An ad for Subway restaurants had a kid playing an Atari game where the Player Character ate burgers, hot dogs, and other junk foods, and then got so fat he couldn't fit through a gap in the platforms to get at a gigantic sundae. The game's graphics are actually too advanced for an Atari console to handle, and it comes complete with the requisite random jerking around of the joystick.
A relatively recent (2007?) ad for batteries seemed to advertise their potential for gaming, particularly handheld gaming, despite the fact that 1) you're unlikely to find a modern game about "space ninjas" where you go for a high score that isn't a parody or homage minigame, which shows how well they know their target demographic, and 2) both of the two major handheld systems this generation use proprietary rechargeable batteries rather than double-A's. An egregious example as, unlike most of these, this ad was aimed at gamers.
The makers of Fruit by the Foot once struck a promotional deal with Nintendo to print gameplay tips for Nintendo 64 games on the snack's cellophane wrappers. The commercial showed two teenagers grown old, with one who's been waiting 62 years for his friend to finish playing. He's supposedly been using the snack's hints to keep from losing for all these years... but he's playingBanjo-Kazooie. If the tips are so useful, why hasn't he beaten it by now? Answer: nobody involved with this commercial got the memo that video games aren't about playing until you lose for a high score anymore, and actually have endings. It's even worse for the next commercial, where he's playing Mario Party 2, which not only has an ending, but is specifically designed to be a multiplayer game. 62 years and he never thought to go to the store and buy a second controller?!
A Mexican ad for Mirinda promoting Pokémon bottle caps started with four kids yelling and button mashing like savages... while playing Pokémon Stadium (not even the Mini Game section in which it would be at least a little believable; the screen showed clearly a battle between a Squirtle and a Meowth). Made worse a second later when they show the screen saying "GAME OVER".
A Russian ad for Choco-Boy snacks tells there is a contest to win a PSP Go and shows a kid playing it, but what we see on the screen is Choco-Boy running with a background taken right from the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros.
Look no further than the box cover of the AK Rocker gamer chair for a prime example of this: A family of three (dad, son, daughter) are all on the eponymous chairs playing a game together... with an Xbox, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast controller, respectively, and the Xbox controller is being held upside-down. Of course, it also depicts another family playing games cosplaying as Vikings, so take that as you will. Here's a pic.◊
And then there's a commercial for becoming a game designer that's so bad Alta Colleges doesn't want you to see it. Parodied by Three Panel Soulhere.
One advertisement for an online Mega Man X game, seen on this very wiki, depicts a scene using sprites from Mega Man 7, where Mega Man fights Proto Man. The main problem with this is that neither Proto Man or the pictured version of Mega Man even appear in any game in the Mega Man X series. Also, both Proto Man and Mega Man are heroic characters, although they do engage in some friendly sparring every now and then.
A print commercial for Crash Mind Over Mutant shows two kids playing the game with a Nintendo GameCube controller. Note that when Radical Entertainment took over the Crash franchise (Mind over Mutant being their second game), the GameCube was long dead. And the Wii version of said game does not support GameCube controls.
A commercial for a racing game falls victim to this. Two gamers are sitting in their car, fooling around with the car customizing tool when they notice the changes they make in game affect a nearby woman's dressand body. Despite being in a customization screen, both gamers appear to be playing, and at the end they make her rotate in place while rapidly changing the color of her dress... by slamming the joysticks and mashing the buttons repeatedly. They then remove the dress completely, which by the commercials own logic would require them to strip off the outside of their car.
Gamer Grub is a semi-example. It doesn't depict games themselves in unrealistic ways, but it does bring up the strange idea that games aren't compatible with most snacks. Granted, the package can be tipped so the food can be eaten without being handled, but that hardly narrows the field.
In Canada, a Tim Horton ad is partially an aversion and partially (the part video game players will remember) a straight example. A guy is nearly caught playing video games at work (he gets away with it because his boss is too fascinated with the guy's Tim Horton's latte to notice what he's actually doing). We get a clear look at a screen of actual gameplay from Angry Birds. Yet, the accompanying sounds are generic 80s bleeps nothing like anything you'll hear actually playing that game.
Verimark, a South African store selling assorted tat, advertises the "i-Play" games console, a little Game Boy-type gadget along the lines of the PSP with "60 built-in games!!!". It claims "high-resolution graphics!!!" and all sorts of magnificent gaming blurb. Just a shame the device itself uses pretty basic graphics that at best approach SNES-era gaming.
In an Australian ad for RACV insurance, while inspecting the house, one of the insurance men grabs a generic PlayStation game box called "Zombie Attack!" from a shelf and exclaims that it is his favorite. Needless to say, there is no game called "Zombie Attack" on PlayStation.
This commercial for Sonic the Hedgehog pasta by Franco-American has a boy playing Sonic & Knuckles on a Sega Genesis (specifically the Mushroom Hill stage). Ordinarily, this example would avert this trope, except the music playing in the background is from the Chemical Plant stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Anime & Manga
Done deliberately in Arcade Gamer Fubuki. Fubuki's first opponent plays a joystick game while wearing boxing gloves.
A fairly obscure example lies in the sole English-subbed episode of Kyou Kara Ore wa!!, where at one point, the main character is waiting for someone, and playing early Game Boy shooter Solar Striker, complete with actual footage. However, the sounds are your generic random bleeps and bloops as opposed to the actual (bleeping and blooping) soundtrack.
In a flashback, the twins Hikaru and Kaoru are playing (well, one of them is playing) a game on what is clearly a Game Boy Advance—but when we see the screen, the graphics are comically low-rez, looking more like an LCD Game & Watch (Maybe they were playing Game & Watch Gallery 4).
Averted in a later flashback, where they've upgraded to a DS.
In K-On!, the game that Ritsu lost to Ui again on is being played on a So— er, Pony console (Slaystation 2, perhaps?), judging by the controllers... but Arcade Sounds is definitely in play here.
Durarara!! decided to go for broke on this one, with Celty and Shinra seen in a later episode playing what appears, from Shinra's comments, to be a Mario Fighting Game, with requisite Atari noise, with PlayStation controllers. Bonus Points, because the Game case is a PSX-style CD Jewel case, but the system clearly loads carts. (They don't appear to be playing it on any sort of TV either, but that's okay because Celty doesn't have a head)
Played with in SHUFFLE!: Two characters can be seen playing a video game on a TV with bleeps and bloops. Cut to another angle, and it turns out they're playing Pong.
A portion of the plot of the Chapter Black arc of YuYu Hakusho focuses on something called "Welcome to Goblin City." The title isn't so retro considering it is, in fact, an arcade game. But it is nonetheless insanely popular, with nearly all of the team having played it, and Yusuke going as far as to call it "THE game." He cites that it has several gameplay modes, which makes it more like a collection of minigames than an advanced game. The story is that you have to "defeat the evil Goblin King by beating him in the best 2 out of 3 challenges." Finally, Kurama says that the Goblin King's death is graphically depicted—he explodes in a puff of smoke and the game says he's dead—like this is unusual.
Subverted and played straight at the same time: In the issue of a Ultimate Marvel title, Wolverine is seen playing a full 3D game in a handheld system that looks exactly like a Game Boy. While the graphics look too advanced for a handheld of the time, the idea of a 3d console having the same number of buttons as a Game Boy is simply laughable. Add to that the fact that the story was set some time after the Game Boy design had been abandoned.
Amazingly, Calvin & Hobbes: The Series manages to play this trope straight to a tee. Andy plays a portable game by button mashing, and the game is described as "a plumber trying to rescue a princess from a wizard and collect the power crystals", something found in mid-80's to early-90's video games. Said chapter couldn't have been released later than 2010.
Films — Live-Action
Shorts features a particularly bad example of this. Various characters in the film are often shown playing Spore. Normally this wouldn't be all that bad, but said characters are shown playing it multiplayer (Spore is a single player game), on a PS3 (Spore is PC exclusive), and while randomly mashing buttons all while showing the Creature Creator on screen. To top it all off, nothing was even happening on the screen while said button mashing was happening (the creature clearly in its idle animation), and several bleeps reminiscent of some kind of weapons fire are heard.
In Charlie's Angels, two boys are shown playing Final Fantasy VIII with two 3rd party PlayStation controllers and button mashing unrealistically while out-of-place sound-effects play — though the sound effects are not particularly old-sounding and not from Pac-Man.
Rumble in the Bronx and Airheads featured cartridgeless Sega Game Gear consoles. Rumble in the Bronx was particularly amusing, as the wheel-chair bound kid exclaims while playing the cartridge -and battery-less Game Gear: "Thank you for the game, uncle Jackie!"
As does Surf Ninjas, though there it was a bit of a plot point.
Intentionally played straight in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, in which two characters play Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance by flailing randomly on incorrect controllers and using a console it's not on. The filmmakers tried to get as many things wrong as possible.
In Elephant, one of the characters who shoots up his school plays a game in which he shoots several identical people in the desert. (The people seem to resemble the characters from Gerry, Gus Van Sant's previous film, about two guys who get lost in a desert.) The point of the game seems to be to shoot people who don't do anything but walk around.
Live Free or Die Hard has dozens of computers but no mice; at one point, the actor who plays the heroic hacker reaches for the area where a mouse should be. On the other hand, the intro to the movie quite clearly shows several of the hackers playing Gears of War, and one of Warlock's many screens has the same game paused on it.
Jarhead has a few lines of dialogue referring to levels in Metroid, and that if you reach the tenth level, nothing happens, you just start at the beginning again. Erm, no. Unlike games broken into levels, Metroid Vania games are the poster child for Sequence Breaking. Not to mention that even the first Metroid game for the NES had a legitimate, if short, ending.
Training Day: A kid plays on a Dreamcast controller while stock 70s Arcade sound effects play in the background.
In Return of the Living Dead 3, a group of thugs are playing what's clearly Street Fighter II in a convenience store, yet it makes sounds like a 70s arcade game. In addition, the game is in demo mode as the Street Fighter II marquee keeps flashing up, even though they're meant to be in the middle of a heated battle.
In Transformers (2007), Glen's cousin is playing Dance Dance Revolution; when Glen enters, he asks what level he's on, and the reply is "Six!" (Level 6 songs in DDR included ".59" and "Healing Vision" on Standard or "Max 300" on Light, prior to the expansion from 10 to 18 levels in DDR X.) Then Glen pauses the game and asks his cousin to leave the room, and the reply is "Well, save my game!" (Unlike Amplitude, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band, DDR doesn't have pause. It does, like those games, have auto-save.)
Inside Man went the opposite extreme. A kid plays an ersatz Grand Theft AutoPSP game. When we see clips, the game's graphics are too advanced for the PSP, especially since at the time Sony had the CPU speed slowed down to preserve battery life. This has since been lifted.
La Maquina de Bailar ("The Dance Machine") was a film made in Spain where the plot involved a nobody winning a Dance Dance Revolution tournament in order to pay off a debt. Even with official endorsement from Konami, many "liberties" were taken with the game — mainly that each player's whacked-out dancing didn't even attempt to correspond with the arrows onscreen (which, when shown, displayed a stepchart from another song... at the lowest difficulty... and repeatedly missing steps.) Not to mention that the best way to train for a DDR tournament is to take a ballet class (as opposed to playing the game instead.) Small wonder that it placed fourth its premiere weekend, falling behind the Spanish version of the cinematic masterpiece, Are We Done Yet?
