked long, long before they were a conception. This is Cybermania ’94.
(This video is from the rebroadcast which occurred at 10:30 p.m. I’ve taken some creative liberties with the timestamps in order to let you experience the lulz “as it happened”.)
Saturday, November 5, 1994; 8:05 p.m. – We’re reminded this event is a “TBS Original”, which is like bragging your cat food is sold exclusively at Wal-Mart. They’re quite hit-or-miss. They’re super-awesome when the network is running old Seinfeld episodes, but once they start airing Family Guy, I realize how much the network sucks.
8:05 – And our show is live with the obligatory, possibly-required-by-law video game opening montage reference to Pong, even throwing a nod to the now-forgotten television overlays once bundled with these games, the “graphics” consumers would place over their television to establish the playing field and provide a couple of in-game colors. It’s awfully difficult to conceive the idea that Pong (as Atari developed it) was once a twenty-two-year-old video game, but we’ve stepped into the abyss.
8:05 – And we’re hit by a second video, a music video set to “The Gate to the Mind’s Eye” from Miramar Productions. Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to know anything about the song or the producer. I’m just dropping the name and creator for posterity. The video can be surmised as “decidedly-futuristic-dystopian video game music meets odd, bizarre space-ship assault sequence through the metropolis of the future”. Also featured is a tunnel escape sequence eerily similar to the end-of-level sequences in the legendary first-person shooter Descent, which would be released in 1995. To set the tone for Cybermania ’94, we’re being thrust into the virtual reality kitsch of the early-to-mid-nineties. Fortunately or unfortunately, the real kitsch is only beginning.
8:06 – Announcer: “Live from Universal Studios, Hollywood, it’s Cybermania ’94, celebrating the best in computer and cartridge gaming and interactive entertainment.” Oh, it’s that phrase again. “Interactive entertainment”. When I covered Microsoft’s E3 2011 Press Conference about six months ago, I suggested that “interactive entertainment” would be a new catchphrase used by Microsoft to expand their marketing strategy. You know, since “video games” are for losers. The difference between 1994 and 2012? Instead of calling “interactive entertainment” crap, journlolists and fans call Heavy Rain one of the best video games of the last decade. Things have changed.
8:06 – “Now please welcome your very live and very interactive hosts, Leslie Nielsen and Johnathan Taylor Thomas.” Obviously, we all know the late and great Leslie Nielsen, who built a career on “comedy through serious cat’s serious face” and probably isn’t the best candidate for an award ceremony looking for respect from the public at-large. And Johnathan Taylor Thomas? For those of you who don’t know much about the early nineties, Thomas was a de-facto co-star on Tim Allen’s Home Improvement, a show that continued the undefeated streak for “shows that stopped being funny when the child stars hit puberty”. Keep in mind that this show hit the airwaves before the Sony revolution got the adult demographic into video games. Having a twelve-year-old co-host your video game awards ceremony isn’t crazy. In-fact, at this point in the history if the video game industry, it’s preferred. Even as the games got more violent, children were still the target audience. We can expect that this divide between what Nielsen and Thomas represent are going to be at odds with each other.
8:07 – “And now, to boot up Cybermania ’94, a very special guest. Please welcome the First Lady of the United States.” I’m going to assume it’s a phony Hillary Clinton, but how that would make her any different than the real Hillary Clinton, I don’t know. Clinton boots up a computer to usher in this tribute to the hard work of video game developers . Nothing happens. Nielsen “realizes” that the extension cord has been unplugged. When he plugs the computer back into a live circuit, it explodes in a hail of dollar-store explosives. Hillary’s face is covered in soot. The audience applauds and Hillary leaves the stage. What Hillary Clinton has to do with this segment, I don’t know. Unless this is some sort of inside joke against an American government that, just one year ago, saw a number of its governing Senators make baseless claims against the content in video games. The government was completely unopposed on this message because the country knew nothing about computer technology and even less about video games. So, what do we have here? The opening punchline for Cybermania ’94 is “I plugged a computer into a source of electricity and it blew up.” Way to ease the public’s fears and apprehension concerning computer technology, you dumbasses.
8:08 – Nielsen: “I, I sure hope she has health insurance.” References to Hillary Clinton’s failed healthcare reform push are already out in the wild. We’re three minutes into the show and Nielsen has already said “fuck the script, I’ll adlib, I’ll do it live”.
8:08 – Nielsen: “And welcome to the first live interactive awards show in television history.” This show comes with voting through the internet and a series of 900 phone numbers. This is going to end well. If there’s anything I’ve learned from All-Star sporting events and Western politics, it’s that allowing the public to voice their opinion is a very bad idea.
8:08 – The only two black people in the entire audience are oddly positioned in the front row. They may be the only two black people to ever work in the video game industry. Hell, they probably don’t work for the industry. “Hey, you two! Enjoying your stay at Universal Studios? We need to make our awards ceremony look politically correct. Want tickets?”
8:09 – Thomas: “There’ll be awards in several categories, such as ‘Best Action-Adventure’, ‘Best Sports’, ‘Best CD Game’, and ‘Best Graphics’.” Thomas is already losing me. I don’t know many thirteen-year-olds who are good at reading lines off a teleprompter. Not that he could ever possibly hope to read any of this shlock and sound convincing. “Best CD Game”? Know how the Spike Video Game Awards has an award for “Best Downloadable Game”?* We didn’t start judging games by their distribution format in the era of online console video games. We’ve been committing this mistake, for a long, long time.
8:09 – Thomas: “Also this evening, for the very first time on, ever, on a live telecast, you the viewer will be able to vote for your favorite game online via the Prodigy Services Network, and the phone number which will appear on your screen, shortly.” Those commas are not typographical errors. Johnathan Taylor Thomas just sucks at this.
8:09 – Nielsen: “Tonight, we’ll also be taking a look at the future of gaming and interactive entertainment through some remarkable video packages called ‘CyberStories™’. The first piece shows us what this evening is going to be all about. Let’s take a look.”
8:09-8:11 – Goofy Nineties Outfit Guy: “The essence of any great game, tennis, chess, Sonic, anything, is the ability to lose yourself in it, until there’s only you and the game, and you’re the one in charge.” This would be a good time to mention that Goofy Nineties Outfit Guy is standing in the middle of a boxing ring in a training facility and looks like an awkward parody of the nineties: Backwards red hat, tucked-in shirt, shirt pocket that starts near his stomach, and even a god damn beeper. Other notable features include a bad William Shatner impersonation, a cameo from 1993’s Konami beat ’em up Metamorphic Force, and one of those goofy virtual reality headsets that ruined the eyesight of all sixty-seven people that bought one. We’re not off to a good start.
