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Video Game / Seaman

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"It'll cost you a buck."
Seaman, as an adult gillman

Seaman is a virtual-pet-raising game developed by Vivarium and published by Sega, released for the Sega Dreamcast in Japan in 1999 and localized in 2000. It was re-released for Japan as Christmas Seaman and again as a Playstation 2 port. There were also plans for a PC release that allowed Seaman to interact with and manipulate your desktop and e-mails, but it was eventually cancelled. A sequel was also released, again, only in Japan, for the Playstation 2. The game was one of the few in the Dreamcast library to take advantage of the microphone. It also features narration from Leonard Nimoy in the English version.

You play as a pet owner who had decided to adopt a new, unknown species dubbed "Seaman" by scientist and discoverer, Jean Paul Gassé. The titular creature is a fish-like animal gradually evolving into a frog-like creature with a human face who would eventually be able to talk with you. You start out with a handful of food pellets and a seaman egg to start with where you must hatch the egg and raise the resulting seaman to maturity. You are tasked with checking up on it to make sure it has enough air in its tank, the environment is warm and that they are fed, and eventually you'll be able to converse with the seaman and be asked various questions as you raise it. Although you are left to figure out how to raise the seaman on your own, Nimoy will also give you general hints and tips as you check in on your seaman.

This game provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: A good chunk of the backstory behind Seaman's creation is found in the instruction booklet, and although Seaman will occasionally shed light on his origins and his experience with Gasse he gradually recalls, it's only a quarter of what you could read in the manual.
  • Ambiguous Gender: At first glance, you'd think that all the gillmen in a tank are male due to their voice and face being stylized after a male's. "Male" (or alpha) gillmen have a gold body, while "female" (or beta) gillmen have peach-colored bodies.
  • Anti Poopsocking: The manual itself says that this is not a game that can be played in one long sitting. Seaman will only feel like talking for so long each day before he doesn't want to talk anymore, and become grumpy when you keep trying to talk to it. Even Leonard Nimoy will express concern if you boot up the game multiple times in a single day (although one could cheat by bumping the Dreamcast's internal clock forward a day).
    Leonard Nimoy: You visit often. If one didn't know better, one might assume you're quite obsessed, or you have nothing better to do.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The seaman can act like a smartass for most of the game when it's mature enough to learn back-talk, but he also occasionally shows care for you by complimenting you and calling you nicknames like "fuzzy".
  • Beast with a Human Face: The Seaman is a fish with the face of a human male.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology / Reproduction: Aside from the fact that Seaman is, iconically, a fish with a human face capable of human speech, the life cycle and ecosystem is, as the Angry Video Game Nerd describes it, more complex than xenomorphs.
    • To start, Seamen begin life as Mushroomers upon first hatching. In this state, they resemble eyeballs with little tails for locomotion. They are parasitic creatures that require a host species (in this game's case, a Nautilus) in order to survive and evolve: those Mushroomers that fail to be taken into a host's body eventually die. Once they're inside a host, they slowly devour them from the inside out until they reach their next form.
    • Upon becoming Gillmen, the Seamen erupt from the corpse of their host. This is when they resemble their iconic "fish with a man's face" appearance. At first, Gillmen are small and incapable of speech, but over time as they grow and the player talks to them, their vocabulary evolves until they can carry a conversation. Gillmen will cannibalize one another, using their cranial tendrils to suck their broodmates' blood until only two are left. One becomes the "alpha" (or "male") Gillman, developing a golden complexion to their scales, after the player names it.
    • Over time, the two remaining Gillmen evolve into Podfish: they still largely resemble Gillmen, but with primitive legs. Eventually, the Podfish mate with the "alpha" podfish holding onto the back of the "beta" with their legs, the two connecting their cranial tendrils together, and the "alpha" pouring sperm into the tendril of the "beta". Mating proves fatal to the alpha. Eventually, after draining most of the water and turning the aquarium into a terrarium, the remaining Podfish climbs onto dry land, lays eggs, and dies.
    • The eggs hatch into Tadmen, a form similar to young Gillmen in that the Tadmen cannibalize their broodmates until only two are left. The chief difference between Tadmen and Gillmen is that Tadmen resemble mature tadpoles.
    • Eventually, the Tadmen will become Frogmen, the final form of Seaman. Resembling a frog with a human face, the Frogman is amphibious and can survive on land or in water. In-game, the Seaman will tell you that it can only continue to evolve outside the confines of its cage. What happens to the Seaman after this stage is a mystery.
    • There is also a stage beyond Frogman that only exists in the Japan-only PS2 remake of the game, the Lizardman that resembles a green lizard with a human face. This creature is created when the two Frogmen mate, producing a single egg that hatches into the juvenile Lizardman. It seems that the Lizardman has become a purely land-dwelling creature. Once the Lizardman reaches adulthood it goes off on its own, much like the Frogmen in the original game.
    • The Birdman appears in Seaman 2 as a seagull with a human face, and human legs. In this form Seaman appears to be completely independent and no longer in need of care. It is unknown how this stage is reached.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Seaman has a complicated biological evolutionary chain, but each step has one of the Seamen mating with one of his siblings, then passing away while the female goes on to bear the next generation, which repeats the process.