The low-budget horror film How to Make a Monster was obviously written by someone who had no knowledge of video game development, or video games in general. A triple-A title game is being created by three programmers and a producer. Now that's an efficient developer. The programmers are in charge of "AI", "Weapons" (?), and "Music". Those are apparently the only three components to a video game. No art, no design, etc. Further, the programmers work in isolation from each other and in competition, as the best aspect of the game will earn the corresponding programmer $1 million. Sounds like a good business model. When we see footage of the industry-conquering game they're creating, it's a generic first person shooter that is years behind the times. Funnily enough it actually does look like something four men could hammer out in a few days.
Grosse Pointe Blank features a kid playing an arcade game in a convenience store, but the game he's playing is Doom II, which was never officially turned into an arcade game.
In Beethoven, there's a scene where the brother and older sister are playing Super Mario Bros. 3 together. As in simultaneously mashing buttons on their controllers, even though the footage shown indicates that they're not playing one of the "versus games" that actually allows simultaneous play. Plus, if memory serves correctly, the brother is wearing the Mattel Power Glove but uses his free hand on the "standard controller" button setup that's built into the glove.
Meet Dave has an extremely stupid example. The eponymous alien plays against a kid in what appears to be Kinetica, an F-Zero/Wipeout-like racing game for a PS2. The kid seems to be playing correctly, but Dave just taps his fingers over the controller like a mad man, and kicks the kid's ass in the game. Granted, he's an alien unfamiliar with human video games, but there is no way that Button Mashing on crack could help you in any racing game at all, as they don't require combos. If it were a fighting game, this might've been funny, but in a racing game it looks stupid.
The horrific Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. Not only do various characters in the movie sport cartridgeless Game Boys (of the black and white variety — the color models didn't come out until 4 years later), but videos of the game in action are blatantly shot on a PC monitor, in color!
In the Hulk Hogan movie Suburban Commando, there is a section where a kid and Hulk Hogan's character play After Burner all while randomly yelling nonsensical crap about some space alien and phasers despite briefly showing us some gameplay footage that depicts a very much Earth-based fighter jet. They're also playing it very wrong, but then, Hogan's character doesn't know it is a game (not that this stops The Hulkster from beating the game anyway — it even raises a white flag in surrender!).
The Lindsay Lohan movie Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen has a scene in which Lohan's character plays Dance Dance Revolution, or a DDR ripoff, against the antagonist (played by Megan Fox). They both actually dance in synchronous, from the waist up and everything, nevermind the way DDR actually works.
Worlds Greatest Dad features technology contemporary to the year it was released, 2009, yet the teenaged son announces that he's going to play Doom, a game older than he is. The character is portrayed as anything but a retro-gamer.
Almost averted in The Rocker. There are a couple scenes where the main characters are playing Rock Band on Xbox 360. They use the actual game guitars, the music plays as normal and they don't mash the instruments like crazy, but when they stop playing (without pausing), the game is still being shown in background, with the notes still going on, and the notes being mysteriously still played, making it clear that it was just a video of the game being played.
In the film Skinned Deep, the younger brother starts playing a Super Nintendo. Without turning on the TV. Or putting a game in the console. You start to see why he was killed off early on.
In Bring It On, Kirsten Dunst's character's brother is seen playing Twisted Metal III, and he actually looks like he's playing it and not randomly smashing buttons, and the sound effects are typical of what you'd hear from that game. All goes well until he makes a smartass comment about her boyfriend, causing her to get mad and rip the controller out of the system so hard it pops open the console, revealing no game inside of it.
One of the main characters getting 50,000 points in Double Dragonby mashing buttons during the opening cutscene. (The arcade machines playing NES games could be Playchoice-10 machines.)
There's also the bit where someone comments on Jimmy getting so far in Ninja Gaiden without taking a hit, when the screen we see shows a couple notches off his health bar. He even keeps playing after Haley sets a magazine down over 90% of the screen, though that could possibly be because he's "autistic".
Not to mention, after the dad (Beau Bridges) gets hooked on Zelda II, the older son (Christian Slater) snaps him out of it by unplugging the controller — which somehow shuts off not only the NES, but the TV he's playing on.
And also the other scene when the dad mashing buttons like he's playing Double Dragon when you can clearly hear the sounds from Zelda II.
In the Super Mario Bros. 3 scene, Jimmy shot into the lead by getting the warp flute. However it was a points race and you don't get any points for that... The whole points thing anyway, most gamers of the time strove for progress through the levels, rather than points.
And in a points race, the warp flute would actually be counter productive. It gets you to higher levels that have harder enemies and fewer opportunities for points. In that competition, a smart gamer would never had left level 1-2 and its infinite goomba pipes.
To make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scene even funnier, Siskel & Ebert admitted to not being big on the gaming scene then proceeded to point out flaws even they noticed. Ebert commented that he had in fact played TMNT and made it to level 2, thus making it very clear to him that despite claims of being on level 3, they were really still on level 1.
The sequel has a scene panning over a retirement home rec room, and shows how old the games are by having a shot of two seniors playing Pong...with Xbox controllers
The second sequel shows them playing a mediaeval RPG with early 2000s graphics and... the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion HUD.
Mild case: In The Avengers, Tony Stark points out that one of the Helicarrier's crewmen is playing Galaga. When he leaves, the crewman looks around and then goes back to his game. When he does, the sound of a tractor beam can be heard, but there aren't any on the screen.
Maximum Ride: In School's Out - Forever, Ari goes shopping and finds a flash-new Game Boy display, then proceeds to steal one. The book was released in 2006 (and suggested to be set in the fall of 2005), by which time the DS would have long since replaced the Game Boy as the hot new thing in portable gaming.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit created a game called IntenCity, an obvious Grand Theft Auto ripoff, to create a far-out story about games causing prostitute murder — Ripped from the Headlines, depending on who one asks. The game was 3D, but extremely lousy-looking. And short, for when the suspects were asked to play the game in order to measure their brain activity, the same 10 seconds of game footage was looped over and over, broken by close-ups of the suspect.
SVU, again, featured an episode centered around a fairly typical hack-and-slash dungeon crawler... and then subverted this trope like mad. The characters refer to the game having "levels", but use it to refer to levels of the game and the game hero's character level interchangeably, which does actually make way more sense than you'd expect. The sound effects correspond to the gameplay being shown — clashing swords, monster noises, and a triumphant horn chorus straight from EverQuest for leveling up — and it's Captain Cragen, the eldest cast member, who discovers a talent for the game and actually manages to beat it, and then uses their shared love of the game to talk to the main suspect, a kid who's obsessed with the game and has a bit of trouble telling fantasy from reality. Oh, and in one final subversion, the kid didn't do it. He was roleplaying the hero and tried to save the girl.
Married... with Children has one episode with a nerd playing an original Game Boy, mashing the buttons while arcade noises sound. When the Game Boy is broken, he pulls a second one out of his pants, immediately playing it with the same sound effects.
In the Everybody Loves Raymond episode "Homework", Ray and Robert are playing a fictional generic zombie FPS on PlayStation 2 (mashing buttons and all). Interestingly, a few minutes later, Robert picks up the console and leaves, and we can clearly see that it was not even hooked up to the TV.
House reprehensibly abuses this trope in one episode by showing House playing Metroid Zero Mission on his Game Boy Advance SP... however, despite going close-up on the GBA screen several times, you very pointedly hear Pac-Man bleeps and bloops. He also makes the same mistake as in Jarhead of referring to numbered levels in a Metroid Vania. Maybe people just associate 2D with levels.
If you want to get really technical, the visuals suffer from a similar but extremely specific form of "Wrong for the sake of accessibility". In game, main character Samus can roll into a ball and download maps from statues. However, makers of the episode decided that the image of Samus being held in the claws of a big alien thing worked better as something recognizably negative (despite being something the player has to do to progress), complete with an "Oh, that's gotta hurt!" reaction shot from House.
Nevermind the fact that several hours of playing doesn't seem to advance House beyond the first thirty seconds of gameplay.
In another episode, House holds up a Nintendo DS to a patient's ear to see if he can hear it. While it is quite clearly playing the Morph Ball time trial from Metroid Prime Hunters (without any input from a player, interestingly enough), we hear the stock sound effects. Maybe the writers are Metroid fans, but the sound effects guys think it's just Pac-Man with better graphics.
During season 2, House is shown in his office playing MX vs. ATV on his PSP, and apart from the fact he's just trying to crash into a wall instead of completing laps, the sound effects are the motor sounds from the game, the music is just cut.
In another episode, this is done slightly less poorly: House is playing Ninja Gaiden II on an Xbox 360 with realistic sounds and button inputs. The only problem is that House seems to think that his goal is to kill the protagonist Ryu. Admittedly, as antisocial as House is, one could see him play a game just to kill the main character. It'd help if he was using the left stick and not the d-pad, though.
Another episode had the team treating a video game designer and even trying out his virtual reality immersion equipment for the game. It had some very good graphics and FPS views. This specific example was an aversion, but a later episode showed Foreman and Taub bonding over playing Xbox together (mashing buttons and analog sticks) while the exact same game footage plays on the TV.
In a 5th season episode of Angel, Spike is playing a game that's implied to be the original Donkey Kong, making comments such as "Gorilla with barrels" and "Stupid plumber!", yet he is clearly holding an Xbox controller. And we doubt that Joss Whedon has heard of homebrew.
The sound effects are right for Donkey Kong, and Spike's comments make sense in the contexts of the sound effects (however, Mario was a carpenter in Donkey Kong, not a plumber).
Later in that same season, Illyria and Drogan are shown playing the same system while the rest of the heroes are away, and making bemused remarks to one another about the gameplay that clearly suggest they're playing a Crash Bandicoot game. What sounds do we hear coming from the unseen television screen? Pac-Man beeps and whistles.
And in the first issue of the season nine comics of Buffy her roommates are playing Mass Effect, which makes sense as Dark Horse Comics are behind both adaptations. The scene shown is Liara fighting Collectors, Guns Akimbo, wearing what looks like Cerberus armor. Now this might be Mass Effect 3 but as far as we can tell Liara does not fight the Collectors in the game, or is Dual Wielding.
In one episode of ER, Dr. Kovac buys a brand new console. This is not only treated as a ridiculous and silly indulgence for a grown man and a sign of his deteriorating moral character, but features him mashing buttons to the same stock bloop-bloop arcade sounds.
The Australian soap opera Neighbours became infamous among schoolkids of the 90s for frequently showing one of the children playing a Nintendo Game Boywith no cartridge installed. This wasn't possible until Nintendo introduced the Game Boy Advance in 2001, which could load a game into RAM from another GBA or a GameCube.
This happened again in 2008. The child in question was still playing an original Game Boy.
Also in Neighbours, well past 2000, whenever a character played a computer game, the sound effects were the distinctive background music and projectile-launch sound effects of Magic Carpet, a game first released in 1994...
Harry Enfield's Kevin the teenager sketch starts as a sweet kid who spontaneously turns into a stereotypical teenager. On his thirteenth birthday, he opens a present and pulls out a Game Boy. He exclaims that "Mario Kart is babyish!" Heaven knows why, as Mario Kart wasn't on the Game Boy until Mario Kart Super Circuit for Game Boy Advance.
Even worse, he's clearly holding a copy of Wario Land.