8:11 – Goofy Nineties Outfit Guy: “The arcades are still there, and yes, the games will blow your head off these days. But the technology grew up. It moved out. It transformed.” While the context of the quote is associated with educational tools such as “Personal Digital Assistants” (crazy “touch-screen” devices where you use your fingers or a stylus to control input), it’s simply more fun to claim that Goofy Nineties Outfit Guy said the arcades sucked ass. Which is okay, because even in 1994, this dude would walk into an arcade dressed like that and get his ass kicked.
8:12 – As a bonus, the montage concludes with a horribly cryptic sequence featuring a clipboard with an unnamed gamer’s “Physical Characteristics”, “Personal Information”, and his “Favourite Games”, prefaced by the video narrator as “You’re in control.” Spin this around, and we’ve foreshadowed the world of Steam, Origin, and Battle.net 2.0, companies that now sell our information to third-party advertisers a thousand times over. The audience loudly applauds the montage. It’s more amusing when you pretend this is the moment that the industry discovered there’s tons of money in cataloging and selling everyone’s personal information.
8:12 – To announce the nominees for best Action-Adventure game, Matthew Perry and Hilary Swank appear on-stage. No, this isn’t indicative of the quality in celebrity appearances to come. Perry is two months into his work on Friends and at this point in her career, Swank’s only notable movie appearance is The Next Karate Kid, best described as “Girl power, girl power!” meets “Stop, Stop, He’s Already Dead: The Sequel”. At this point in their careers, they’re nobodies.
8:13-8:15 – Best Action-Adventure Game Nominees:
– DOOM. The obvious favorite. According to the narrator, “The corridors are full of evil monsters waiting to wipe you out. Suit up as a space marine and try to rid the world of hate.” Rid the world of hate? Uh, no. I read Masters of Doom, and I’m pretty sure John Romero wanted to spread more of it.
– MegaRace (improperly titled on the show as Mega Race), a rather-lousy racing game that used pre-rendered computer graphics for all of its sprites, backgrounds, and tracks. The game is moved along by the narration of the game’s host “Lance Boyle”, overacted to brilliance by Christian Erickson, the guy who voice-acted and provided the persona for that creepy dude in Heavy Rain who tried to mutilate Madison Page’s genitals with a power drill. Judging by his demeanor and persona in MegaRace, it’s safe to conclude that he’s a character actor.
– Return to Zork, which the internet assures me is a smashing example of the point-and-click adventure genre. I wouldn’t know, because I don’t play video games that don’t have “Call of Duty” located somewhere on the box.
– Jump Raven, a vehicle-shooter in which Wikipedia describes an opening scene where “we see future New York City, which has fallen into horrible disrepair in the aftermath of global warming and rising sea levels and a bankrupt federal government”. Mother fucker. I hate it when video games tell us what is going to happen in the future.
– Critical Path, another addition to the Wirehead, Ground Zero: Texas, Sewer Shark, and Night Trap school of “interactive movie entertainment”. What confuses me is, even at the time, game reviewers and game fans knew this stuff was crap. Just looking through the release schedule, you could have put Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Jazz Jackrabbit, Sonic & Knuckles, or TIE Fighter in this spot and nobody would have given it a second thought. It’s almost like this event has an agenda in mind.
– Super Street Fighter II. So just in case you’re wondering, we have now announced that a first-person shooter, a racing game, an adventure game, a vehicle shooter, and a fighting game are all candidates for the Best Action-Adventure Game. You might as well called them real-time strategy games, because “ALL GAME’S HAVE STRATEGY AND ARE IN REAL TIME, STOOPID.”
– Tomcat Alley. And don’t worry, we also have room in this category for an FMV flight simulator. If you played any of the full-motion video games I listed above, then you’ve also played this one. And now you know why the Sega CD failed.
– Super Metroid, incorrectly pronounced by the narrator as “Super Mett-roid”, further stating that “The evil alien Metroids are after you and there’s a bounty on your head. Somedays it doesn’t pay to get up.” The narrator should probably go back to sleep, since the Metroids are mere predatory creatures that the Space Pirates wish to weaponize, leading bounty hunter Samus Aran to make sure it does not happen. Way to disservice one of the favorites for “best console video game ever made”.
The Winner: Swank: “And the award goes to…” *lifting the cover on the Personal Display Assistant* “…Doom.” Not much has to be added here. It’s impossible to understand Doom unless you lived through it. Doom was the shit, and contrary to the opinion of the Halo fanboys, it still is.
8:15 – Nielsen: “The city of Las Vegas is now shedding its cable, err rather gambling image for one of computer gaming. From two-bit HUDs to gigabyte hard drives…” Yes. These were the words that were actually spoken. Las Vegas did a hell of a job shedding its gambling image. Thomas and Nielsen keep uncomfortably looking at each other during their lines, like they’re trying to figure out who farted.
8:16 – Thomas: “Now first up is a brand-new VirtuaLand [in the] Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Shawn Alex Thompson, star of the new series The News, is standing by with some avid gamers.” Even by “video game award ceremony” standards, Shawn Thompson is a nobody. To affirm this, the camera cuts to Thompson standing in the arcade waiting for his cue. He’s waiting. Meanwhile, he’s live. Oops.
8:16 – Thompson works small chat with a gamer playing Mortal Kombat, and we are informed the game is a nominee for something. I don’t know what. “Most Overrated Game”? Let’s hope. There’s always the terrifying chance we’re looking at a Game of the Year candidate. If you think “lousy game rides marketing campaign to become cultural phenomenon” started with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Halo 2, you’re wrong.
8:17 – Thompson: “As far as I’m concerned, the basic idea here is you want to get the four ninjas in the center line?” Thompson obviously knows nothing about video games. Apart from the derision of the insulted teenager, the crowd surrounding Thompson refuses to acknowledge him. Thompson scurries onward to the NBA Jam cabinet, where he makes jokes referring to “NFL Jelly” and “NHL Marmalade”. Thompson is completely lost. In the pursuit of accessing his natural charisma, his ad-lib approach to the world of video games is “You crazy kids and your new-fangled technology!” Thompson mentions that one of the players has a “tip sheet” and that “these people take this very seriously”. Which like, uh, no fucking shit, that’s the point of this entire event. Alexander is informed by a younger man that this tip sheet lets you have “special people”, reference to the unlockable characters in NBA Jam. Alexander cracks another awful joke. There is a reason “This Canadian biographical article related to television is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.”
