"You Win - Advance to Level 7"
For whatever reason, video games seen on TV never evolved past a very primitive state. Classic 8-bit games (such as Pac-Man
), 2D pixel graphics, and synthetic sounds and music are cutting-edge technology.
In live action, standard practice is to render bleeping Arcade Sounds
, and bounce a shifting light pattern off the characters playing (read: Button Mashing
furiously). In animation, actual game graphics can be rendered, but they are seldom very sophisticated. If the video game's graphics are depicted in-show and are 2D, the sprites will often feature irregularly-shaped/"angled" pixels that actual sprite-based hardware couldn't handle until the mid-SNES era at best. Game music is almost never heard, and if it is, it's almost always an 8-bit chiptune.
Characters talking about video games will similarly seem out of touch. They will refer to the game in numbered levels and the main goal will be Scoring Points
, which are elements tied more to the arcade than home consoles. If a story line is mentioned, it will only be as deep as "save the galaxy from aliens"
. It seems that the only way to play these games is to hit all the buttons as fast as possible
and to move the control stick(s) wildly without direction, especially when playing with someone else.
This trope has many root causes. Most important of all is that high quality game graphics/sounds/music competes for screen time and viewer's attention — similar to the cause of Stylistic Suck
. Plus the music in particular may ruin the overall tone
if they actually use the in-game soundtrack. The second reason would be money. While it wouldn't be hard to toss in some footage and sound from a modern game, it may cost quite a bit to get the rights to do so, and it would definitely cost quite a bit to make something original. Thirdly, primitive game graphics can be a visual shorthand for "not real" in cartoons, which are already moving, simplified graphics. Last of all, since Most Writers Are Adults
, they may not be avid gamers, either knowing only the 8-bit glory of their youth
or having come of age before video games. This actually resulted in a strange Coconut Effect
for a long time in both film and television depictions of gaming, only in recent years has this trope been averted.
If you're too young to remember what Pac-Man
was like on the 2600, check this
out. And this
for good measure. And, this
is Donkey Kong
on the same system. These two games probably account for the vast, vast majority of Arcade Sounds
used on TV. Very rarely, though, you'll hear a Super Mario Bros.
sound effect, or one from Sonic the Hedgehog
every once in a blue moon. Ironically, the 2600 port of Pac-Man
was so notoriously bad
that it's commonly accounted as one of the two games (together with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
) which brought in The Great Video Game Crash of 1983
This may be a Discredited Trope
before long, being replaced by Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000
thanks to Moral Guardians
. High profile Product Placement
may cause this as well, if the videogame industry outperforms other media.
Note that we're assuming that the characters haven't purchased games online
or modified their consoles to play old games, unless otherwise stated.
See also: Arcade Sounds
, Beeping Computers
, Fictional Video Game
, Video Arcade
, The Coconut Effect
, Public Medium Ignorance
, Two Decades Behind
, and Hollywood Game Design
. Compare Stock Footage
. If pushed far enough, it can lead to Schizo Tech
. Not to be confused with the GameCube
game of the same name, or the song by Buckner and Garcia, or an obsession about a certain Filipino boxer.
open/close all folders
- 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 playing Banjo-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 Pokemon 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. 1
- 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 Soul here.
- 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.
- Parodied in this commercial for Sci Fi Channel, wherein Lara Croft plays a version of Pong with stock sound effects from the Atari 2600's version of Donkey Kong—whilst on a PlayStation.
- A commercial for a racing game called Juice 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 dress and 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 proceed to shorten her skirt, increase the woman's bust size and strip the top off, whereas 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 ad depicting someone playing one of the Bowser sub-games from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door... with a PS3 controller.
- Neutrogena has an ad in late 2011 which features a bottle of shampoo playing a game much like Space Invaders against reappearing dandruff, complete with early-80's style sound effects. Then the bottle of Neutrogena scores a One-Hit Kill and triggers the A Winner Is You ending against dandruff.
- 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.
- Kellogg's has a Froot Loops commercial where a couple is sitting on a couch, and when the wife pulls out a box of Froot Loops, they end up a few seconds later enjoying a game of the Super Mario Bros. attract mode.
- A 2015 "You're not you when you're hungry" Snickers ad has bleeping arcade sounds and furious button mashing from two players holding GameCube controllers.
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 an early episode from the English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura, Kero is seen playing an RPG that looks similar to Shining Force, but with sound effects from the Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong in the background.
- Ouran High School Host Club.
- 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!!: Celty and Shinra play what appears, from Shinra's comments, to be a Mario Fighting Game, with requisite Atari noise and PlayStation controllers. 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.