Done by Feedback on Who Wants to Be a Superhero?. Despite his superhero identity getting his powers from video games, when asked to name his favorite game, he said Pong. However, he also mentions the Prince of Persia series, which is still going strong, so this may just be a nostalgia thing. (Or maybe he's just well aware of this trope.) Considering his official profile gets the details rightnote He gains powers from video games; the example given is Prince of Persia, saying that the game would give him the Prince's acrobatic skills and limited control over time., Genre Savvy is more likely.
Mike from Power Rangers Samurai is apparently a video game enthusiast, but the arcade game he is shown playing in one of the earliest episodes displays crude graphics and sounds typical of games from the late 1980's/early 1990's. Contrast this with the source material (Samurai Sentai Shinkenger), where, in the premiere episode, Chiaki is shown playing Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion. Of course, it helped that Namco/Bandai, publisher of Tekken 6, also sponsors the long-running Super Sentai series.
In two separate episodes of Roseanne, a Super NES is clearly being played, complete with actual sounds and music from Super Mario World and using the SNES controller realistically. However, both times the games is misidentified. Mark states the game deals with "skulls and blood" while Roseanne makes a comment about saving a monkey princess, two things definitely not in Super Mario World. There are skull rafts and blood-red lava in the Vanilla Dome of SMW; this may have confused the producers of Roseanne as much as it confused Luigi in "Mama Luigi". To top it off, the music in at least one of these episodes was from the game's title screen, which never occurs anywhere else in the game.
Scrubs features Turk playing a game on the Xbox 360. The footage seen is from Unreal Tournament III, but the show doesn't seem to be to get facts straight on anything, with the dialogue sounding more like they are playing Halo. Particularly hilarious is when Carla turns out to be the best player, but her actress obviously doesn't know how to hold the controller. Worst of all, the characters all explicitly mention that they are playing co-op mode on the same machine, but the screen clearly shows single-player mode in progress.
Life had an episode where the victim was tied to drug dealing, and the detectives figure out that he managed to store files pertaining to the crime on his Xbox. So they get the victim's sister, who they see making vaguely controller-like fiddly motions in the air for no good reason, to play through Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones until she gets to Level 10, which unlocks the files. Never minding the fact that the game itself doesn't have numbered levels, the people behind the show just decided to hack up footage from the game and randomly stick "level" screens between them to denote progress. To make matters worse, the player before the girl was brought in was shown dying a lot, even though one of the series' selling points is the ability to rewind time, and he claims the plot of the game is to, as he puts it, "Save the Princess, Farah", when Farah actually assists the player for a good portion of the game and doesn't need rescuing. (At least they got the name right.) View the idiocy here. To top it all off, there are plenty of easier, more accessible ways to hide files and easier, more accessible ways to get them back off the console. This, coupled with a lot of erroneous remarks involving game systems being "just hard drives with games on them", as well as a couple of rather nasty implications about gamers being losers, leads to a very grating episode.
In one episode of Monk Sharona's ex-husband comes back to mend fences, and in one scene plays Kinetica with Benji. It all looks pretty straight forward until his character dies from falling off the race track, where in the actual game it just resets the player. Benji states that he has "3 lives left." The ex-husband leaving the game also doesn't affect Benji's play. All of these inaccuracies make the game seem more similar to an old-fashioned arcade game.
In an episode of some Disney TV show (Hannah Montana or That's So Raven), two people were playing a video game together. One person had a GameCube controller, and the other had an Xbox 360 controller. True, a PC can use both 360 controllers and USB-adapted GCN controllers, but it's unlikely that was the case.
A truly atrocious example appeared in an episode of CSI: Miami, where a group of killers was linked to a GTA-esque game. Apart from the usual errors regarding "points" and "levels", the detectives determine that the killers are basing their actions on the game's plot. They ask the (fortunately local) game developer for details of the plot. Said developer refuses to tell them the game's plot, citing it as a "trade secret", and states that they will have to play the game to learn the plot, which they do. Apparently, no one involved with the show has ever so much as walked into a video game store, with prominent shelves of strategy guides proclaiming "all secrets revealed!" Or heard of GameFAQs.
If that wasn't enough, at the beginning of the episode a group of kids rob a bank with machine pistols, and one of them was shot by Delko after he tried to rape a woman for "extra points". It was later revealed they specifically picked a bank with a cop present (again, for extra points), the PR guy (yes, there was only one) encouraged them (and provided the guns) to do it for advertising purposes, one of the suspects was found to have "gamed himself to death", and the token Girl Gamer apparently did it to get in with the highly elitist gamers.
Somewhat averted in another CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode, one of the cases revolved around the death of an MMO player. The game shown, terminology, rankings and even a game-related TV show that sponsored a competition were a fairly realistic representation for what they showed. The only problem? Someone forgot to let them know that there's a difference between a multiplayer, team-based shooter and an MMO.
Episode 6 of Dexter has his girlfriend's son pick up a PS2 controller and start playing what appears to be Doom with Pac-Man sounds over the background music from Space Invaders.
A Season 3 episode has the eponymous Anti-Villain playing the PC version of Halo multiplayer... with completely foreign sound effects, including gunfire right out of Atari and an enemy "death rattle" akin to sound effects from TRON. Not to mention the fact that he was using only the keyboard.
A Step by Step episode had the family's stereotypically nerdy son becoming a "video game addict," complete with an ending where he goes to a support group and has a psychotic episode in which he angrily screams "I ALWAYS GET THE HIGHEST SCORE!!!" before breaking down and admitting he has a problem. The game which drives his addiction (indeed the only game he seems to have ever played) is a generic looking Galaga doppelganger which was outdated looking even for the show's time.
There's a video poker machine in multiple episodes of Sliders that produces Pitfall sound effects. At least they're in alternate dimensions.
In the episode "Avatar" of Stargate SG-1, the graphical representation of Teal'c's virtual reality adventure was created using actual gameplay footage from Stargate SG-1: The Alliance, which was an FPS based on the show that was, sadly, cancelled without a release.
In the season three episode of Stargate Atlantis "The Return," Elizabeth Weir needs to distract Hollywood Nerd Bill Lee, so she tries talking to him about World of Warcraft. She knows nothing about the game, but he does not notice; they both get so much wrong about it that it seems very likely, although this could be wishful thinking, that this instance was Stylistic Suck for the sake of Rule of Funny. Every term Weir and Lee used appears in World of Warcraft, and yet every single one is used incorrectly ("Mage" is referred to as a species, Bill refers to having a level 85 character before it was possible to do so, etc).
Two and a Half Men. Jake mentions that he wants to get the "new Final Fantasy game", and when he goes to a video store and gets the game, it turns out to be Final Fantasy X. Not only was the game about three years old at the airing of the episode, it clearly had the red Greatest Hits logo. And when he got home and started to play it, remixed music from Final Fantasy II could be heard.
Another example is when Jake plays his DS with a high volume and Alan gets annoyed by the Pac Man sounds, he plugs the cable to Jake's headphones into the charge slot on the top rather than the standard headphone jack on the bottom. Alan must have been used to the GBA SP, which uses special headphones that plug into the charge slot.
They also refer to that same DS as a 'Game Boy'.
Malcolm in the Middle. Mortal Kombat was discussed, and was being played on an actual console that had a version of MK on it. Although there aren't really levels in vs fighter games, just opponents that use harder AI later in a game. Also Sub-Zero has never been a final boss, except momentarily as one of Shang Tsung's morphs in the first game. There's also a scene where Reese is playing an original Game Boy without a cartridge.
Reese: No one believes I beat the last level of Mortal Kombat. Hal: Because that's just ridiculous. No one beats Sub-Zero!
Chappelle's Show went recursive, with the narrator calling "You give me Pac-Man Fever!" a hilarious video game joke. Not to mention when he claims to know about gamers and the PlayStation 2, which he proved by doing a live-action GTA spoof with 8-bit sound effects.
It was averted somewhat with the skit where Dave beats a kid with cancer in Street Hoops. While there was a bit of button mashing seen when they're playing, the skit featured actual footage from the game.
At the end of an episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy mentions that she and Frank still haven't beaten Mario 3. The scene comes so painfully close to inverting this trope: they both pick up NES controllers and when the game starts up, neither of them hammer on the buttons. But alas, the music that plays is not of Mario 3 at all, but instead that of Super Mario World.
An episode of Cold Case revolves around a fictional arcade game called Defector III. One of the detectives describes it as an RPG, then helpfully defines that as "Role Playing Game". When you see the game later, it is obviously a two-person fighter in the vein of Mortal Kombat.
An episode of Big Time Rush has a sequence where one tomboyish girl tries to avoid talking to a girly-girl she wants nothing to do with by hiding in the bathroom, playing video games. Sure enough, this is depicted as her randomly mashing buttons on a DS (that in all likelihood wasn't even turned on) as 8-bit music plays in the background.
On one episode of LOST Walt is playing a modern game (some overhead shooting game in a snowy setting or something) on a modern handheld system, and the sound effects are the classic Pac-Man ones.
In Glee, Finn can tell he's being affected by stress — he got killed on level two! Of, er, Halo 3, apparently. Maybe he was going for a No Damage Run?
In an episode of the German crime show Polizeiruf 110, a criminal smuggled pirated copies of a game called Killman 4 into the country. When the police officers get a copy of the game and play it on their PC (playing as in doing nothing and staring at the screen) the sounds heard are an air raid siren, rifle shots and screaming children. Even worse, the cover of the game shows African kid soldiers holding AK 47s.
iCarly's creators have used a pretty good (for something created specifically for the show) Guitar Hero or Rock Band-styled music games on several occasions. One major difference is it including the violin as well as more regular instruments. They must be playing The Corrs Rock Band or something. The next time it shows up, Carly is just playing Violin Hero and it includes bow power. They made a mistake however, with the notes still being hit when Carly stops playing to talk to Freddie when he enters. As the episode was Re Cut into an extended version shown a week later, they had actually fixed the error after it was pointed out to them after the original airing.
There is one episode where Spencer gets addicted to a game called "Pac(k) Rat" which has 8-bit graphics and sounds, but this would be a Justified Trope — Spencer specifically said he got this game from the dumpster, it was mentioned several times that the game in question was rather old, and it's actually an arcade game.
Bonus points as it is a parody of Pac-Man.
This game even has a (very unpleasant) Easter Egg: a dead raccoon.
Any Dan Schneider series is generally good about this, as they seemingly are set in a Shared Universe with the fictional Gamestation console.
In 2point4 Children, both Ben and David are avid gamers, with Ben getting addicted to the Fictional Video GameNinja Badger. Like many teenagers, David is obsessed with violent, gory games, often describing them in great detail. This is all well and good until one episode shows that he's playing Final Fantasy VII while talking about how "the torture master ripped out my spine again".
Law & Order: UK has a teenager using his Xbox 360 as an alibi for not committing a crime. Subsequent investigation shows that he was online at the time the crime was committed (not ridiculous at all), that he made three saves at three specific times (okay, real-world time is saved for a lot of games), and that he had to be the one who made them because the saves were password protected, which on the face of it appears to be this trope, except that you don't have to automatically sign into an XBox profile, meaning that the saves could have been protected because he was the only person who was able to sign into his profile to save the games in.
While generally decent about video games, NCIS flubbed several moments in Kill Screen. To begin with the episode name, they proposed that somehow an online MMORPG had a scoring system that caused it to crash. This was talked about like a common occurrence when "kill screens" such as that are much rarer in current video games than arcade machines. Even if this did exist, the computer-savvy characters would more likely refer to it as a "Screen of Death", the modern term.