8:18 – Thompson: “An exclusive for Cybermania, on Super Street Fighter II: The Arcade Game, if you want to play as Akuma, uh, make sure your machine is on ‘free select speed’, choose your speed, highlight Ryu, count to five, move to T-Hawk, count to five, move to [unintelligble], and we’re out of there, I think.” You almost have to wonder if he botched the directions in order to get people pumping quarters into machines, just to figure out that last part. I wouldn’t put it past this show. Or maybe he just sucks at his job. Were out of there, and so are you, Thompson. Get off my screen.
8:18 – And since fans vote on the Game of the Year (referred to as “Best Overall Game”), at least Cybermania has the intelligence to spill the candidates early. Let’s get to it. Your nominees are:
– Doom, which you can vote for by calling the number on your screen. In order to kill vote flooding and make a little bit of money for TBS, “The cost of each call is .99 cents”. The number to call is 1-900-454-1144. I encourage somebody to call this number and find out where it now goes.
– Mortal Kombat, which I feared would be a Game of the Year candidate. I began my long tradition of having little interest in fighting games at a very young age. (In the name of cataloging and understanding the medium, I have long aborted that disinterest.) Even at that young age, I knew there was something about Mortal Kombat that made it grossly inferior to the Street Fighter series. Even at the age of eight, I was convinced that the blood and gore in Mortal Kombat was a gimmick and Street Fighter had the better game mechanics. Good to know my intuition was solid.
– Myst, best described as the predecessor to The Sims, in that it was “best-selling PC game of all-time and nobody could figure out why” long before The Sims. Chalk up another victory for “pre-rendered computer graphics that have not aged well”.
– NBA Jam, and while I will always be impartial to NBA Street Volume 2, this particular nomination is quite valid.
– Super Street Fighter II. That’s all of the games. Just so we’re clear, Super Metroid is not a candidate. Even more terrifying, the candidates consist of two computer video games and three arcade games. I’d say the fix is in. As mentioned earlier, the arcades and the computers were the two places that American developers had a foothold in. And we’d be lying if we said that Americans were not resentful of the rise of Japan in the global business market. After all, in 1989, the United States announced they would be looking to see if Nintendo’s business practices were consistent with a monopoly on, you guessed it, December 7th. You think these struggling Western developers are going to let the Japanese in on the fun? Only one game in this list was created by a Japanese company, and it will not win anything.
8:21-8:22 – Nielsen begins a monologue declaring his personal rating system for video games (“Nielsen Ratings”, as he cleverly calls them) but it seems inconsequential to the action in the background, where a man jumps into a giant balooon and begins dancing about the stage. Remember the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? And the stuck-up spoiled brat girl Violet tries the experimental candy and turns into a gigantic blueberry? It’s kinda like that. The difference? When it was portrayed as an unintended consequence of deregulating the candy inudstry, we thought it was funny. When someone does it for our amusement and actively walks into the situation in order to make us laugh, it is stupid.
8:23-8:26 – A montage of video game history commences. This should have been done at the beginning of the show. We open with the words “1977” and “in the beginning”. The action cuts to 1972’s Pong, proceeds to “1980” and the Atari 2600 rendition of 1979’s Asteroids. Yikes. Stunningly, save for a few other anachronisms (such as the remake of 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 2 as featured in 1993’s Super Mario All-Stars, designed to highlight video games in 1987), the years match up well enough that you’re willing to give them credit. I guess. The closing screen blares “¿what next?” ¿awsum interactive entertainedment, duh?
8:26 – Jeff Levy (??) is on-stage, described as a “Board of Directors of Governors” and an Executive Vice President of “Reality Online”. He informs us that this show is ‘wired’. You can chat along with the people behind Cybermania ’94 on Prodigy Online Services. True story: I got banned from the chat service this one time. Sorry about that.
8:27 – Thomas: “Now, earlier, we had a look at the past of interactive gaming. Now, let’s have a look at its future. To present the award for ‘Best CD Game’…” I know I bashed on the idea of presenting an award based on the media format, but at least they had the foresight to realize that optical discs were the future of video game media. Just not in the manner that the storage space and high-quality sound was used in the games that are about to be nominated.
8:27 – Thomas: “…please welcome from Saved By the Bell, Lark Voorhies.” Wow. In one breath, you herald the future of video games. In the next, you welcome a piece of popular culture’s past. Even by 1994, Saved By the Bell was finished. Niiice. Much like everyone else on this show, Voorhies looks like she would rather be anywhere but here.
8:28-8:30 – “Best CD-ROM” Nominees. First, it was “Best CD Game”. Now, the narrator announces it as “Best CD-ROM”. The title keeps changing depending on who decides they really, really fucking regret doing this show. Nominees: The 7th Guest, Mega Race, Return to Zork, Escape From Cyber City. We’re already back into retreading through previous nominees. The 7th Guest is another computer-rendered stroll through the adventure game genre, and Escape From Cyber City separates itself from the other nominees by using hand-drawn animation rather than live-action or computer-generated footage. That’s about it. It’s all the same nonsense.
Winner: The 7th Guest. The British Jeff Goldblum accepts his award. So let’s just keep this in mind: The 7th Guest won “Best CD-ROM” over Myst, which was nominated as a Game of the Year candidate. Particularly confusing, since Myst played a heavy hand in popularizing the CD-ROM format they laud in this particular category. It would be ideal for winning this category. And yet, it’s not even nominated.
8:30 – Cutting backstage, and Levy informs us the voting is fierce. Just keep putting in those ninety-nine-cent phone calls for your favorite game, thanks.
8:30-8:32 – “Tonight, we’re going to turn Sim City into our own cyber battleground.” Because obviously, when I think “competitive video game”, I think of Sim City. Two combatants are going to play Sim City and the player with the highest population at the end of the night is the winner. Our contestants? The mayor of Santa Barbara versus child prodigy Michael Kearney, advertised as earning his college degree at the age of ten. Big deal. I beat Descent on the easiest skill setting at the age of nine. Take that, Doogie Howser.