  • But Now I Must Go: If all goes well, the fully grown Seaman will climb onto land, recognize its surroundings, and declare that it needs to travel on to complete its evolution. It will offer its sincere gratitude to the player before hopping out of sight.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Seaman loves to snark at the player.
  • Developer's Foresight: A handful of the things Seaman can respond to, and a few cases of him remembering an old response you made to throw back at you later such as if you brought up you looked up porn on the internet, and you answer you like the internet uncensored later, he'll remark that freedom of speech on the internet will at least get the pervert vote.
  • Excrement Statement: Seaman will sometimes throw dung at the screen if he's annoyed.
  • Existential Horror: Over the course of conversing with Seaman, it will eventually wonder if it exists before ultimately deciding that it does, because it can be perceived and interacted with. It doesn't last very long, but it's still a surprising element for the average player to discuss with a Virtual Pet.
  • Fictional Document: The Japanese marketing campaign had fake fossils displayed at museums and even had a book published, called The Journal of Jean-Paul Gasse.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: You can subject your seaman to this. Considering seaman, his laughter is more calm than other examples of this trope.
  • Genetic Memory: Any conversations you have with Seaman are carried forward into the next generation, and they also respond to the name you gave the original.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some aspects in raising your seaman, partly for certain acts you're supposed to perform to allow them to evolve that you won't have a clue to do, and partially because the seaman's voice recognition is limited. an example for the former includes how you're supposed to awaken the Nautilus (in the shell in the tank) and allow it to eat your mushroomers so they'll become gillman, while the latter includes the task of naming your seaman by specifically saying "I will give you a name." or "I will/shall name you.", because simply asking "name?" will ask if they have a name, and "do you want a name?" won't let you name them. Note that Nimoy will mention both of these eventually.
  • Holiday Mode: Booting up the game on certain holidays or significant birthdays will have your seaman comment on it when you speak with him.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: An unavoidable part of each evolutionary stage of the Seaman is that it will cannibalize its siblings until only itself and one other are left, and the other is only there for procreation purposes.
  • Intellectual Animal: And how! The Seaman's Gillman stage is so childish and simple that by the time the creature is providing genuine advice or thought exercises, it can be a very disarming experience. If it wasn't for the stilted splicing together of the prerecorded dialogue, it would be easy to think it was a real sentient creature talking to you.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: You try bringing up Seamen without someone cracking up. To the point where Nimoy actually tried to avoid doing Title Drops while recording his lines as he found it too awkward.
  • Jerkass: Your seaman to you.
    • Jacked up to eleven in the print ad:
    Seaman on love: Don't make me vomit.
    Seaman on the f-word: I'm too polite to use that word, so I'll say... "Bite me, you baboon-faced ass-scratcher."
    Seaman on his astrological sign: I need a middle finger to show you.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Seaman may act obnoxious, but once you bond with him, his softer side will emerge.
  • Non Sequitur: Some of Seaman's responses can be this, due to the voice recognition not being completely perfect.
  • Out with a Bang: If a male and female Seaman have sex, the male will die immediately after.
  • Playable Epilogue: Once you set Seaman free from the habitat to continue its evolution, Nimoy explains that it is indebted to the player for their care and won't wander too far into the wilderness, but they are no longer personally responsible for its upkeep, and they can just have conversations on their own time.
  • Product Placement: Try asking your seaman about Playstation, Nintendo or the Sega Dreamcast. He also has a habit of trying to convince you to buy another Dreamcast.
  • Sequel Hook: One that never panned out. The story of Seaman's origin and biological notes implied that there was another version: a bird with a human face created when mushroomers were eaten by waterfowl. At the end of Seaman 1, the Seaman: now in toad form: sets off to find this creature. The Japanese-only Seaman 2 was totally unrelated to this.
  • Shout-Out: "You're a Brave Little Toaster, aren't you?"
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Apparently, Seaman was either the reincarnation or the descendant of a son of a pharaoh in the third dynasty of Egypt who fell in love with a priest's daughter. The priest had sought advice from the god of wisdom Thoth, who turned the pharaoh's son into a fish and the priest's daughter into a bird, both of whom vanished. The priest, who was in charge of the construction of the pyramids, built a landmark that served as a beacon to guide the two lovers back someday, and was nearby where Seaman would have been discovered centuries later by Gasse.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: You only have a limited number of food pellets to feed your seaman with before you run out and although you later can raise caterpillars and crickets, they too are limited, and it is very easy to run out.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Use up your food pellets too soon or use up all the caterpillars or crickets will lead to you being unable to get any more food, leaving your seaman to starve to death.
  • Video Game Caring Potential / Video Game Cruelty Potential
  • Vocal Dissonance: The female Seaman (Seawoman?) has the same deep voice as the male.