- The at least one time Naruto is shown playing a video game it looks 8 bit. Their universe doesn't have guns but mid 2000s cellphones and computers are still present
- One episode of the Super Sonico anime had her play what is clearly BioShock 2 on a Gamecube with a Genesis controller. Played With in that this is her dream, so it might just be The Tetris Effect.
- Subverted in Crossbone Gundam Skull Heart: The "Satellite of the Apes" story has a Flash Back showing that Garma Zabi was inspired to test monkeys for Newtype potential after seeing one play Pac Man, but a margin note from the author remarks that he just used it as a stand-in for whatever video games they'd have in the future.
- 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.
- The shooter Loki plays in issue #4 of Loki: Agent of Asgard looks positively retro (16bit tops) despite the console looking current for the most part. But then again it gave him an opportunity to shoot the All-Mother in the face, when they chose to manifest through it.
- Amazingly, Calvin and 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.
- The really bad part is that Final Fantasy VIII is not only a game for which buttonmashing is counterproductive, but that it's NOT a two-player game.
- 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 (although the gameplay footage itself is accurate, even showing off some Fatalities).
- 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.)
- Very likely he's actually playing StepMania, a DDR-alike that has similar graphics.
- Inside Man went the opposite extreme. A kid plays an ersatz Grand Theft Auto PSP 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.
- In Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the kids are playing StarTropics 2 together and the stepdad asks who's winning. The actual game is single-player; the NES didn't have enough video memory for co-op RPGs.
- 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 brief scene supposedly parodying Grand Theft Auto in Meet The Spartans: Leonidas starts running in very jerky motions as he steals a car, soundtracked by 8 bit-esque sound effects and music. Although this is Seltzer and Friedberg we're talking about here...
- 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.
- World's 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.
- In a scene in Big Daddy, Julian is seen playing Twisted Metal III on PlayStation with sounds beeping like a generic 80s arcade game, not the actual sounds.
- One scene in Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars shows a character playing a licensed video game — it's in 3D, but it's an unbelievably crappy-looking Sprite/Polygon Mix, and it comes complete with Button Mashing and Arcade Sounds.
- 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.
- The Wizard, a film which could best be described as a 90-minute Nintendo commercial, featured genuine footage of Super Mario Bros. 3 several months before its release. It still managed a number of inaccuracies, however.
- One of the main characters getting 50,000 points in Double Dragon by 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.
- While in the book it was never shown, the movie adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid shows the fictional "Twisted Wizard" game, and is... well... Superman 64 with dragons, multiplayer mode and, of course, Pac-Man sound effects. On Wii.
- 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.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry mentions that Dudley broke his PlayStation (and comments about Dudley playing Ultra Super Death Gorefest Chainsawer 3000 games). Given that he was writing that in the summer of 1994 and the system would not be available in Japan until that December, nor in Europe until September of the following year, J. K. Rowling admits she screwed up with the numbers.
- 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.
- In Skeleton Key, the third book in the Alex Rider series, Alex is given a Game Boy and a copy of The Legend of Zelda while traveling to Cuba, and he's relieved to get to "the fifth level" without the Game Boy exploding in his hands. None of the Legend of Zelda games are divided into levels; they're all open-world games that require the player to accomplish tasks, gradually unlocking more of the world as the game progresses.
- 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.
- The second season premier had a bad one, when Stabler and Benson question a person of interest outside of a convenience store while he's playing a light gun game. Said game cabinet isn't even on, and the two teens next to him are playing on anther machine, which clearly says NFL Blitz 2000 on the side. But instead of football sounds, we just hear random arcade noises, as well as the two just randomly wiggling the sticks and pressing buttons, before they just up and leave in the middle of their game as soon as Stabler and Benson walk away.
- 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.
- Minor example in one episode of Married... with Children; after Bud borrows money from a loan shark to help Kelly and another classmate make a music video, the mobster sends a rather intimidating henchman to make sure the project goes smoothly. (Which it clearly does not, as Kelly and the other classmate can't cooperate with each other.) The henchman spends most of his time there looking up contacts for illegal organ donors on a laptop (what he hints he'll do to Bud if he can't pay up). In one throwaway joke, one of the backup dancers asks the guy if he has Mortal Kombat on it. "You kidding?" he responds. "I got the highest score in the mob!" While funny, no game in the Mortal Kombat franchise had, at the time, been available on a PC, and competing with other players for highest score is rarely the objective.