8:35-8:36 – We’re back from commercial, and following a brief mention of video games (the proposed focus of this video game awards show), we hit a snag. Leslie Nielsen’s car alarm is going off outside. Fortunately, Mr. Nielsen hooked the alarm to the indoor speaker system and rushes to turn it off. Since this is Universal Studios Hollywood, he runs past Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame and into the long-running Wild West Gun Show. After shooting several bad guys and bringing down the facade of an on-stage saloon, Nielsen mutters that “Well, those cowboys won’t be bothering anymore.” I will now fail my next drug test when I pee clean urine in a cup and the doctors say, “Well, that’s nice, but you wrote that Leslie Nielsen did this and we don’t believe you’re clean.”
8:36 – While we wait for Leslie Nielsen to return from the pre-recorded vigniette, Thomas informs us that “By the way, here’s a tip if you’re playing Mortal Kombat 2 on Super NES. At the start of the screen, press the left-right button and the start buttons together. Now you’re in to Battle Mode.” Dead silence from the audience. Keep in mind that during the eighties and nineties, there was no internet. This stuff had to spread by word of mouth, and that word of mouth was usually generated by magazines and publications. The only thing out of character about these constant tips and hints is that they’re being offered within the context of a live awards ceremony. “He announced a cheat code! Um, yay?”
8:37-8:38 – And we cut to another promo. “Computer designers and animators represent the evolution of the art director and the film director.” Presumably, this look into 1994’s box office movie smash hit The Mask is to show us the incredible boundaries that video games and interactive entertainment will soon push. What an incredible misapplication of resources. “Hey, movie guys! You wanna make some video games?” In fairness, this would foreshadow David Cage, who says “Hey, video game guys! You wanna make some movies?”
8:39-8:40 – Thomas: “Many of us avid gamers started out with one of those addictive little portables…[t]hey turbocharged the gaming industry.” Oh, good. I thought this show was lacking buzzwords with little to no substance. “Turbocharged the gaming industry”? At this point in video game history, the best-selling portable games are a lousy Mario game and a lousy port of Tetris. What part of that “turbocharged” the video game industry?
8:40 – We’re now digging into the proverbial “Hey, you, in the stands! I’m out of players! Can you throw a football?” phase of this gaming event. Sarah Chalke (Roseanne, later a mainstay on Scrubs) and a “Tanya Kaiser” from a
show video game called “Are You Man Enough”? Or rather, that’s what I thought they said. That’s what it sounds like. I can’t find anything on Google about the show. (As it turned out, there is a reason for that. It’s a game, sillyheads.) And when she states with a deer-in-the-headlights look that “Portables are one of the mainstays of gaming now”, I understand why.
8:40 – Best Portable Game Nominees
– Disney’s Aladdin (Game Gear), a reminder to 2012’s video game audiences that Disney’s licensed games used to be, if not great, pretty bang-up pieces of code. Credit to the Cybermania editors, using the Super Nintendo footage to sell us on this “Best Portable” nominee. Shit, the least they could have done was go with the superior Sega Genesis version, the version that would be consistent with the hardware manufacturer.
– Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, which goes a long way in explaining the choice of footage for our previous nominee. The footage of this game was recorded with the help of the oft-forgotten, not-a-bad-substitute-for-a-Game Boy known as the Super Game Boy, a peripheral for the Super Nintendo. Apparently, Cybermania and its cleanup crew were not given access to recording footage for portable video games and went with their best options. The narrator states that “The world’s most popular plumber has a whole new world to explore.” Fortunately for all of us, pointing out that this narrator should be fired is like watching an Adolf Hitler documentary and asking “why hasn’t anyone shot this fucker in the head?” Hitler already shot himself in the head and the narrator has probably done the same. No reason to get worked up about it.
– Home Alone (Game Gear), which, depending on the version of the game, is either one of the worst video games ever made (a Nintendo Entertainment System version created by Bethesda Softworks, of all companies) or a merely bizarre title for the Sega Genesis. Once again, our footage is from the Super Nintendo and not the Sega Genesis version that is an up-scaled version of the Game Gear title.
– Donkey Kong (Game Boy), a portable title featuring “enhanced graphics” (more than four colors) and “enhanced sound” when used with the Super Game Boy. Intended to be a flagship title for the peripheral, Nintendo continued their long and storied tradition of discontinuing support for a peripheral after half-a-dozen games were created for it.
– The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Based on my play experience, this was the last good Zelda game. (Do note that I have not played Oracle of Ages or Seasons, so I cannot cast judgment on that one quite yet.) “So review Ocarina of Time, for God’s sake! Put your money where your mouth is!” Patience, my friend. It’s more fun to keep teasing you.
The Winner: Disney’s Aladdin. Whatever. It’s hard to get worked up for portable video games when very few stand with the best of console, computer, and arcade video games. Here’s a spoiler alert: This is the first and only Japanese-developed game that will win an award tonight.
8:42 – You know what would be nice? Telling us who is accepting these awards. In a night to honor the developers, we do not tell you who those men and women are. This only increases my speculation that this is going to transform into the typical nonsense, one of those events where “the brands are the real heroes of the event!
8:43 – Cybermania cuts live to, as Nielsen describes it, “the attitude capital of the world”, Paramus, New Jersey. Sheesh. Even the cities featured in this awards ceremony are D-Listers. The camera cuts to kids screaming and chanting “CY-BER-MAN-IA”, chanting started at someone’s obvious request. The reporter says “people are getting a little unruly here”. The reporter asks the kids what their favorite video game is. One vote for Mortal Kombat and two for NBA Jam. “Your favorite game can only be one of the ones we put up for Game of the Year!” Based on these three votes, the reporter concludes that the audience is firmly in favor of NBA Jam. He then announces a tip for Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. The tip is to avoid the game at all costs.
8:44-8:46 – Up next to peddle his wares is Charles Fleischer, better known as the voice of Roger Rabbit. He addresses the extraterrestrial life that may be watching this program. In order to announce the Best Comedy Nominees, he is performing his own comedy. Yes, Best Comedy. Don’t laugh. This is serious.
8:46-8:49 – Best Comedy Nominees: I’m Your Man, Dennis Miller: That’s News To Me, The Wacky World of Miniature Golf, Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage, Dating & Mating. The casual video game explosion created a mobile and internet-browser-based game market where “video games” have become a misnomer, the “video” in “video games” referring to the raster screen that the games were played on. The video game industry didn’t quite know how to classify this “multimedia” nonsense. I presume that, ideally, blurring the line between multimedia and video games would help these companies make more money. But it’s hard for me to believe that the industry wanted people to think of platformers like Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage as “interactive entertainment”. Elsewise, sheesh. I like to think that I know my video game history, but even I’m struggling to get something out of this.