Additionally, McGee stated that a witness held the high scores in multiple MMORPGs, a genre largely devoid of easily-tracked scoring systems.
Kill Screens don't even exist in video games anymore. They happened when the processor on certain events rolled over from 255 to zero, which caused a fatal error. Modern gaming engines can process numbers into the billions now, far further than most programmers or gamers would venture for the express purpose of breaking an engine.
In another episode, the kid of an army commander is shown playing a Nintendo DS, sound effects and all. The sound effects were indeed the ones heard when you turn on a DS; the one from the initial title screen, and the one from choosing a game to play. Unfortunately, that's ALL that was heard, as, for the next few minutes, the only sound effects were those two noises, looped ad nauseum. This either implies utter laziness by the show's sound guys, or the kid finds complete joy in repeatedly turning his DS on and off, which seems a tad unlikely, particularly with all the Button Mashing he was doing.
Clarissa Explains It All goes the opposite direction. Once per Episode, Clarissa will slap together a video game that she can use to vent her frustrations from her current dilemma. These games are graphically far beyond what could be done at the time, often using high resolution photos of Ferguson or her parents that rotate without any artifacts. Amusingly, both this style of graphics and the speed she can put the games together would make much more sense today in Flash.
Dynasty Warriors 4 makes repeat appearances in The O.C., yet the characters always play as Xiahou Dun and refer to the characters as "ninjas".
An episode of Just Shoot Me! has Maya buying Elliott a PlayStation for his birthday, and mentions buying several "cartridges" for it. (The use of CDs was arguably the most defining feature of the PlayStation against the Nintendo 64).
Good Luck Charlie seems to be very bad about this, as you can often see characters mashing Xbox 360 controllers to ancient chiptunes, and appear to have figured out how to play Wii Sports on a VCR.
Additionally, when Charlie's brothers bring a TV to their room, you can see two characters talking in a modern-esqe game... with heavy metal rock and machine gun sound effects in the background.
Breaking Bad had one partway through it's fourth season. Jesse Pinkman is seen playing Rage, which doesn't seem that odd except 1) The game wasn't out yet at the time of the episode's airing 2) It's clear he's playing a developer walkthrough trailer and 3) He's playing it with a light gun instead of a controller.
Worth nothing that the lightgun has nothing to do with the writer thinking lightgun games are still popular, but is in fact a character-based decision, as Jessie had recently murdered someone by shooting them in the head, and was struggling to deal with it.
Ghost Whisperer, in the episode "Ghost in the Machine", centered around what seemed to be a Second Life clone. While the graphics for the game, as it was depicted, were pretty close to on par with Second Life, the "graphics" when she jumps into the game (i.e. a live representation), are closer in quality to what a modern game would have, than the game depicted.
A MADtv skit has former US president George W. Bush being distracted by a Game Boy when being asked questions during a presidential debate. His response is "I have a question for you. Have you played Super Mario Brothers? I'm in the water level and I can't beat the Kooper Trooper." Super Mario Brothers was released on the Game Boy Color and the use of "Kooper Trooper" was to make fun of Bush's Verbal Tic so what's the problem? Koopa Troopas (nor Bowser, if that's who he's actually referring to) can't be found in water levels.
Frasier features a single but painful instance of this — at one point Frasier complains his son Frederick is spending his entire visit playing video games and is uninterested in anything he tries to do with him. As he says this Frederick is shown playing Game Boy on the sofa, with no game cartridge in the system.
Some 90's sitcoms have the characters (faking) playing games using controllers from a NES, but the sounds are clearly from Donkey Kong for the Atari 2600.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles has John playing Gears of War with somebody. Him playing it by randomly hitting buttons is justified, since he's never played an Xbox before and is given no instruction. The fact that the two players are shooting each other in what's clearly a co-op campaign, however...
In the BBC 3 series Coming of Age, one of the characters says he reached Level 14 on Final Fantasy XII. It might be a joke though, as the character in question is frequently portrayed as being Too Dumb to Live and reaching Level 14 in a Final Fantasy game isn't particularly impressive.
A scene in the US version of House of Cards has the main character Frank Underwood sitting in his basement playing an online deathmatch session from a Call of Duty title. Although Call of Duty games are first-person shooters, Frank isn't using the thumbsticks or any of the triggers much, but is mashing the face buttons like a madman. The in-game footage shown is used twice in the same scene.
In episode 2 of In The Flesh Dean is seen playing Resident Evil: Deadly Silence on a Nintendo DS... with Atari 2600-like sounds.
The Middle got close in "One Kid At A Time", where the family is seen playing Dance Dance Revolution Extreme on beginner mode on a real cabinet (with dubbed over music and actual in-game footage)... which has a marquee for DDR X2 on it unknown reasons (X2 was never released in the U.S. for "old" cabinets).
An episode of The Big Bang Theory had the gang playing a Donkey Kong version of Jenga, and they talk about DK having a son to whom he passes on his knowledge of "kidnapping princesses". The lady Donkey Kong kidnaps is not Princess Peach but Pauline, a regular woman who was once Mario's girlfriend. Peach wasn't even introduced until 4 years after the original Donkey Kong came out, and her usual kidnapper is Bowser, as anyone who's ever held a controller in their life could tell you. Additionally Donkey Kong Junior was about Jr. saving his dad from Mario with no damsels involved.
Machinae Supremacy is built on enforcing this trope. They're making 2010 metal with help from the Commodore 64 SID chip.
Herman Li, guitarist for DragonForce, often slips Pac-Man-esque wails into his songs, referring to them in interviews as "video game sound effects". You can also see the trope in action in the band's music video for Operation Ground and Pound. Note that both guitarists are actually gamers, the sequence was their idea, and Li actually owns the TurboGrafx-16 seen in the video.
Being a seasoned gamer and a lover of the classics, Lupe Fiasco purposely invokes the trope in his music video for "I Gotcha", in which he is briefly shown sitting on a couch playing Pong, 80s one-button joystick and all.
In the song "Go Go Gadget Flow" : "All me, no ghost no 16-bit like Sega GENESIS."
He mentions Atari a lot in his songs. Like in "Go Baby": But we go back like a set of Ataris...from baby fat til we skeletons, darling...me starring you is what it says on the marquee, so lets go give 'em a show!"
In Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" video, the lyric goes, "Next to this new chic she like cola, next to the PlayStation controller." But the controller seen in the girl's hand is clearly an Xbox controller. See it here (at 0:50).
LM.C's song John starts with various sound effects from Super Mario, e.g. the "Get coin" and "Become Big" effects.
Also in Bully, since the game seems to take place in modern times, but all the arcade games are 80s-esque because they're cheap (the school), stolen (the clubhouses), or nostalgic (the comic book shop).
Complete Me and My Katamari, and you'll be taken to an 8-bit minigame with a blooping version of "Katamari on the Rock", with the King commenting entertainingly on the graphics.
The "Void Quest" dungeon in Persona 4 has wall textures, sound effects and a graphics style that appear as though is an NES era jRPG (even if it is in the same 3d as the rest of the game). Yosuke actually notes that it is "retro". The boss of the dungeon even attacks using the menu from theoriginal Shin Megami Tensei
Each of the main Pokémon games feature Nintendo's current home console in the player's room. However, due to the gap between the Japanese and English releases, the English version of Red and Blue featured a SNES, even though the games were released after the N64. This made even less sense in those games' GBA remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen, in which the hero(ine) has an NES (as it's basically product placement for discontinued products).
GBA also has the Classic NES Series, budget Game Paks that ran an old NES game in an emulator.
In something of a Real Life version of this trope, most handheld Super Robot Wars games, with the possible exception of the Original Generation series, are noted as having sound quality well below the standard of the generation they appeared in. Considering how dense they are, it is understandable they'd have to make cuts to save cart space somewhere.
In some of the WarioWare games, 9-Volt's and 18-Volt's stages take on an 8-bit look. When they do, they use only NES chiptune instruments in their background music. This is due to their being Nintendo fans, NES fans in particular, who also happen to be game designers.
In Sonic Colors, each set of stages in Game Land remixes music from the rest of the game to sound like they came out of an NES, though some actually more closely resemble the Sega Master System.
Conkers Bad Fur Day featured one of Conker's idle animations as him pulling a yellow Game Boy Color and playing the GB version of Killer Instinct, immediately recognizable for its world-famous theme music. It also played sometimes Sabrewulf's theme, and Jago's theme from KI2 for no apparent reason whatsoever. In the Xbox remake, Conker: Live & Reloaded, the themes of Cinder, Spinal, Riptor, and T.J. Combo are part of the theme rotation.
Parodied in thisSluggy Freelance strip. Kada refers to the game as "Super Graphical 3D Battle Area In 3D(tm)" and the game options offer everything from "battle smells" to "monkeys", but what we actually see on the holographic screen looks like crude black-and-white 8-bit graphics — specifically, arcade classic Berzerk.
Sluggy normally averts this. Older strips made reference to real games and systems. Later on, he switched to using obvious Bland Name Products of current systems (The Playstashun and the SuWii). The game that comes up the most often is Fashion Rancher and various spinoffs, most likely a reference to the Monster Rancher series, and possibly a Take That at the Dead or Alive volleyball games.
In one lonelygirl15 video, the hopelessly geeky Hollywood Nerd is giving all the "regular" characters training. For the Playful Hacker who is the only one who finds him Beautiful All Along, it is revealed that her training is in... what's this? Frogger? Centipede? Aren't these... video games? How is this training?! But, as he is a Trickster Mentor, this is shown to be just what they needed to give them the edge. Of course, playing is done by holding a Jakks Pacific TV Game, a self-contained AA battery-powered device with only composite inputs for televisions, up in front of a (shown from behind) laptop and saying "Look out for the ghost! Turn right! OH MY GOD!"
Homestar Runner intentionally uses this trope, as Strong Bad seems to have an outdated understanding of technology. He regularly references Atari and NES-style games as if they were the latest thing. However, references to later systems such as the Sega Genesis and the Nintendo 64 have appeared in the series.
Surprisingly, The Irate Gamer suffers a severe case of the fever. Any time he's shown using his controller he's Button Mashing or swinging it around like he's dancing. This is notably bad when he uses an NES controller for games that are obviously not NES titles.
This is especially bad when he mashes buttons to games such as Mario is Missing! and freaking Tetris.
Naturally, the Third Rate Gamer parodies this in the most exaggerated way possible.
Invoked in a episode of ENN, where Jeremy Petter interviews a representative of Atari. When the rep shows him a commercial for The Witcher 2, it shows Paul holding a keyboard like he's playing Frets On Fire while playing a RPG.
In The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of Winter Games, he outright mentions this trope. The controls were so frustrating and unresponsive that he says the only way to actually win is to just randomly push buttons and hope something good happens. He then mentions movies where characters are randomly mashing buttons, joking that they're in fact playing "Winter Games"
Kim Possible defines video gaming as a favorite pastime of several characters, but all the games depicted on-screen are extremely old-fashioned. The only exception is a sophisticated MMORPG called Everlot, which is at the center of a whole episode's plot; scenes in the game are rendered in a different style but not a noticeably primitive one.
The American Dad! episode "There Will Be Bad Blood" (aired in 2010) has Steve playing a very old-fashioned console.
Futurama Parodies this, with characters playing a dead ringer for the original Game Boy with Arcade Sounds... in the year 3000.
Not to mention, the "Gender Neutral Pac-Person" arcade machine in "The Series Has Landed".
