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Joysticks is a constantly meanspirited, and consistently unfunny comedy. It constantly mocks nerds and video game culture, has nudity and sex galore, lame jokes, and is somehow endorsed by arcade developer Midway.
Apparently, gamer culture consists of nothing but nerds, morbidly obese nerds, thugs in punk rocker makeup, and women who exist only to flirt and show their breasts.
None of the characters are likable. The obese guy who serves as the hero in the video game showdown at one point tries to help his nerd friend rape a sleeping woman so he could lose his virginity. Designated Hero anyone? There's lots of meanspirited pranks. Early on, two girls try to trick the aforementioned virgin nerd into letting them steal his pants. I couldn't find one character in the movie's cast of "heroes" and "villains" to like.
The movie promotes the view that people had of arcades at the time, of being seedy places full of shady characters, solely for the sake of comedy. For those unaware, arcades tended to have dim lighting so as to prevent glare on the screens. Said dim lighting made people perceive arcades as shady places frequented by thugs, which became a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when actual thugs started to gravitate to arcades, and other people stayed out. This movie's portrayal of arcades as comedically sleazy certainly doesn't help matters any.
What I find interesting is that Joysticks does feature a lot of gamer culture of the time. Lots of footage of actual games being played, and Pac-Man is used as a screen transition, but the characters who play the games are such god damn offensive stereotypes that make gamers look bad, and the whole thing is heavily played up for sleaziness. One scene literally switches between a guy playing Super Pac-Man, and a naked couple having sex. Why would a game company endorse this?
Despite all the crap, I did like the aspects of early gaming culture. I was born in 1981, and this movie was made in 1983, and to see arcades and gaming portrayed as a big social scene before I would have known about it, and to even see that arcades had better graphics than home consoles of the time, was very interesting. The appeal of what many called the Golden Age of Arcades is plain to see. I doubt softcore porn and offensive nerd and thug stereotypes were the reasons.
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