8:49-8:50 – Fleischer: “Excuse me, but I cannot, it’s, it’s tape. It’s a cyber-hoax. Cyber-hoax, supposed to be digital, and its tape.” Confused? I’ll simplify the situation. Rather than display the winner on the Personal Display Assistant through some technical magic, the name of the winning nominee is merely taped on to the screen. Fleischer has pulled the tape off the screen by accident. Behold, the magic of computer technology!
8:51 – The Winner: The Wacky World of Miniature Golf. Take the world’s most boring sport and turn it into a Microsoft Paint-animated, full-motion-video golf game that requires no reflexes or skill. The results are what you should expect. I can’t even be angry at the people who decided these games deserved awards. This happened seventeen years ago. Outside of the YouTube Poop community, nobody even knows what the hell the Phillips CD-i is. I think history affirmed this awards ceremony was bullshit.
8:54-8:55 – Nielsen is back, and back into a monologue. Once again, he’s interrupted. This time, by a pair of midgets spinning plates on sticks. Just in case you’re confused, we are still discussing a video game awards ceremony. It took forty-nine minutes for this show to completely lose my interest. Impressive. One of the midgets hands Nielsen a spinning-plate stick. Nielsen proceeds to an adjacent podium, attempting to read the teleprompter while keeping the plate upright. He fails at both, losing the plate and his tongue. Bonus points to Nielsen for using the term “infobahn”, as though saying “information superhighway” would have taken up too much time in a show clearly strapped for time, or maybe the phrase was copyrighted. I dunno.
8:56 – Cybermania Official Artist Peter Max reads a telegram (yes, telegram) from Vice President Al Gore. At this point, it would almost be way too easy to go with the internet jokes, but as Peter Max reads, “President Clinton and I strongly support the development of a national information infrastructure. Interactive entertainment is an important part of the effort and the products honored tonight are the leading wave in the fastest-growing segment of the industry.” Al Gore didn’t just invent the internet, he supported its development!
8:57 – Best Art and Graphics Nominees. Nominees: Myst, Tuneland, Oceanlife II & III; Space: A Visual History, Mac World Interactive, Vol 1. This is an excellent time to mention that the last three products are not even games. They’re encyclopedias. They’re interactive entertainment. None of them even use what we would call “artistic” visual elements. The reason for their nomination stems from their use of multimedia, i.e. images and videos captured from real-world sources. I repeat: There is nothing “artistic” about their depiction in these games.
Winner: Myst. Yeah, pretty much nobody saw that coming, rolls eyes. Doom may be the game that gets the “OMG PPL THOT THESE GRAPHIC’S RULED??” bad rap today, but Myst just about blew everything the fuck away upon its release. I stress that its visual flameout is far more memorable. Nobody remembers the Myst Graphics Experience™ because we can now make all those high-resolution three-dimensional computer graphics move in actual three-dimensional space. Also, they provided an overlay telling us who at Broderbund is accepting the awards. So it’s not a matter of “we forgot to tell you” or “we want to marginalize the developer”, they’re just being lazy.
(“BUT WUT ABUOT DONKEY KONG COUNTRY FOR BETS GRAPHICS??” It was released roughly two weeks after this show was aired. Unlike the Spike Video Game Awards, the creators of Cybermania ’94 at least had the presence of mind to refrain from nominating games that had not yet been released.)
8:59 – My So-Called Life actress Devon Odessa, advertised on Wikipedia as “brought up on a farm”, is here to announce the “Achievement in Virtual Reality”. All of this is excused by the fact that, despite the tinge of Sarah Palin that can be found in her facial appearance, she is smoking-hot.
9:00 – Governor’s Award for Best Achievement in Virtual Reality goes to Iwerks Entertainment. If you’re a Western animation buff, that name should sound familiar, since Iwerks was founded by the son of U.B. Iwerks, the guy who created Mickey Mouse. Let’s talk about him during a video game awards show.
9:01 – Man who is accepting the award that shall not be named: “Virtual adventures providing unique game experience emphasizing cooperation and teamwork rather than competition and violence.” So, in 1994, we already resigned ourselves to the idea that the future of virtual reality and online video games was World of Warcraft. God dammit so much.
9:02 – Levy: “The lead in the Prodigy poll is Doom and we have Mortal Kombat leading our 900 number.” Thanks for the update, chief. So it’s down to Mortal Kombat and Doom. Mortal Kombat is a threat to win. This is like watching a bad team weasel its way into the playoffs and coming out of nowhere to get into the title game. At which point, people realize, “Oh my God, this team might win the whole thing!?”
9:06 – A live look-in to the Namco Arcade at Universal Studios, Florida. I really shouldn’t have the presence of mind to notice something like this, but this audience is a hell of a lot whiter than the previous ones. I wonder if that has anything to do with the middle-class disposable income required to get into Universal Studios? Hmmm.
9:06 – Once again, two votes for Mortal Kombat and one vote for NBA Jam. Let’s keep in mind that nobody over the age of eighteen is actually being represented in these live look-ins to arcades across the country.
9:06 – Reporter: “Who do you think is gonna win?”
Kid in a “Jesus Freak” shirt: “ME!”
Reporter: “You think you’re gonna win?”
Kid in a “Jesus Freak” shirt shrugs his shoulders.
Reporter: “What video game do you think is going to win?”
Kid in a “Jesus Freak” shirt shrugs his shoulders.
Reporter: “Maybe Mortal Kombat?”
Kid in a “Jesus Freak” shirt: “YEAH!!!” Lol. Somehow, for some reason, I don’t think Jesus would be comfortable with a video game that features dismembering “fatalities” in it. Crucifixality!
9:07 – Reporter: “We’ve got some breaking news. This tip is so new it’s being released before the game comes out. The game is coming out next week, and it’s called The Ren and Stimpy Show: Time Warp, for Super Nintendo.” All night, Cybermania has been airing promotionals for Double Dragon V: The Shadow Falls. Now, they’re dabbling in one of the numerous Ren and Stimpy games for the Super Nintendo. Man, they lined up some terrible sponsors for this show.
9:08 – “You know, cyberspace has given us a whole new breed of pirate.” If you think the perception of the computer hacker is misguided today (where people think that Anonymous’s distributed denial-of-service attacks constitue “breaking into a web site”), imagine what it was like before most people were using the internet. Fortunately, I don’t imagine they would be discussing this on the program if they were not prepared to put it in a positive light. Maybe we’ll get lucky here.