Early in the first Jimmy Timmy Power Hour, Timmy is seen playing a video game called The Decimator. It's in 3D (foreshadowing the game's role to the plot, as it comes into [sorry] play in Jimmy's universe) but played on a "Game Buddy" (guess what handheld it is based on) and comes on a CD. Everything else in the screen is animated in standard The Fairly OddParentsThick-Line Animation. And speaking of the game itself, Timmy downloads the game's files into Goddard, turning him into a killer humanoid robot who blows things up to progress through levels (in both definitions, as he grows in size and consequently, takes on tougher subjects to a point where he indirectly menaces Retroville by targeting a factory).
Danny Phantom features Danny playing a game called "Doomed", a game that's part TRON homage, part FPS, and still (just like Doom II) uses the numbered level system. Not to mention the fact that it's a leveled online game which apparently gives the winner access to the Internet, despite being online in the first place, making it the equivalent of a needlessly complicated firewall.
The arcade game in the Rugrats episode "Diapers and Dragons" seems to be a sidescrolling platformer (from what's shown before we go into Deep-Immersion Gaming) with Super Mario Bros. style music (and the objective is, of course, Save the Princess). A bit more advanced than the usual Pac-Man Fever, but still, in 2003? (And, of course, the babies are able to play it quite well by hitting buttons at random, but if the babies couldn't achieve things babies normally can't by hitting things at random, it wouldn't be Rugrats.)
Of course, considering that no one ever ages in that show anyway (made absolutely ridiculous when baby Dil was conceived at the end of one season and born in the feature film released before the next season began — but the babies are not one year older when the new season picks up), we might presume that it's not 2003, but rather 1991, when the show debuted. At best, that's the dawn of the 16-bit era.
The second movie retcons that by having the Internet so it's 1996 at earliest. It's a bit old school even then considering the 64 bit era was starting but not a stretch.
One egregious example appeared on an episode of The Secret Show. Everyone was buzzing about the popular new game system, "The Hand." It was simply a vat of "nano-goo" that users dipped their hands into, causing the goo to harden around their hands and turn them into portable game systems and controllers. Despite the ludicrously advanced technology the system is based on, it makes references to linear levels and only seems to play one built-in game. Single-game consoles weren't even made between the '70s and 2001, when Jakks Pacific introduced Plug and Play TV Games.
The Venture Bros. season 1, episode 10 "Are You There God? It's Me, Dean" has Pete White playing what can be inferred to be Grand Theft Auto III, due to the graphics on screen, realistic sound effects and Pete making references to doing "a drive-by mission for the Yardies" and being able to see player stats by pressing the Start Button... on what looks like a Nintendo 64 controller.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends occasionally features Bloo playing a video game that looks and sounds exactly like the Atari game Asteroids, and trying to beat other people's high scores. Somewhat justified in that the world of Foster's clearly isn't the world we know, but then again, Frankie has a modern computer and they do have their own versions of eBay and YouTube.
In the Gargoyles episode "M.I.A.", Goliath and Griff see a British teenager walking down the street playing a portable game; the sound effects in it come from the NES game The Adventures of Bayou Billy. The trio are occasionally seen playing video games with rather primitive graphics, as well.
An episode of King of the Hill plays with this, when a couple of school teachers make a Grand Theft Auto-clone themed around Hank to make fun of him, which also seems to have online functionality. However, both of those could be easily explained as a GTAGame Mod, but it's doubtful whether the creators were aware of that.
The two kids in question were explained as to designing and making their own video games, so assumingly they did all this from scratch (in a matter of days), so it's likely the creators were totally clueless. It does reach a humorous pitch when Hank is more upset about inaccuracies in how they portray his own work; such as the grills that make up the scenery having incorrect logos.
The episode plays around the controversy as well. Initially, Hank was upset about the violence present in the game but started to enjoy it once he found out that you can be a heroic vigilante instead of a ruthless criminal. If anything, they're aware of Grand Theft Auto's premise. Although, why the game developers are portrayed as hipsters is anybody's guess.
It might be Author Appeal, but in Regular Show, there seems to be a lot of pre-3D games being played. Of course, there's a lot of other 80s stuff, too. Either Mordecai and Rigby are just into that whole retro thing, they actually think it's current, or the show is set in Wyoming, since it's made clear several times that the series takes place in "the present day".
It's most likely author appeal, since there are quite a few shout-outs to other games, not to mention the fact that the primitive state of the games are lampshaded in one episode.
The show takes place in an alternate universe, so the 80s style of the games is explained by that. The games themselves generally make sense internally (again, in the universe's logic), with just enough weird stuff to be entertaining, like someone getting 1 more point in a game where every other high score is a multiple of 100.
The main characters are a 6-foot-tall anthropomorphic talking bluejay and a talking racoon (with a yeti and a living gumball machine as major secondary characters). It would be more surprising if the video games were entirely realistic. If you insist upon an in-universe explanation, Mordecai & Rigby are just-barely-not-broke slackers; their console is probably some twenty-year-old model they dug out of someone's trash
Fanboy and Chum Chum: the only games seen in the show so far were arcade games and a digital pet, even though the characters have mentioned the Internet on at least one occasion.
In the "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Edward Nygma has created a video game so popular that a multi-billion dollar theme park attraction is built based on it. When we see the actual game the graphics are only at Intellivision level. The gameplay is more akin to Interactive Fiction than a video game, and old school interactive fiction to boot. And this version of Gotham City is, if anything, Twenty Minutes into the Future ... May have been intentional, since this would go with the anachronistic style of the show's take on Gotham City, where it's clearly the present day and modern tech abounds, but people dress like it's 1930 and TV is broadcast in black and white.
In "Dan Vs. the Mechanic", Chris and Elise are shown playing a video game whose actual graphics are mostly off-screen. Later, when Chris is playing it by himself, he is clearly holding the controller upside-down◊.
Zigzagging Trope on Teen Titans. The male characters would frequently play video games in their downtime, which sported the same look as the animation in the show. In one episode, they were clearly playing F-Zero. On the other hand, one episode had Robin playing a Galaga-style shooter and totally flipping out because he beat Cyborg's high score.note Although this isn't out of character for Robin at least, since he is dangerously super-competitive.
Hard to pull off a real life example, but: Penny Arcade's stock promotional shot of the two creators deliberately invokes this tropes, showing Krahulik and Holkins flailing around on a couch, pretending to play a game. Holkins is holding a PSP as if it's a controller and Krahulik is holding an Xbox 360 controller upside down.
This news announcement about GTA4, on RAI (the Italian national broadcasting company), featuring a guy furiously mashing random buttons DURING THE TRAILER. Obviously, they're talking about the game in "Seduction of the innocents"-like terms, because GTA4 doesn't have RE4-style interactive cut scenes.
Retrogaming can make this trope Truth in Television. Traditional arcade games are rather popular, and there are countless websites that are about playing flash games.
There's a battery commercial that features a kid playing what looks to be a (fictional) Game Boy Advance fighting game against his grandpa, and defeating him over and over — until his batteries start dying on him, allowing his grandpa to turn the tables. The notably true-to-life moment comes when we see the grandpa's character continuing to land sorta-registered blows even as his opponent falls, which seems to indicate that someone on the team, at least, was doing their homework.
Anime & Manga
Episode 28 of Sgt. Frog shows Natsumi playing a game that's obviously supposed to be the first Dobutsu no Mori, better known in the states as Animal Crossing. A much later episode shows kid Keroro playing what is clearly Super Mario Bros., and few episodes after that, we get one about the characters entering a RPG that is very clearly a Dragon Quest parody.
That first one got spoofed in the dub, where Fuyuki asks what she's playing because he's never seen that GameCube game before.
Shigofumi does a wonderful subversion of this trope. In ep 10, a young girl, obsessed with playing a very accurate — though genericized, of course — depiction of Animal Crossing, bonds with a thirty-something otaku, pondering the meaninglessness of his life after a cancer diagnosis, over the game which the otaku, in fact, designed and programmed most of. The video game is shown to be a form of communication and a means to establish a friendship, rather than the hobby of pathetic shut-ins and socially maladjusted weirdoes.
The opening sequence, in fact, features a clip of Sol Badguy performing a simple combo... and the music is timed to match the move.
Be prepared to watch the exact same footage of Sol curb-stomping Jam over and over and over and over again, though.
Lucky Star's video games are often fairly accurate parodies of real games (unless you count Arcade Sounds half the time when the characters play any console games); unsurprising, since one of the main characters is a game otaku.
The OVA goes one-up with an RPG Episode rendered in full 3D with (of course) lots of snarking about various game mechanics. For an idea of how convincing it is, just go count the number of YouTube commentors saying that they'd play it if it were real.
In Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (which takes place in the future), the hacker Lee Sampson seems to spend a lot of time playing updated versions of old 1980s 8-bit games. However, this is explained by Lee, who voices contempt at modern games and idealizes the games from the early days of hacking.
In a late Manga chapter of Ranma ˝, Ranma and his childlike teacher Hinako play what is obviously Street Fighter II on Hinako's Super Famicom, with Ranma's Ryu easily beating Hinako's Chun Li. This chapter was published circa 1994, during Street Fighter II's heyday; amusingly, several Ranma ˝ fighting games were also released during this period.
Kure-nai has Murasaki playing on (and breaking) a DS, and the game is shown to be Phantom Hourglass (Though this editor thinks it looked more like Wind Waker, but pretty close).
In one of the final chapters of Mai-HiME, Nagi is shown playing a DS when the heroes confront him. He's even wearing headphones and using the stylus.
Houkago Play makes numerous references to the games the characters play even when the title is not mentioned or played off screen. Made even better when they make references to obscure things like soundtracks. You can actually figure out the titles if you follow the clues.
A Channel has a scene in the second episode where Run and Toru play an expy of Mario Kart Wii on two Wii Remotes. They appear to be using them accurately, even using the option to steer with motion controls. They also bother Yuuko by holding their remotes up to her head, but that's neither here nor there.
Pokémon: "The School of Hard Knocks" has Joe play a battle simulator that resembles the battle system in Pokémon Red and Blue, which was new at the time of the respective Japanese and American airdates.
Bleach has a character with videogame powers who plays with this Trope a bit. Though he plays really old-looking games and his powers usually activate as a bunch of pixels, he uses something that looks suspiciously like a PSP, and when challenged to do his best, he proves that he can, in fact, produce very detailed graphics and animation. It is also made abundantly clear that, to make his powers work, he actually has sophisticated knowledge of coding and computers.
A few characters in Ano Hana play a "Nokemon" game that's a clone of one of the first Pokémon games (which came out many years before this anime). They comment on how ridiculously old the game is, though, and are apparently playing it for the nostalgia.
MAD's "The Lighter Side Of" often features kids who are playing video games on consoles that vaguely resemble actual ones. However, one strip shows a girl eagerly grasping the controller while the disk door is open.
Played with in the beginning of Toy Story 2. While the graphics are every bit as advanced as the movie's animation (and intentionally so)note so much so that some Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games look slightly worse or merely as good a decade later, the "game over" screen puts retro sounding video game music with just the two words "GAME OVER". Also, the system being played is a Super Nintendo (albeit with the Super Famicom/PAL controller), which was more-or-less current when writing began.