- 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 Series/Buffy|The Vampire Slayer 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 Boy with 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 and Chums'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 , 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.
- In a 2001 episode of The BBC children's television program WATCH!, two kids play Super Smash Bros. Melee (which had only just been released) on a PlayStation (actually a GameCube).
- 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.
- In the CSI episode "Spark of Life", they manage to perform Pac-Man Fever with a cartoon. They show a small flat-screen TV playing a series of stock cartoon sound effects... with the opening of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- Somewhat averted in another CSI 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.
- One episode of Manhattan Love Story has Peter playing Killer Instinct on the Xbox 360. Good enough... until he reveals he was talking to another player on the headset and refers to him as "Blue Team Leader," something a one-on-one fighting game absolutely wouldn't have.
- Played With in the Stargate Verse.
- 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 Stargate Atlantis season two episode "The Long Goodbye," John Sheppard is seen playing with a small handheld device while in the infirmary. According to the DVD commentary this was not intentional at all, but rather Joe Flannigan (The actor) was playing video games between takes and just kept playing when they decided to start filming. Nobody noticed until after the scene was shot and they decided to keep it in. This became a Running Gag, and Sheppard would be seen playing with the same device throughout the series (What, exactly, he is playing is never revealed).
- 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).
- A fifth season episode of Three's Company begins with Jack and Janet playing what is apparently Atari Football. The bleeping sounds are exaggerated both in frequency and volume, but that could be excused as it sets up a quip from Mr. Furley. However, looking at the actual system... well, it's an authentic 2600, too bad the cartridge is laying behind it.
- 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.
No one believes I beat the last level of Mortal Kombat
Because that's just ridiculous. No one beats Sub-Zero!
This could mean "no one has ever gotten past Sub-Zero to get to the final level/fight", though.
- 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 Game Ninja 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".
- Modern Family plays it nice and simple with Luke using a DS, playing a game with 80s beeping noises and high scores. And it probably wasn't Retro Game Challenge.
- 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.
- The Season 10 finale shows Abby complaining that while she hates violent video games, (She actually plays them with McGee all the time.) that she has designed a homebrew game to vent her frustrations at the Department of Defense special prosecutor who is targeting Gibbs. The game involves shooting an effigy of him on her PC monitor with a NES "Zapper" Light Gun, which doesn't even run at the same frequency as a PC monitor.
- 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 MA Dtv 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 BBC3 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.
- Well, that AND how extraordinarily unlikely it is that Frank (who's ruthless and amoral but with delusions of class and a love of chess) would actually play Call of Duty. Fire Emblem? StarCraft II? Both of those would carry the idea of the same repressed dreams of conquest without carrying the OTT and Lowest Common Denominator connotations of the Call of Duty franchise and, especially, the bizarre idea of Frank consciously interacting with the typical denizens of it's multiplayer mode. Plus, it would fit the ideas of his character a bit more.
- At one point in Heroes, Claire's brother Lyle plays something on PlayStation Portable, but the sounds are from the arcade game Defender.
- 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.
- Averted in another earlier episode, in which Sheldon is forced to play Super Mario 64 on an emulator, rather than his Nintendo 64. The in-game sound effects are totally accurate, right down to the pause jingle.
- But it's played straight again in another episode where Sheldon's mom sends him his Nintendo 64 and he pulls out his memory card. A PlayStation 2 memory card to be exact. And the N64 rarely used memory cards.
- On My Name Is Earl, Darnell is seen playing a Pac-Man with a joystick, on a very old-looking TV. On the other hand, most of Camden is still stuck in the late 80's or early 90's.
- 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.
- People Under The Stairs has a ton of effects, references, and even the Konami Code in Gamin' on Ya.
Worth noting: any appearance of this trope in actual video games can usually be assumed to be Stylistic Suck
, similar to Artistic License - Film Production
- No More Heroes is notable for being a video game that actually uses Pac-Man Fever; it mixes exaggeratedly vintage video game beeps, chimes, and graphics with the more modern stuff.
- God Hand does the same thing, but to a significantly lesser extent.
- Justified in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas, which take place in the late eighties and early nineties respectively.
- 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.
- Doom 3 uses this trope. Apparently Twenty Minutes into the Future on Mars, the only games available involve punching turkeys to death.
- 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 the original 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.
- Shenmue allowed us to play on old games like Space Harrier either at the arcade or the Sega Saturn.
- 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.
- This trope holds true even in life-simulation series The Sims. Any time a Sims character plays a video or computer game, the machine will make comically simple racing sounds or PEW PEW noises. This is somewhat averted by the video game consoles in The Sims 3, which just show a bunch of nonsense on the screen, like horses zipping across woodlands without moving their legs.