9:11 – In this pretty thorough, fair, and honest piece, they just cut to video footage of Richard Nixon for reasons I can’t quite explain.
9:11 – This promo has overstayed its welcome. They cut to video footage of a guy wearing a Nintendo Power Glove and safety goggles while sitting at a computer and eating a slice of pizza. The promo then cuts to its on-screen narrator, who remarks that “They’re just normal people.”
9:12-9:16 – Thomas: “Give it up for Mr. Herbie Hancock.” Wouldn’t be a video game awards ceremony without a musical interlude. The only chorus lyrics in this techno nonsense is “ITS-A SY-BUH GEN-UH-RAY-SHUN”. Meanwhile, an on-stage dancer contorts his body into positions that make me think of anything but a robot. Unless it’s that creepy prostitute robot from Blade Runner.
9:16 – Narrator: “Aerosmith has been at the cutting edge of rock ‘n roll since their inception in the 1970s. They’ve been at the cutting edge at rock video since music video’s inception in the eighties. Now, with Revolution X, free music by modem, Vid Grid, and Virtual Guitar, Aerosmith is at the cutting edge of cyberspace and interactive gaming in the nineties.” The stunning thing is that in a show where “interactive entertainment” has mostly fallen flat on its face, the only thing in the Aerosmith gaming resume that fell flat on its face was the console ports of the light gun game Revolution X. Surprisingly, the presence that Aerosmith carved out for themselves in video games is far more exempt from criticism than anyone would expect.
9:17 – “Aerosmith is currently on an extended international tour and can’t be here tonight.” Haha, yeah, I’m sure that’s why they didn’t show up. Mr. Steve Tyler, I can assure you that no one in their right mind begrudged you for missing out on this show.
9:17 – Thomas Dolby: “I would have been here a bit sooner but I was playing a game called Mood.” Hancock: “Yeah? You enjoy it?” Dolgan: “Well, it’s kind of like the flip-side of Doom, you know, these monsters come at you and you run away.” Well, the problem is, when you make a lousy joke, you’re supposed to acknowledge it is a lousy joke. Dolgan plays it deadpan and expects the crowd to react. They do not. Head into desk, indeed.
9:17 – “Best Musical”. They meant “Best Music” but, keeping in tune with the way this show is going, they fucked that up, too.
Nominees: Peter Gabriel, Video Jam, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, The Residents, Uptown Blues. There are so many confusing things about this list of nominees I don’t know where to begin. Video Jam is the typical “direct your own movie or music video” bullshit marketed to children and young adults through most of the mid-nineties. (Today, younger people just pirate Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas and use that.) Uptown Blues is a compilation of classic blues music with a user interface. The other three nominees are music videos using computer graphics, designed for use on a personal computer. Eleven years before the release of Guitar Hero and its lineup of fantastic cover music, Cybermania ’94 made the mistake. We do not give game awards and accolades for music content that was not specifically designed for video games.
Winner: Explorer by Peter Gabriel. Um. Yay.
9:21 – We’re back to backstage. Who’s winning our Sim City competition? Michael Kearney says to “check my evaluation”. The Mayor of Santa Monica (which would make an awesome action movie title) says he just got re-elected by lowering taxes. Jeff Levy states that “The mayor knows how to do it.” Which, by that, I presume Levy means, “Bullshit people.” You can get fired in a Sim City game but I’ve never heard of a Sim City game where you have to run for re-election.
9:23 – Devon Odessa backstage speaking seductively with Jeff Levy: “Can I play in your chat room?” Tough luck, Devon. When you hopped into that chat room, you were probably the hottest woman using the internet. And no matter how hard you tried to convince everyone, nobody believed that you were a girl. Ouch.
9:27 – Best Simulation-Strategy Nominees – Sim City Enhanced CD-ROM, Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Castles II: Siege and Conquest (incorrectly spelled as “Seige” in the graphic overlay), Forever Growing Garden. What to mention here? Take a look at Sim City Enhanced CD-ROM, a 1994 update to the classic 1989 computer video game. Yes, we’re nominating enhanced remakes. This seems like a particularly silly game to put up for nomination, considering that Sim City 2000 came out the year before. I dunno, I think you want to advertise the new game. Oh, and what the hell is a “Forever Growing Garden“?
Winner: Sim City Enhanced CD-ROM. Gee, the game on display in a backstage competition won an award. For those of you alive and well in 2012, I’ll put this in perspective: This would be like if the God of War HD compilation, the ICO/Shadow of the Colossus HD Double Pack, or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 won Game of the Year. Oh, and I know my web site is frequented by long-time fans of Blizzard Entertainment video games. I’ll quickly point out that Warcraft: Orcs and Humans was released shortly after this show was aired and had no reason to be up for nomination.
9:29 – Thomas: “Well guys, as much as I hate to admit, the new interactive world is not just about blow ’em up and twitch games. It has been well-documented that kids can learn a lot more effectively through interactive methods.” When I hear people talk about “educational video games” in the context that the resource management and strategy skills in StarCraft and the operation of exceptionally complex controls to navigate incredibly complex levels in Descent take a backseat to Mr. Broskington’s Math Melee or Punctuation Panda in Colon Trouble, yeah. “Educational games” are a load of horseshit. “Educational” is a marketing buzzword for people who know nothing about video games. Remind you of any other buzzwords, “indie game” fans?
9:30 – To introduce us to educational video games, it’s Shelley Duvall. Maybe the casting isn’t as bad as I thought. They picked the lead actress in The fucking Shining to participate in this horror show. And she dressed for the event.
9:31 – In our next CyberStories™ segment, an infomercial for the educational benefits of getting computers into classrooms, an on-screen graphic informs us that “Research shows that networking improves social skills and decreases ethnic tension.” Now knowing the way that social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube now dominate Western life, where racism is not only allowed but encouraged, I can only think of the overlay in the manner one looks at predictions of the future made in 1900, where Sir Thaddeus of Coventry posits that in a century, every household will own at least one coal factory.
9:33 – “Learning has become something hip.” Haha, you keep telling yourself that. Education is for losers.
9:34 – Duvall: “A child’s imagination is the ultimate origin of the interactive computer game. This year, six business organizations led by Electronic Arts have teamed up to reward two especially-talented children who designed their own educational video games.” I didn’t hear anything about E.A. giving praise to the creators of Super Meat Boy.