In the 2006 CGI film Monster House, uber-nerd Skull is a purported master of Thou Art Dead, an arcade game at the pizza joint he works for. He is shown playing it when the main characters go to consult him about the neighborhood's supposedly haunted house. The game shown on the screen is actually the side-scrolling platform game Barbarian published for home computers back in 1987. While the graphics were indeed advanced and breathtaking by the standards of 1987, modern viewers would find the low-resolution pixelated 2D graphics very dated. (The film's producers obviously took the in-movie name for the game from the iconic game over screen which featured the skeletal Big Bad of the game leering at the player with the words "THOU ART DEAD" in flaming letters)
Actually, this is likely intentional, as the film itself is a homage to Spielberg movies of the '70s and '80s, especially 1982's Poltergeist. While never stated outright, various props (cassette tapes, old-style housephones with the looping-cord, etc.) imply that it shares the same time period.
Disney's Wreck-It Ralph plays with this, given the setting. The main character is from a faux Donkey Kong-era game, and a lot of the sound effects are classic arcade bleep bloops, but the crux of the plot involves visiting a variety of different Video Game worlds, at least one of which is basically Halo as a light-gun rail shooter. Ralph is even horrifically amazed at how much games have evolved since his own day, and of course it's played for laughs.
The word "retro" is even mentioned, and is stated as "Old, but cool."
The biggest difference between the movie's universe and the real world — aside from video game characters being secretly alive a la Toy Story — is that apparently arcades have never been displaced by home computers and consoles as the primary venue for gaming; hence, hot new titles continue to be released as increasingly high-tech cabinets. Arcade-only games even have their own TV commercials, which end with a plug for the nearest arcade that carries them.
Similarly, in Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead, playing TimeSplitters (appropriately a UK-developed shooter game) on a PS2 is depicted accurately, aside from a "Player 2 has entered the game" voiceover narration added for the audience's benefit.
Reign Over Me features Shadow of the Colossus extensively. The original plan was to go with this trope, but the film's editor insisted on the aforementioned game, for character reasons.
They did refer to it as "Shadows of the Colossus", however.
In Going the Distance, the main character is playing an old Centipede arcade machine properly, even correctly using the classic 80s "put a quarter on the machine console to reserve my turn" arcade etiquette.
The film version of Night Watch had the Big Bad practicing for a coming battle by playing a fighting game with some sort of sword controller.
Though maybe he isn't practicing. If you read the book, the Others can look at probability lines and that may be a visual way of the Big Bad looking at the probability lines to see if he would win.
The Mexican film Duck Season is very accurate in depicting two 14-year-old boys playing Halo, with the TV even announcing "Slayer", the typical versus mode in the game, as they begin. The only unrealistic detail is the improbably frequent rate, based on the sounds, at which their characters seemed to die.
Maybe not that improbable. Spawncamping can lead to rather frequent death, though that would end the match fairly quickly. It all depends on if they were playing 1v1 or online.
The 2010 movie Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief has one of the good characters (who turns out to be the bad guy after all) playing Modern Warfare2, on an Xbox 360, playing online with other players, which is surprising, seeing that he lives in a forest full of mythical Greek god-children.
That last part's actually very accurate for someone who's used to playing single-player constantly, and is now getting into multiplayer for the first time. And no, hearing/reading someone go "WHAT THE HELL I paused it!" never gets old.
There is a PS3 controller PC driver that makes it emulate a 360 controller, this is actually one of the easiest ways to play PC games with such a controller.
The 2009 movie The Hurt Locker shows Eldridge playing Gears of War while he talks to the platoon therapist, complete with the actual game sound effects and video. The only trouble is that while the movie is set in 2004, Gears was released in 2006.
The 1996 movie Swingers, featured the characters arguing over NHL Hockey '94 on the Genesis. They even referred to the lack of fighting in that version of the game, but that's made up for by being able to make Wayne Gretzky's head bleed.
The actual game they were playing is NHLPA Hockey 93.
In Disturbia, we see Shia LaBeouf play a bit of G.R.A.W., complete with accurate graphics, sound, and on an Xbox 360, one of the systems this game was released on.
This trope is still in play, since he's playing a mission from the single-player campaign, when he's depicted as playing on Xbox Live.
The video game horror movie Stay Alive was quite accurate in its name-dropping, likely because they hired CliffyB of Epic Games as a consultant.
Still, they managed to mix up two games, admittedly in the same series. Early in the movie the protagonist's boss is asking about beating the final boss in Silent Hill 4, when he's actually describing the trick method of beating the final boss from the first game. This might have been done because such a trick only exists for the first game and the latest game in the series at the time was the fourth, so mostly this is nitpicking.
While the game shown in the beginning of Big was fictional, it was an extremely accurate representation of a common genre of game at the time the movie was made.
Lost in Translation has a scene set in an arcade game center in Japan; some of the games shown are Taiko no Tatsujin / Taiko Master and Pop'n Music; someone does a freestyle routine on the Pop'n machine.
In Four Christmases, a character is playing a game in one scene, and sounds from the classic Donkey Kong are heard... and then it is shown that he is playing with a Wii Classic Controller, meaning that he actually is playing Donkey Kong on the Virtual Console.
The Score has the main character (Robert De Niro) phone someone who is shown playing Quake III: Arena. At one point the kid pauses, so it's assumed that he's cursing bots, not humans (or the pausing would invoke this trope).
The title video game in Spy Kids 3D: Game Over uses levels and has no apparent storyline, but does at least look like a 21st century video game with 3D graphics and so forth. On the DVD Commentary, Robert Rodriguez says he had his sons play a lot of video games for him as research. Needless to say, this made them think he was the coolest dad ever.
The King of Kong is a documentary about Donkey Kong world records. There were embellishments and inaccuracies with the overall story, but the game itself was described well.
Towards the beginning of Zathura, the younger of the two brothers is shown playing Jak 3, not only with the relevant music and sound effects, but also showing him controlling it properly (i.e., he was actually playing the game). No surprise - Zathura was produced by Sony company Columbia Pictures, making this Product Placement as well.
In 3 Ninjas one of the main characters is seen playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on an NES in his room. More impressively, he's actually playing rather than button-mashing, and has made it to level 5-1 (whereas most examples of real-game footage shown in fiction tend to come from the first ten minutes of gameplay).
You can see him pull off some crossovers at 13 seconds in.
He's playing an actual DDR song, and a Konami original, to boot ("Hana Ranman," aka "Flowers")
He's playing on Expert difficulty, and has at least a 100 combo going when the camera shows the screen.
Of course, Hollywood has a creative way of making sure some of this Trope still exists, but it doesn't make the scene (or Jim Carrey) any less awesome.
Surprisingly, TRON doesn't have much screen time for actual games to outright invoke or avert this trope. Everyone at Flynn's Arcade seems to be using their controls properly, and Pac-Man sounds are justified, since the film takes place in 1982. Space Paranoids borders on invoking the trope, since its pretty obvious Flynn isn't really playing it, but keep in mind that those graphics are more advanced than anything else in the arcade.
Averted in Hitman. When Agent 47 runs through the hotel, he enters the room where two kids play a modern console game. One of the games the movie is based upon, to be precise. Although played straight in that two kids are playing a single-player game.
While there is an anachronistic 8-bit wrestling game in The Wrestler, it's used to demonstrate how the main character is caught up in the past, not because the writers think that's how all games are. The kid he's talking to even mentions Call of Duty, and is clearly bored by the 80's fossil Randy keeps on playing. The game itself is fake, but not entirely: the director commissioned two programmers to create a playable NES game for use in the movie just to fully avoid Pac-Man Fever.
There is a porn video where a girl is distracted by her boyfriend while playing Warcraft 3 (with the proper sounds). Of course, this is a Real Life style video. Well, Porn always liked technology...
When Columbus mentions in Zombieland that he'd spent the two days before the outbreak playing World of Warcraft in his apartment, the shot on his computer is distinctly the game in question. Specifically, his character's in the Silverwing Flag Room in Warsong Gulch.
Strangely, Real Steel has an inversion. Since this is set in the future, we see ads for the Xbox 720. However, all other advertisements we see in the movie have their current 2011 logos and slogans.
Super 8: Amidst the chaos of the air force taking over their town, when the boys break into the school, Cary wants to retrieve his confiscated Mattel Electronic Football game. Justified in that it's 1979 and the medium was still in its infancy.
In Stormbreaker, Alex gets a modified Game Boy Color (a Nintendo DS in the film version) and cartridges that not only have the games themselves but also provide the modified GB Color with useful functions. Two of these games, Nemesis and Bomber Boy (aka Atomic Punk in the United States), are actual Game Boy titles. Sadly though, Alex never uses the game parts of the cartridges.
In Skeleton Key, he gets a Game Boy Advance with a Rayman game that doubles as a Geiger counter.
Christopher Brookmyre regularly averts this trope, and several of his books not only mention various real life games, but also clan gaming, DS homebrew, and mods. Of course, his books will also contain nods to a number of games, as well as more general consideration of video gaming tropes.
Malcolm in the Middle was very current with its representation of The Sims as "The Virts". Sort of. It was actually a homebrew game accidentally discovered on a machine by Malcolm, presumably predating The Sims by a number of years. It was functionally similar though.
In Spaced, Tim is clearly shown playing Resident Evil 2. Actual footage of the game is shown, he holds the controller normally, and actual sound effects and music from the game is used. The RPD lobby music from the game is even used for that episode's title sequence. In the commentary, Simon Pegg, who played Tim, says that he was actually playing the game even when the camera didn't show the screen, because he and director Edgar Wright were sick of the above trope. He also plays many other games, including Tekken 2, Time Crisis, and Tomb Raider, which sometimes intrude into the 'real' world.
In a display of doing the research, when Daisy said something while Tim was playing, Tim pressed the pause button before turning to speak to her.
Simon also missed his lines quite few times because he got too engrossed in the game.
However, before Daisy leaves to go to the shop, Tim is clearly at the start of the game, having not even reached the RPD yet. When Daisy gets back, Tim is at the end of the game, in the run-up to the final boss battle of Leon's scenario. Either Daisy took hours at the shop or Tim is just ridiculously awesome at Resident Evil.
Also, Daisy has a go at Tekken one of episodes. She is convincing as a non/infrequent gamer who, in willing the character to obey her commands, embellishes each button-press by shouting "Kick!" and jerking the controller to the side.
In the US version of Shameless, there is a scene where Ian, Mickey, and Mandy play Halo: Reach together. Not only do they show actually game footage, they use the correct controllers, sound effects, etc. Apart from some sound effects not corresponding to that the actors are actually doing, overall it is a pretty accurate portrayal. Hell, there's not even a hint of seizure on the actors' part.
Despite being released in the early 90s, Parker Lewis Can't Lose was brilliantly in touch with video games. This mostly related to cameos (Mario games, mentioning Altered Beast, showing Sega and Nintendo logos in shops), but one episode focused a lot more on them dealing with Jerry's addiction to video games. While still having a lot of humour, it still took on the issue sensibly and intelligently, and ended in a way that showed that the writers had more insight into what video games were about then the vast majority of TV creators, then or since.
Sitcom The Big Bang Theory includes a number of stereotypical geeks who play stereotypical games — most notably, World of Warcraft and Halo. They slip up sometimes, but they do demonstrate they do their research.
In episode three of the second season, Sheldon shows Penny the MMORPGAge of Conan, to which she becomes addicted. The game as well as the behaviour of the players ("I'm AFK", level meaning character-level, enchanted armour etc.) is very well-depicted, with the Rule of Funny exception that, at the end, the characters mouths' moved in sync with what the players spoke over their headsets.