- Narbonic, oddly, has Atari-style joystick◊ Quake.
- Parodied with a Digital Unrest comic strip.
- Parodied in this Sluggy 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.
- At the beginning of the TGWTG Year One Brawl, when The Nostalgia Critic notices The Angry Video Game Nerd, the Nerd is playing on a Nintendo DS, with background music from Mario, and sound effects from Pac-Man and Sonic the Hedgehog. Of course. He's the Angry Nintendo Nerd. He's the Angry Atari/Sega Nerd.
- 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 jokes that any time you see characters in a movie mashing buttons and pretending to play a video game, they're not pretending, they're 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 OddParents Thick-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 an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik is shown fiddling with some machine controls while sounds from Super Mario Bros. are heard. Amusing considering the console war of that time.
- 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 GTA Game 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
- Mordecai and Rigby are notorious old-school geeks. Their videogame is clearly a Sega Master System and they still watch films in VHS. So, it makes sense.
- 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
- 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.
- Genshiken gets around this through judicious Product Placement: the characters play real video games spliced into the animation, most notably:
- The then-latest Guilty Gear title, Guilty Gear: Isuka. Ohno, the resident Cosplay Otaku Girl, cosplays one of the characters. 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.
- Saki and Kousaka also play a very realistically-depicted Puyo Puyo match, complete with accurate in-game footage, as a plot point. Saki assumes from its colorful nature that it will be an easy-to-pick-up casual game, which it might be if played against an opponent of comparable skill level or a single-player mode with an intelligent difficulty progression. Instead, she plays against Kousaka, who has no concept of "going easy on the newbie" and destroys her with advanced strategies.
- 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.
- Vaguely averted in Hayate the Combat Butler, where the Lampshade Hanging is Nagi deliberately trying out an old Dragon Quest lookalike (which is probably older than she is) and lacks any nostalgia factor for the old game.
- 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.
- Great Teacher Onizuka is frequently seen playing a PlayStation (modern when it was made), and both made reference to Wild Arms and showed footage of Ape Escape.
- Hanamaru Kindergarten references Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in the manga, and has Tsuchida-sensei playing a Nintendo DS. The anime (which has less leeway with copyrights) shows Tsuchida playing unnamed RPGs on a PlayStation-lookalike.
- 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.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!: In chapter 285, Evangeline is shown playing a video game. Said game is clearly Solomon's Key, and she's playing it on an accurately portrayed Famicom.
- Doi from Wandering Son has a PSP if you look at certain panels. Anna and Maho are shown playing DS' and in an early issue Takatsuki has a Playstation in her room.
- 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.
- Inverted in Ultimate Nightmare: Bobby is shown playing what looks like a current gen game on a regular old Game Boy.
- An issue of Teen Titans Go! clearly has Robin and Raven playing a Nintendo 64 game. While not the newest of consoles it was just a few years old at the time
Films — Animation
- 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 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.
Films — Live-Action
- Wonderfully averted in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which is expected since the film contains many Video Game Tropes. In an early scene, one of the characters can be seen playing a Nintendo DS, with music from the Game Boy Advance version of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past faintly audible. A Link to the Past DID have a GBA port (it was originally on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and the trivia track confirms that the actor was actually really playing the game during that scene, as opposed to just pretending to play it. Later on, we see a Fictional Video Game titled Ninja Ninja Revolution, which actually looks like a believable arcade game, and is played in a fairly realistic way.
- 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.
- Admittedly, Simon Pegg is a massive video game nerd, as any typical episode of Spaced will show you...
- The "Player 2" quote was probably added as a joke for an early scene:
*Player 2 has entered the game.*
Ed: Haven't you got work?
*Player 2 has left the game.*
- Tropic Thunder had Matthew McConaughey playing Wii Sports.
- 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 characters playing Modern Warfare 2, 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.
- 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).
- Jim Carrey was actually taught to play DDR for this scene in Yes-Man. For the more savvy players reading:
- 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.
- Bringing Down the House. George is seen holding a DualShock 2 controller and he's not mashing the buttons. Listen closely and you can hear sound effects from a certain game about an elf and his ottsel.
- 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.
- The British horror-comedy Tormented has the characters play Gears of War 2 at a party.
- 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.
- In Abduction we see Nathan playing Modern Warfare 2.
- In Cool as Ice, we see Kathy's little brother playing Super Mario Bros. 3 and various other NES games, none of which involve the usual wild controller-mashing.