9:34 – Duvall: “In the three-to-seven age group, five-year-old Christina Kahoon (??) designed a game called Alphabet Soup, which teaches young children how to spell and understand new words.” Incoming “My Mom Said It So It Must Be True” Story: I started playing video games when I was about two years old and my brother was receiving subscriptions to Nintendo Power. As it turned out, the only way to understand the hints and strategies listed in the magazines were to, you know, be able to read. Yeah, I self-taught myself how to read at the age of two in order to get better at video games. Once again, educational video games are complete bullshit.
9:35-9:36 – More educational video game nonsense. This time, they’re playing an interactive entertainment experience by the name of Ruff’s Bone, a picture book that gives players the option of either (for lack of a better term) “reading the book” or interacting with the objects in the game world. A one-star review of the game on Amazon notes that the game does not work on modern hardware and that “I now have a very disappointed child and feel like a prize idiot.” Yes, yes you do. Fifteen years ago, fans of video games would have laughed at a video game that belittles its audience to the point where they cannot be trusted to interact with the game world on their own, having to choose between an action focus and a narrative focus. Today, we call it Mass Effect 3.
9:36 – And out of nowhere, we’re interrupted by something about drugs. The sidebar shows the faces of three real people, the footer lists “Early”, “Middle”, “Late”, and “Recovery”, and the rest of the screen allows these young men and women to tell their stories of drug addiction. Um, what, the, fuck, is, going on?
9:36 – “For Special Achievement in Education, the award goes to Ruff’s Bone…and the award for Individual Growth In Development goes to…Addiction And Its Processes.” Oh. Those are “games”. And they’re getting “awards”. The honorary award for Competency in Awards Ceremony did not go to Cybermania.
9:36 – More educational video gaming to come, where we learn resource management skills, decision-making, and spatial awareness. It’s back to Doom, and Levy informs us the game is dominating the Prodigy polling. Meanwhile, NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat are splitting the votes coming into the 900-hotline. NBA Jam has been upgraded to contender status. In other news, the people who know how to operate a computer are voting for the computer game and the people who do not are voting for the arcade games.
9:39 – Thomas: “We’ve seen a lot of games and interactive technology tonight…but have you ever wondered how they’re made?”
Nielsen: “No, not really.” The audience laughs. Clearly, it had been a while since we demeaned interest in computer technology awareness, the implied purpose of this show.
9:40-9:42 – In the last Cyberstories™ segment of the night, we learn how video games are made. That is, computer graphics and storyboards direct live actors and the blue screens behind them. Seriously. One of the steps listed in video game development is “Live Action by Blue Screen”.
9:42 – Mechadeus (Mondo Media) employee Mark Giambruno, who I am informed is actually David Cage in disguise, explaining the video game programming process: “Later on, we replace the blue screen with the finished 3D animations, we combine the live actors shot on blue screen with the finished 3D animation backgrounds, and I go through an editing process where we put it all together and make it make sense, and then finally, the programmers get it and they insert the interactivity into the whole thing.” R to the o, to the f, to the l.
9:44 – To announce the winners of the “Best Sports” award, Marla Gibbs of The Jeffersons fame and “the stars of the upcoming film The Babysitters, the Barbarian Brothers.” The Barbarian Brothers™ are a pair of roided-up bodybuilding twins. So many things wrong with this. For those of you wondering why you have never heard of The Barbarian Brothers™, Twin Sitters (the release name of The Babysitters) is the only credential listed for either brother on the Internet Movie Database, a movie clocking in at an average rating of 4.7/10. And yes, IMDB goes much by the same review scale as video game journalism, where anything under a six is some form of legendary bad. This raises the question: You couldn’t find a single athlete who was interested in announcing the winner for “Best Sports” Game?
9:45 – Gibbs: “Hey, you guys are babysitters. I need a babysitter.” These rehearsed lines are spoken seconds after The Barbarian Brothers™ offered to escort Gibbs to the podium, only to receive revulsion and disgust from Gibbs, who hurried on her way to announce the nominees. But she just foolin’, the “kid” is Jefferson, aged “ninety-two”, and I don’t remember which one, and I’m not going back to check, because the audience reacted so awkwardly to the joke that I may suffocate trying to recap the moment when all the air was sucked out of the building.
9:45-9:47 – Best Sports Nominees: NBA Jam, FIFA International Soccer, NHL ’94, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, Caesar’s World of Boxing, Sports Illustrated Multimedia Almanac, QB1, Great Day at the Races. They’re sports games. I’m not wasting my time giving you a run-down of each one. We already talked about NBA Jam, and if you’ve played one simulation sports game, you’ve played them all.
The Winner: NBA Jam, described by the narrator as “the tall ones in an NBA hoops session”. Haha, just kidding. No, not about the narration. NBA Jam lost. Caesar’s World of Boxing is your winner. It’s imperative that this show call its legitimacy into question by having one of its Game of the Year candidates lose out within its own genre. The only mention of the game I can find on the internet comes from the sports blog Bleacher Report, which states that: “You would have to decide how to respond to groupies, managers, trainers, etc., who would make offers during small vignettes between fights. The only problem with this game was the actual boxing, which is pretty stiff, hard to control, and dull.” In other words, the game was fucking terrible, but “interactive entertainment is awesome”. And that just about sums up this show.
9:47 – Award recipient: “It’s an honor to be nominated in a category that includes such great games as NBA Jam and the rest that you just saw up on the screen.” Translation: “When they said that I would be winning ‘Best Sports’, I thought they were bullshitting me. I still think they are. Seriously. We made a terrible game. I’m on stage but you’re not throwing things at me?”
9:48-9:49 – And immediately after announcing the winners of the ‘Best Sports’ award without the help of professional athletes, Thomas introduces two of the stars from the legendary-bad wrestling game WCW Superbrawl, professional wrestlers Lord Steven Regal (known to today’s audiences as William Regal) and the late, great “Flyin” Brian Pillman. This actually makes more sense than one would believe. At the time, WCW was running shows out of Universal Studios in Orlando. Not much trouble in shipping them out to Universal Studios in Hollywood. While Pillman and Regal play against each other in WCW Superbrawl, Thomas informs the audience that “Leslie Nelson” is going to give us a word or two about video game violence. The most obvious pro-wrestling ass kickin’ of all-time will soon be a part of history, and considering that needless violence is the modus operandi of professional wrestling, that’s saying something.