One episode opens with the guys preparing to assault the Gates of Elzebub to claim the Sword of Azeroth in World of Warcraft. Neither the location or the sword exist in the actual game. However, when Sheldon gets the sword and teleports out of the dungeon leaving the rest to die to the enemies, he snarks "I don't know why you're surprised, I'm a night elf rogue, don't you read the character profiles?", and that race and the class do exist. Furthermore afterwards he asks if anyone wants to log on to Second Life and have a swim in his new pool.
In another episode, the characters are playing Boxing in Wii Sports, complete with look-alike Miis.
And in yet another episode, Sheldon plays Super Mario 64 on an emulator on his laptop. They even used accurate sound effects: when Sheldon pauses the game to talk to someone, they use the actual pause sound from Mario 64. How many non-geeks do you know who know what an emulator is?
On the other hand, playing Halo apparently consists of rotating the analog stick as quickly as possible while hitting buttons at random, though based on their comments and the sounds, they're playing some game called Halo that isn't part of the Halo franchise.
On the other end of the scale, in another episode Sheldon plan to play Zork.
Apparently Sheldon sucks at Mario Kart Wii. This makes sense when you remember Sheldon never learned how to drive, and his efforts on a simulator eventually involve him driving through a mall and crashing through store windows.
In another episode, Howard and Sheldon are shown to want to play Soul Calibur instead of working on their project of getting more women into the hard sciences. Rule of Funny dictates that they both use female characters wearing very little in the way of clothing.
Veronica Mars has characters playing video games that are recognizable as Gears of War and Mario Kart, although they are generally button mashing and are playing Gears on an original Xbox, a feat no mere mortal could accomplish.
A Season One episode took the research even further; in order to reveal the fraud of a couple of game programmers, Veronica lured them in with promises to see "the new Matrix Online" before it was released. When the episode was aired, The Matrix Online was both still yet to be released and also anticipated.
It was distracting, though, that three people were gathered around, controllers in hand, to play what looked like a single/first person shooter. Also the fact that in the middle of the game Veronica was able to pick up a controller and start button mashing immediately.
Csi Ny had an episode, "Down the Rabbit Hole", using Second Life. Where an assassin uses the program to get to her targets. However, just like South Park, some of the things shown on the show are misleading to what is possible to do in-game.
Another episode involved the professional gaming scene by way of a murder connected to a Gears of War 3 tournament. They get the details right.
NCIS featured an episode where the team was protecting a particularly Gibbsian preteen boy. To amuse him, McGee provided him with an accurately named a Nintendo DS. Only problem? Judging by the sounds, the kid in question was involved in an intense and gripping session of Pictochat. The DS was brand new however, putting it at the point where Pictochat got used before it is forgotten.
NCIS was generally good with game technology. All (at the time of broadcast) current gen consoles and handhelds got namechecked.
In an episode McGee sat in what is essentially the NCIS command centre, playing Unreal Tournament with the boy he was guarding.
However, in an episode where a sailor is playing out his MMORPG in real life, Abby hacks the game to get his account name by storming the castle.
One episode has the NCIS team question a Japanese kid who just saw the criminal they were chasing. When the kid says that the criminal escaped in a Kuruma, Dinozzo assumes he just meant car ("Kuruma" is Japanese for car) until McGee not only identified that the Kuruma is a specific car in the Grand Theft Auto games (specifically III and Liberty City Stories), but also identified what real life car it's based on so they could put out an APB. The only flaw in this is that the car actually resembles more than one real life car, which would result in an APB going after several different makes.
The Dead Zone got it right in a way that would have been remarkable if it hadn't smacked of blatant Product Placement. A Christmas episode featured as its B plot Johnny Smith's quest to get his son a copy of Ratchet: Deadlocked, which is not only a very real game, but we see the game and its immediate predecessor Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal actually played in the episode.
Another episode features a storyline involving the employees at the Stamford branch playing the first Call of Duty. The actors were supposedly taught how to play the game before filming.
They know enough about Second Life culture to make snarky jokes about it:
Dwight: "There are no winners or losers."
Jim: "Oh, there are losers."
Nicely averted in an episode of Psych. In order to get on the good side of another police officer, a detective heads to her house on Thanksgiving with the gift of a Wii that he got as seized property during a recent drug bust. He proceeds to play Boxing in Wii Sports accurately with the woman's young cousins, using the punching motion controls and even getting too into it and having the kids complain about how good he was. It does however fall into cousin trope Hollywood Law. Unless he got it at a police auction for a completed case, taking seized property anywhere is a big no-no, especially with him being a By-the-Book Cop.
One episode of The Suite Life On Deck features several of the characters getting involved in a social MMORPG, similar to IMVU and the like; when footage of the game is shown, it's done in CGI, but not in a noticeably primitive way, and despite the lack of a HUD it could probably pass for a real game. There's even a Shout-Out to Cave Story at one point.
The episode "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer" was a mixed bag. The actual play of Missile Command was realistic, but its knowledge of how the game worked was deeply flawed. The "killscreen" referred to by the characters is actually more of a Nonstandard Game Over. And the programmer and company responsible for the game were portrayed as East Asian, whereas Atari and programmer Dave Theurer were both American.
In Season 2 Episode 9 of Knight Rider ("Soul Survivor"), the main character plays the new-at-the-time Pac-Man.
Pac-Man seems to be a favorite of KITT's; in the made-for-TV movie Knight Rider 2000, KITT complains to Michael in an early scene that he can no longer play Pac-Man due to his state of disassembly (to which Michael replies, "you're dating yourself, pal. Pac-Man's in the Smithsonian now.")
An episode of New Tricks had Jack Halford speaking to some college guys about the murder of an old flatmate of theirs. Throughout the discussion, they're playing a generic Point Blank clone on a Wii using the Wii Zapper. All the sounds, movements, etc matched up, although oddly enough the pub at the end of the episode just happens to have an arcade cabinet with the exact same game on it.
In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the team has to investigate a game that looks a lot like Second Life. Turns out that the killer they're looking for has made a replica of one of his earlier killings in said game. It's on the side of a lake, and they need to find the real world-cabin, so Olivia has to yell at the owner to "Turn on the sun!" in order to determine which side of the lake. He actually hesitates before deciding between catching a serial killer and inconveniencing his players. Apparently L&O doesn't have Google Maps.
In an episode of Threshold, Lucas plays Halo in an unused conference room, having apparently brought his Xbox with him to Threshold. Molly comes in and surprises us with her video game savvy by giving him a tip on killing Jackals. Apart from footage that shows what is clearly multiplayer action, the game is portrayed accurately.
Hilariously, the ring in the first Halo orbited a planet called Threshold. So the guy in Threshold is playing Halo, which takes place near Threshold.
A Canadian TV show called jPod (based on a book of the same name) was really good at inverting this trope. The series takes place at a game developer called Neotronic Arts (the developer is nameless in the book, but it's made clear by some dialog and descriptions that it's supposed to be Electronic Arts) where a small group of programmers are working on a skateboarding game (at the time the book was originally published, EA had announced that it was working on Skate). Throughout the show, characters are seen playing an Xbox 360 (and properly, too. The game they're playing is Halo 3, complete with split screen and everything), and there are multiple shots of a Wii in the background. Anytime the game the characters are working on is shown, the rough look of it is explained away by saying that it's still in development and it won't look like that when the game is finished.
The IT Crowd averts this in the episode "Men Without Women", which opens with Roy and Jen playing Guitar Hero 2. Music and sound effects from the actual game are heard, actual footage is shown and they appear to be playing correctly. Another character, Moss, incorrectly asks which "level" they are playing, although he later comments that he dislikes the game, so his ignorance may be excused. 
He could mean difficulty level. That's how I'd refer to it.
If you're really geeky, you can also use level to refer to the song.
Another episode in series 1 shows Moss playing F.E.A.R. correctly, with left hand on the keyboard and right hand on the mouse.
In Da Kath and Kim Code, a Vatican City version of Grand Theft Auto is shown. It's surprisingly accurate, featuring a similar HUD and box-art, and appropriate sound effects. The graphics are also quite close, while obviously being fairly low-quality compared to the real games, they're nevertheless in the same style and about as good as you'd expect from a 10-second clip specially made for the show.
Somewhat averted on a clip from The Daily Show during their coverage of the 2004 Presidential election. While Rob Corddry is way too enthusiastic about it (and his controller isn't the one controlling the actions onscreen); they do correctly identify the game, Halo, though muted, the sound effects are indeed from the game, and they even correctly identify the gun being used.
Rob Corddry: Where's your Alien Plasma Rifle now, bitch?!
He even correctly calls the enemies "Covenant Aliens".
In Season 1 of LOST, Sayid and his friends play the PS2 port of Half-Life, possibly even preparing for Half-Life 2, which would be released later that year (2004).
An old Taxi episode has Jim Ignatowski becoming addicted to Pac-Man after Louie has a game console installed in the garage. Several scenes show Iggy playing the game, with the actual music and sound effects heard. (Granted, this was circa 1980, ancient history from a gaming standpoint.)
True Blood. Bill Compton occasionally plays a golf game on the Wii. It seems more or less correct.
Parks and Recreation has a group of characters playing Rock Band in one episode, and are playing "My Own Worst Enemy", a song actually in the game. In another episode, one character is playing Mario Kart Wii, using the Wii Wheel packaged with the game, and underturning it if anything (he could just be distracted by talking, though).
In Californication, Hank Moody, his daughter and her boyfriend are often seen playing Guitar Hero, playing with actual controllers on actual songs with actual gameplay footage on the TV — although the actors' movements might not match what's going on on screen.
"The Frogger" episode of Seinfeld averts this trope in a different way. It's about the eponymous '80s arcade game, on which George had gotten a high score as a kid, and which he wants to keep as a memento. Aside from the fact that you can't enter initials on that game's high-score screen, the episode's portrayal is totally accurate... and totally worth it for the scene of George carrying the machine across a busy street, with appropriate sound effects accompanying.
In the Smallville episode "Prodigal" Lucas plays a period-accurate video game with an appropriate controller. He does hammer the buttons, but his onscreen character is at least engaging in very repetitive and random actions so he may just be a terrible player.
And in a more literal application of this trope, there's the episode where Phoebe gives Monica and Chandler a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game, and the three of them become completely obsessed with playing it and beating each other's high scores.
Nicely attempted in Mr. Sunshine, where they use the Wii Wheel for Mario Kart Wii, and argue that Yoshi is useless in Peach Beach, which has a grain of truth since it's full of straight-aways suitable for heavyweights, though the cart selection is probably more important. Pretty good for someone who in-universe doesn't play games much.
Frasier has an episode with a fictional game, with no Atari sounds and the screen obscured from view. A red glow comes from the screen when the player dies, suggesting that the screen turns mostly red, which is pretty common.
A 1999 episode of The Sopranos has Tony playing Mario Kart 64 with AJ, and winning by covering his face with one hand while holding the controller in the other.
In Good Luck Charlie, Gabe and his mom play a Brand X version of Wii Tennis. Granted, there's not much noise to a Wii Tennis game anyway (just some bouncing ball sounds and cheering).
Coronation Street varies wildly with this trope. Sometimes it features character endlessly button mashing (or even just hitting the same button over and over as fast as possible) while 1985 "missile" sound effects repeat nonstop from the offscreen TV. On a PS2 controller. However, on a different occasion, David Platt was clearly seen playing Forza on his Xbox 360, complete with accurate handling of the controller, and showing the game running on the TV. Depends on the writer, it seems.