- In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, we see the British PM's kids playing Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time. The footage is totally accurate, and you hear authentic Enemy Chatter from the game... except it's from Dr Nefarious's Mecha-Mooks while in the area you show you're actually fighting Argorians. (Admittedly, Argorian Enemy Chatter would have probably upstaged any humor in the actual film)
- 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.
- Joysticks: All the games are real and portrayed as they actually existed at the time. Super Pac-Man, a not particularly well-known game in the Pac-Man series, is actually played at a tournament (which may confuse modern audiences not familiar with this particular variation) before its real-life release in arcades, and Satan's Hollow was also played. Both games were developed in the US by Midway (Pac-Man itself was made in Japan by Namco, but Midway developed a few sequels of their own), who sponsored the movie.
- 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.
- Ironically, the Trope Namer Pac-Man Fever by Buckner And Garcia falls into this, given the fact that 1) the sounds in question are from the video games in question, 2) they were, in fact, new at the time of the album's release and 3) the lyrics clearly show that at least one of the band members has intimate knowledge of them.
- 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).
- In one strip, Andy (the mother) demands to see the video games that Jason and Peter play. Her first response is, "why is that monkey jumping on someone's head?"
- Not to mention the Penny Arcade guest strip he did after PAX 2009.
- 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 War
- And let's not forget Jason's Long List of then-recent game releases (complete with Take That at the then-still-Vapor Ware Duke Nukem Forever) in a later strip.
- Don't forget Jason going into denial about wanting to play Tomb Raider because it featured a female heroine. (In the nightmare that follows, Lara Croft introduces him to Ms. Pac-Man who asks if he remembers her, causing Jason to nervously protest that he only played that game because it was the only one they had at a pizza parlor.)
- 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.
- MegaTokyo makes lots of references to gaming technology that does not (yet?) exist in the real world, such as the PlayStation 4, Mosh Mosh Revolution ("Tohya, what's a mosh?") and a Robot Girl accessory for Dating Sim games.
- 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.
- Lampshaded in this strip from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Bob just isn't a very "state-of-the-art" kind of guy.
- The Guild, consisting largely of references to a game similar to World of Warcraft (by a writer who was addicted to it for several years) obviously averts this for the most part. It seems like it falls into this trope, though, with Tinkerballa, who's constantly playing a Nintendo DS with old-school Super Mario Bros. sounds.
- 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".
- Agents Of Cracked - Swaim mentions emulation and Night Trap, and is shown playing Metal Slug.
- JonTron 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.
- South Park
- 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).
- "Bonestorm", as depicted in "Marge Be Not Proud" (1995), is named after Blood Storm and parodies Mortal Kombat-style games. Mario and Sonic also appear in the episode.
- 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 bar, 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. Like in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, the hero is given instructions on gathering crystals via giant floating head.
- 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).
- And then there's the Dangerously Genre Savvy 2007 game, The Simpsons Game, which is an affectionate parody of several well-known IPs, and for the most part avoids The Problem with Licensed Games (fortunately).
- In "Million Dollar Maybe" Lisa buy a "Funtendo Zii" for the old people's home, which was a pretty accurate depiction of the actual console.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
- 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.
- The Powerpuff Girls
- 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 Girls Fighting 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 The Batman showed Robin playing an online game that used the same animation as the show. Granted the game became part of Joker's plot, it also allowed an appearance of his future persona Nightwing, in his high collar costume.
- 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* 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.
- Dexter's Laboratory
- The episode "Master Computer" has the eponymous character and his sister playing what looks like a Primal Rage spoof. Later, when Dexter receives the game which the episode is named after, he describes it as "A really old game", and then proceeds to list the reasons why the games sucks to Dee Dee, citing stuff such as "No multiplayer, outdated graphics, etc." Despite never having played it. When he gets transported into the game, it has several Shout-Out's to Tetris and Pac-Man, with a bit of TRON thrown in there for good measure. Dexter has shown a certain level of nerdiness beyond Mad Scientist in several episodes, so it's entirely possible he knew about the game's features beforehand. However, the game does have multiplayer, and therefore, more than "one mode of play", too.
- A Season 3 episode has a short scene with college students playing what appears to be Mario Kart 64, complete with one of them referring to another player as Yoshi.
- The Muppet Babies episode "It's Only Pretendo" has the babies playing lots of different video games, they are done in a Deep-Immersion Gaming style, but they are all clear references to real NES games like The Legend of Zelda, Frogger, Nintendo Track and Field, and an Adventure Game.