9:49-9:51 – As Nielsen breaks into his monologue, Regal begins choking Pillman with the Super Nintendo controller cord. Pillman scores a comeback, tossing Regal into the stage set. Since the professional wrestling universe is in terrifying tune with itself, the midgets from the plate-spinning segment come out to assist Regal. Pillman bodyslams one of the midgets onto a dazed Regal. Chaos ensues. Nielsen proceeds to violate one of the cardinal rules of professional wrestling, trying to defuse the situation by pulling out a gun. It’s almost too fitting a nod to the Brian Pillman who would, nearly two years later to the day, scare the shit out of USA Network and World Wrestling Federation viewers by brandishing a pistol during an end-of-show segment. Nielsen begins threatening violence and scares off Regal and Pillman. Nothing meaningful was said during the monologue, Dave Meltzer gives the whole thing zero stars, it’s still more entertaining than any match Hulk Hogan had that year, and I can’t believe I actually wrote all of this.
9:51 – Nielsen: “The bottom line is, despite all the qualities that these games teach young people, they’re also just games. And they’re being rated now, so, look at the ratings on the box, and make an informed decision.” Nielsen lets out a snarky laugh. Oh, Leslie. There is a reason that you’re a legend.
9:52-9:54 – Best Female Actor. Yes, this is an award. But you see what they did here? During the Academy Awards, they announce the Best Actor and Actress before announcing the Best Picture. Once again, these dudes want to be compared with the film industry. Even the Spike Video Game Awards never stooped to that level.
9:52 – Robert Culp, star of the sixties comedy show I Spy, stumbling over all of his lines: “Just as the introduketion, introduction of television in the fifties created a brand new monster, industry…I know because I was there…today, computer games are providing an additional creative outlet for some of the industry’s most talented people.” As it turned out, Culp only had it half-right. The interest and subsequent flame-out in live-action video games yielded a gigantic market for video game voice acting, a quick paycheck for those who are tired of getting up in the morning, putting on makeup, and having to physically commit themselves to the passion of acting. Not that Jennifer Hale is any less awesome because of it.
Nominees: Grace Zabriski, Voyeur; Eileen Weisenger, Critical Path; Tonia Keyser, Man Enough; Virginia Caper, Gabriel Knight. It’s amusing how Cybermania ’94 is structured like a video game, only instead of each level getting harder, the nominees for each award become even more obscure and even less worthy of mention.
Winner: Grace Zabriski, Voyeur. It has now come to my attention that the special effects team at Cybermania ’94 is now actually doing their job, listing the name of the actor on screen and naming who he or she represents. In the case of the gentlemen who accepted the award for Myst, I am now convinced that was an accident. Given my experience in watching the Spike Video Game Awards and the way that those awards trumpet franchise and brand recognition over the interchangeable faces who create the games, I have to conclude that this event is no different. Only in the place of brand, we trumpet actors. That is, the brand and face of full-motion video games. Fuck these assholes.
9:55 – Zabriski: “…and I hope this film wins more awards so that someone else can do better.” Oh, mother fuck, just fuck you.
9:58-10:01: – Best Male Actor Nominees: Robert Culp, Voyeur; Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek 25th Anniversary; Tim Curry, Gabriel Knight; Christian Erickson, MegaRace; Mickey Rooney, A Great Day At the Races
Winner: Robert Culp, Voyeur. Am I supposed to write something here? This is how these B-list award ceremonies work. You attempt to legitmize the ceremony by showing up and presenting awards, and they present you with one. It’s simple bribery.
10:01-10:03 – Culp breaks into an incredibly long acceptance speech and none of it makes any fucking sense, the words coming out of his mouth interrupted by spurts of laughter from the audience. Something about the “concept of a CD-i movie”, a shout-out to Voyeur director Robert Weaver. In my head, I can see somebody off-stage screaming, “We have three more minutes left in the show! Hurry it up!”
10:04 – Thomas: “Alright, it’s been a tough [Sim City] battle all the way, but the score as it stands right now shows, our winner is…” Narrator: “Michael!” Michael Kearney displays as much fake self-adulation as one ten-year-old can display. Nielsen follows this up with a bad joke. No mention of their scores, no on-screen display of their cities, no mention of any game assets. This sounds like it was a gigantic waste of time…within a two-hour-and-five-minute waste of time.
10:07 – Best Game. Let’s get it over with.
Nominees: Doom, Mortal Kombat, Myst, NBA Jam, Super Street Fighter II. Predictably, Doom gets the largest cheers from the crowd, and I don’t even have to see the reaction to the other four candidates in order to know this. *continues watching* Oh, I’m good at this.
10:08 – Nielsen: “And the best overall game award goes to…
Thomas: “Mortal Kombat.”
For lack of a more respectable term, this is what we call an “epic dud”. Not because the poster child for overrated fighting games has just won a Game of the Year award. Not merely because it stole swag from another great outing in the Street Fighter Franchise and stole swag from the first-person shooter that pioneered just about everything. You know, the Doom that would define today’s modern console and computer video game experience. But I don’t blame misinformed voters for making Mortal Kombat an award recipient. Here’s why: You see, all night, this event attempted to hammer home the idea that narrative and the “cinematic experience” are what these Western developers wanted to sell to their audiences. Ignore that Mortal Kombat is a gigantic pile of shit. That game is, in all variants of the word, a video game. Its blueprint was established by Karate Champ in 1984. Doom is also, in all variants of the word, a video game. So is NBA Jam and Super Street Fighter II. And Myst? Yeah, adventure video game. In this celebration of interactive entertainment, the five Game of the Year nominees couldn’t be more like the video games that video game fans know and love, with challenge derived from complex systems that the player has to master and overcome. (I guess, depending on your point of view, Myst may be an exception to the rule.) This list of games is an overwhelming rejection of the movie games that the industry wanted to sell. And, as history would come to judge, those fans were right. The FMV games held to the highest esteem by this award show would later hit dustbins, dollar online auctions, and landfills all across the country. The fans may have picked a shitty game, but they had the right idea. Your games were even shittier.
10:09-10:10 – Neilsen: “Well that’s our show for the night. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.” Thomas: “Now, if you’re a Cybermaniac like me, I bet you had a blast and can’t wait to get home to your computer terminal.” Nielsen: “And if you’ve never heard of a CD-ROM before the show, it’s pretty exciting. I know I can’t wait to get home *audience and Neilsen laughing* and grab a hold of my joystick and boot up the hard drive.” Thomas looks on in disbelief. How fitting that this two-hour commercial for a philosophy of video game development that never panned out, a desperate two-hour commercial for FMV video games, ends with a masturbation joke. And we’re out of there, I think.