I love me some video games. I also love me some cartoons. Naturally, you’d imagine Cartoons about video games would be right up my alley. And you’d be right. But you know what I like more than video game cartoons? Cartoons about dudes who play video games. That might sound weird, but if you’ve seen Regular Show, then you know what I’m talking about.
Regular Show is about a couple of (animal) dudes trying to get by using as little effort as possible. They’re slackers, if you will. The Great American Heroes. And what self-respecting major media outlet could take a look at the word “slacker” and not immediately think “video games”? Not Cartoon Network!
So of course these lazy young men (animals) play video games in their pastime. And it’s hilarious! This show lovingly satirizes gaming culture and gaming nostalgia in ways rarely seen outside of YouTube. I could give you all kinds of examples of how this show references old-school games and such, but I’d rather just talk about a single episode that I feel best exemplifies my claims and reasons for praise. It’s my favorite episode, and it’s titled “Rage Against the TV.”
The reason I love “Rage Against the TV” so much is how it eerily reenacts a very specific event in my childhood. Watching this episode for the first time, déjà vu overpowered me as I watched anthropomorphic animals, a ghost, and whatever the Hell Muscle Man and Pops are playing out one of my memories right before my eyes. Of course, there were some things that happened in the cartoon that obviously didn’t happen to me, but let’s start from this tale’s epic beginning.
The episode starts out like any given weekend during my childhood: a couple of dudes sitting on a couch playing video games, both talking trash and encouraging each other in order to motivate yourselves to victory. I especially like how Mordecai and Rigby make names for in-game scenarios. My friends and I used to do that all the time.
They end up beating the thugs and the level boss, which is the farthest they’ve ever been in the game. The next level turns out to be the final level, and the boys meet the boss of the game, The Hammer.
Nobody beats The Hammer!
The boys soon discover they can’t hurt him and that he can kill them in only one hit. With all options seemingly exhausted, the boys hysterically run from their aggressor. The tension tangible, Mordecai gets cornered and cries for help. Desperately, Rigby grabs a chair and breaks it on The Hammer’s spine. And it’s super effective! His life bar goes down, and the boys now know how to take him out. Rejuvenated, they go in for the kill… only to have the TV crap out on them.
There is no God…
Mordecai discovers through percussive maintenance – a term I so eloquently use to describe it to the wife – that hitting the TV fixes the picture for a split second. They find that the game is still going, and The Hammer is still going at them. Inventively, Mordecai beats the TV as Rigby attacks. This doesn’t work out too well as Rigby cracks under the pressure, so they decide to pause the game and go find a working TV so they can bring it back and both go on the offensive.
Percussive Maintenance at its finest.
There are two reasons why this episode is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen:
1.) I totally remember taking games this seriously. Getting to the final boss with a buddy was an intense experience that weighed heavily on both our shoulders. Failure would mean disappointing your bud as well as having to play the game all over again. As stressful as it was, it was also a great bonding experience.
2.) I’ve had my TV crap out on me during a final boss fight. It’s excruciating. Interestingly, smacking my TV also brought back the picture momentarily, so my friend and I did exactly what Mordecai and Rigby do in this episode. Even more interesting is the fact that we were playing Double Dragon II at the time, the very game that’s being parodied in this episode. You can only imagine how hard I geeked out.
The rest of the episode has the boys trying to get a TV from their friends so they can finally take out The Hammer. I can remember my friend and I doing the exact same thing in this situation, begging our friends for their TVs. Anyway, as Mordecai and Rigby go to each person’s house, something goes wrong and they can’t use their TV. However, with each failure they add to their entourage because everybody wants to see The Hammer. When they ask Muscle Man for his TV, he allows it on one condition: they tell him what The Hammer looks like. Getting to him was so difficult that he didn’t believe them. They describe him, and Hi Five Ghost verifies by checking in his Video Game Power magazine.
Now you’re playing with Power!
This is so my childhood! I remember getting to certain parts in games or beating difficult parts, and then describing it to my friends only to have them not believe me! “No way, man! Nobody can beat level 3 in Ghosts ‘n Goblins!” Without the internet, viewing games in their entirety meant you had to actually be good at them. And games back then were hard as Hell! But, if you had Nintendo Power, you could see later parts in games, and this was the only way without doing it yourself. That’s why I love the “Hi Five Ghost Verification” part so much.
The gang eventually get a TV from a guy Muscle Man knows simply by saying that they got to The Hammer. It’s apparently that important. The only catch is that the TV completely sucks. It’s black and white, doesn’t have AV cable capabilities, and has a weird and unusable power plug.
Damn Oogensterns! Dra åt helvete!
That kind of crap always happened to me when I was a kid. I’d have to spend the weekend at my grandma’s, so I’d bring my NES and discover that her TV was so old that I couldn’t even screw the RF switch into it. For those not in the know, here’s a diagram and an easy-to-read, step-by-step self-install guide:
This actually comes from Nintendo’s current Customer Service website. God bless you, fine sirs!
To wrap this up, the gang solve the “Having a Worthless TV” problem by using a montage (montages fix EVERYTHING!), weird shit goes down and The Hammer comes to life because cartoons, the gang beat The Hammer in real life and in the video game, Benson comes in to see the destruction and promptly leaves, and then the ol’ “Freeze Frame High Five” ending.
There really couldn’t have been a better way to end this.
Watching this episode takes me back, and it makes me feel special and connected knowing that something so unique and specific that had happened to me had also happened to someone else. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia I get from watching this is incomparable. From the over-the-top importance given to a video game to the silly temporary solution to the group coming together just to see the final boss, everything in this episode feels incredibly real and familiar to me.
Thanks for your Playing! I really want to hear your guys’ stories. Did anything like this ever happen to you? Do you have any cool stories about video game culture back in the day? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, please enjoy this still of Muscle Man’s boobs smacking him in the face.
It can’t be unseen!