An episode in the second season of 7Days begins with a young woman playing Doom. While the game was several years old by this point, that's still pretty good by TV standards. However, they still slipped up by showing it as an arcade game.
In Breaking Bad, Jesse is seen playing a version of Rage that doesn't exist as he uses a light gun to play it, and it's portrayed as an on-rails shooter. He also plays Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, which is the actual game.
In Blue Heelers Tess plans to get Hayley a Nintendo64 and Super Mario 64, and they are seen already up to Tall Tall Mountain, meaning either she is either the best video game player in the world (which Tess promptly disproves) or the writers made a mistake in showing a level that late into the game.
Because Bill Amend is One of Us and a major gaming geek, this is often parodied or averted in FoxTrot (it once featured a comic parodying webcomics like xkcd).
Early strips featured both Jason and Peter playing Super Mario Bros., Jason bringing a Game Boy on a family trip, and the release of the SNES. Also, one sunday strip has Jason attempting to get a copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and he regularly plays World of WarcraftQuest.
Don't forget Jason going into denial about wanting to play Tomb Raider because it featured a female heroine.
One comic was about Starcraft II. The week it was set to come out. I tip my hat to you, Bill Amend.
It also mentioned its long release cycle and lampshaded Comic Book Time simultaneously. Jason said he'd been waiting eleven years to play Starcraft II - but because he's only ten years old, he started waiting while he was in the womb.
Another one involved the Xbox 360's Kinect, demonstrated why you shouldn't play it with mosquito bites, and even included a fake achievement in the game Jason was playing.
One that deserves special mention: Jason pretending he's shooting portals at his sister in real life. The portal gun has the same orange/blue light that shows the last-fired portal in the game. Goddamn.
Digital Unrest has had a couple of cracks at this trope: Here and here.
Early in the strip's run (2001) characters are seen wearing PlayStation 3 paraphernalia, including a jacket with the line "Live in your world, Die in mine." parodying a Sony ad campaign of the time. Said character has been updated to feature a PlayStation 4 jacket. Sony developers in both cases were talking about developing said sequel consoles right as the current consoles were about to be released.
The Angry Video Game Nerd, where some shots show him using the controller while also showing the screen, usually to point out how delayed or confusing the controls are in a game.
Also parodied in the Ninja Gaiden episode, where the ninja can play well because he can press the buttons really fast, and never stops Button Mashing while playing the game. He also gives advice such as "a ninja must learn to see beyond the borders of the screen".
Jon Tron parodies this in almost every review, frequently using the wrong controller to play the game, putting the cartridge in wrong (like putting the cartridge in sideways, throwing the cartridge at the console and missing, or standing the cartridge up and trying to plug the console into it, etc) and whenever the console is shown, it's frequently a bizarre mish-mash of incompatible parts. The last part reaches its zenith in his Minecraft review, where he apparently plays the game on an SNES with a the box for Metal Gear Solid 3 in the cartridge slot, and a Gamecube controller taped to the controller port.
His review for Dino City starts off with him trying to figure out which console it's played with, trying to use it on a DS, a PS3, a PC's CD tray, a wireless router and a dishwasher (three times) before realizing it's supposed to go with the 'SMBS'. Then he plugs the cartridge in upside down.
Also parodied by Third Rate Gamer, where he's frequently using the wrong controller to button-mash his way through the game, and sometimes it's not even a controller, like when he starts playing Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers with a pair of headphones.
The episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" revolves around the real-life MMORPG World of Warcraft, complete with plenty of gameplay footage (part of it was Machinima). Blizzard lent a lot of assistance to make the episode (they're apparently big South Park fans, but then again who isn't?) The episode, however, has many intentional inconsistencies compared to the real game — although, in a reverse example, Blizzard actually put some of the content from the episode into the game after the episode aired. Of course the fact that the gameplay footage is considerably more sophisticated than the South Park animation adds to the fun. Not to mention that their teacher is trying to teach them about computers using a lesson plan from the '80s.
Not to mention the Guitar Hero-themed episode, which depicts Stan and Kyle as being the first ever to reach "one million points!" Viacom appears ashamed of this clip.
Episode 1214, "The Ungroundable", had the kids playing the PC version of the recently released Call of Duty: World At War. It also included a reference to the "Flak Jacket Glitch", where a player using the Flak Jacket perk, which normally reduces damage taken from explosives, could not be insta-killed with either the combat knife or bayonet.
In "Whale Whores", the boys are seen playing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on Rock Band. At the time, the song was not available as DLC. In March 2010, four Lady Gaga tracks were released: not only including Poker Face, but a version with Cartman on vocals for DLC.
Played with in an episode of Arthur. Near the end, Arthur and company are playing a video game that touts itself as one of the best ever — up to and until the actual gameplay. SEE! 16-bit graphics that would look primitive on the early SNES! HEAR! 8-bit early NES-style music! WITNESS! Gameplay that would make Action 52 look fun! The general consensus among the characters is obviously along the lines of "what am I looking at?!"
In the episode, "D.W's Stray Netkitten", D.W plays an online game which looks like a VERY accurate depiction of WebKins, complete with the real-life stuffed animal that you buy in order to take care of your pet online.
Arthur in general is bad at this. It has many pop culture Shout-Out's but the games never seem to get past the late 16-bit era at best.
Though, there was an early episode where Arthur is seen popping in a Captain Sludge game with "3D drain clearing action"
The depiction of games on The Simpsons throughout the show's run have usually been close to current, although the show's long history means that the early seasons would appear to suffer from this trope if viewed today.
The game played by Bart and Homer in "Moaning Lisa" (1990) is similar to Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (1987).
However, it stumbles into the trope spectacularly in "Yokel Chords" (2007). Therapist Dr. Swanson attempts to gain Bart's interest with the popular video game "Death Kill City II: Death Kill Stories". (Bear with me here...) Swanson and Bart button mash furiously, both swinging their controllers side to side like an angry chimpanzee (Bart's tongue is out, too), playing what is apparently a fighting game. A martial artist and cyborg fight each other for a bit, and both are dispatched by a sudden ninja attack. A missile then comes down and nukes the area. An announcer then says "You have destroyed all human life on Earth. Level 1 complete."
The Movie goes the other way: Homer plays Grand Theft Walrus, in a convenience store, on an arcade machine. In Alaska.
Another episode had Lisa becoming addicted to "Dash Dingo", an obvious homage to Crash Bandicoot which was released at the height of that series' popularity on what was clearly a PlayStation.
And then there was an RPG Episode, with many of the townsfolk playing it. They had plenty of jokes like how silly it is to accept quests from strangers, Bart being a kid IRL but really powerful in the game, Moe wondering why he is paying $15 a month for this, etc. Granted, there were also departures from realism, but they were not greater then the show's usual departures from realism of the "real" town in comparison to real life. Overall, the depiction was pretty accurate and faithful, even complete with a HUD accurate for MMORPGs. What's strange though, is that people in real life knew who each other's avatar equivalents were, perhaps because their avatars were identical to their real-life selves and even their personalities (like Moe being the Butt Monkey).
In the "Chicken Ball Z" episode it is easy to recognize the game Billy was playing on his handheld by the sound effects — it's Wario Land II, probably one of the later levels, based on the music. Billy calls it something different, of course, and no visuals are shown.
"Opposite Day," the first episode to air before Cartoon Network officially picked up the show, has Billy and Mandy play an expy of Mario Kart 64. They seem to be using their controllers accurately, and the controllers resemble those found on a real Nintendo 64 (albeit with four prongs instead of three). Suffice to say, Grim is the only one that has trouble figuring it out.
In one episode the Mayor is playing what is clearly The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or a near parody, (albeit so badly that he "accidentally" kills his own fairy), which was a fairly recent release at that point. He's also holding what is obviously the Nintendo 64's iconic controller. Although If he killed Navi, he may not be so bad at the game after all.
Played straight in "The Powerpuff Girls' Best Rainy Day Adventure Ever", Blossom seeks out the other two after a long-since abandoned game of hide-and-seek and finds them using N64 controllers to play... Pitfall.
In one scene a TV screen displayed a picture and played noise that was more or less pulled directly from one of the TV's in the GameCube release of Animal Crossing.
The opening of another episode saw Ace of the Gangrene Gang playing (and losing) a Powerpuff GirlsFighting Game that, although fictional, was depicted in a fairly realistic manner.
In ReBoot, the games that periodically threatened the characters were generally believable and fairly current for the time, though they generally used No Celebrities Were Harmed versions.
Fanboy and Chum Chum does use Arcade Sounds, but surprisingly, it's justified; the only video games or other forms of interactive electronic entertainment seen in the series (so far) are a virtual pet and an arcade game. The latter's status as a homage to old-school Donkey Kong makes its use of Atari 2600 Donkey Kong sound effects even more appropriate.
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius once featured an episode about a machine that allows people to enter inside a game of their choice, so Sheen obviously gets inside an Ultra Lord game. While the episode took some liberties for Rule of Cool, it actually manages to look like a real game of the time, including the portrayed life bars which get special effects as the characters power up, floating words pointing out P1 and P2, and even a start screen complete with "Start Game / Options".
One episode of Doug features Judy talking in an online avatar-based chatroom similar to IMVU, accurately predicting technology that would not exist until many years later. This probably was for the sake of Viewer-Friendly Interface, since it wouldn't be nearly as interesting to watch lines of text silently scrolling up the screen.
Largely averted in Code Lyoko. This is not surprising, since the relationship between kids and video games is a big inspiration for the series. The fictional video games discussed in the show are realistic for modern games (though rarely seen on-screen). However, the "penguin cup-and-ball" game played by Jean-Pierre Delmas do use Pac-Man music — but here it's more of a shout-out.
One episode featured Odd playing Tetris on what clearly looked like a Game Boy. It's even mentioned by name! It comes back later in the episode as an actual part of the plot.
One episode of American Dad! has Steve's X-Cube game system with these kind of graphics, but considering the system is supposed to be the expensive new thing, this is presumably a parody.
Some of the featured games of the show (Beetman notably) tend to have animations and graphics akin to the NES at best. However, one episode shows Steve and his friends (later Jeff and Haley too) playing a fantasy MMORPG. While the game isn't shown much in the "real world", the in-game scenes appear as a more stylized version of the rest of the show.
Averted in Family Guy: the end of one episode had Peter accurately playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on an Xbox 360. And he has no idea how to play, which is played for hilarity - he gets taken out by a sniper* who, incidentally, appears to be a then-current member of Infinity Ward, judging by his in-game name while he is busy mashing the A button and hopping in place, and then he blows up a car, himself, and a few teammates with a grenade while trying to hide behind it.
Older games have also been referenced accurately in the works of Seth MacFarlane, due to his Author Appeal for the age in which he grew up. Tetris, Super Mario Bros. and even ColecoVision have been portrayed faithfully in his shows.
When Robot Chicken does a video game parody they usually do it correctly, only taking liberties for Rule of Funny. At times they can stretch it a little too far, but even then it's obvious that the creators have done the research.
An episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series had a game developed for Harvey to test where the graphics were so high-tech all the characters would look like people Harvey knew.
Most of the video games on King of the Hill are accurate for their time. In some episodes Bobby can be seen playing a Nintendo 64 or PlayStation; in one he is clearly playing one of the Tomb Raider games.