What the Hell Happened to…: A 411Games Special Report
Games, Aren’t They a Bitch?
To the untrained eye, the game business looks like nothing but fun and games, a veritable paradise full of eternally smiling and happy characters running amok in candy colored locales. When one looks deeper, he will see a world of in which in one second you go from the cover of all the magazines to being in the discount bins at Circuit City. Some have names you remember, Earthworm Jim, Ristar, and some you don’t know from Adam, like the BurgerTime! guy or the level four boss from the Japanese version of Splatterhouse. For every game character that becomes a star and ends up on a line of children’s’ clothing, a dozen fail to stick in the public’s mind and disappear. This is the flipside, the dark corner of the game world. This is where those who fall between the cracks end up. This is ‘What the Hell Happened to…’
Our first subject is a fairly happy story, not a tragedy like so many, and not a blazing success, either. This is the story of an ordinary shlub thrust into the fame he didn’t ask for and who fell out of the limelight just as quickly. This is what the hell happened to… Peter Pepper.
They Call It BurgerTime: the Life and Times of Peter Pepper
After almost two decades in the food service industry, Peter Pepper thought his chance to shine had past him by and it didn’t bother him much. Peter was happy to work at his little food stand, BurgerTime, and live off the rest of his days making people smile with his delicious and inexpensive burgers. Little did he realize that Midway had a script for a game about the fast food industry gone awry also called BurgerTime. Midway, not especially wanting a lawsuit, approached the proprietor of BurgerTime, Mr. Pepper, and made him an offer no red blooded American in the early 80′ could refuse: starring in a video game. The shy but happy Peter Pepper could scarcely refuse and he was soon winged away to work on the game he had unwittingly been practicing for his entire life. It was BurgerTime, after all.
The game’s production went as smoothly as possible, excepting the walkout of (Kevin) Bacon and his subsequent replacement by Egg and the game’s title change from BaconCheeseBurgerTime to the more familiar BurgerTime. No one on the cast or crew was prepared for the coming onslaught of popularity when the game became a breakout hit. Suddenly, Egg and Lettuce were in magazines and Peter was being featured on the Late Show. Everyone was on top of the world. The less successful sequel, Diner hit the streets, but everyone assumed the money train had merely hit a road bump. Peter, however, felt that his popularity was inevitably going to wane so, when production on PizzaTime became mired in delays, he walked and returned to what had really brought him joy. Cooking burgers for people. Peter Pepper went home.
When asked about his life after the gaming big time, Peter had this to say, “It was great while it lasted but I was happy to see it end when it did. They were talking about TacoTime and PitaTime and GyroTime. The producers stopped seeing what made the original such a hit: the burgers. No one wants to play a game where they make hummus, do they? So, for the time being, pardon the pun, I’ve been making my burgers, lifting a few weights, and the such. I can’t move as fast as I used to, but I figure, they let me carry more salt this time and we got nothing but money coming in. Hey Midway, you know where to reach me? You’ve made new freakin’ Gauntlets, the least you can do is give old Peter Pepper a call and get some more of that good old BurgerTime.”
The next story is one of darkness and redemption, of taking a trip to the darkest corners of the game world and coming back into the light. This is what the Hell happened to…
Cleaning Supplies and a Little Love: Bouncing Upside Down Crucifix from Splatterhouse Level Four, If You Play the Japanese Arcade Version or the PC Engine Version, But He’s Replaced By a Jumping Blue Disembodied Head in the American Version
For a game sprite that was a boss in a game, getting work from outside the gaming community is tough, but if your name is Bouncing Upside Down Crucifix, then it becomes double tough. After his moment in the American spotlight was edited out and replaced by a non- union scab boss, Jumping Blue Disembodied Head, BUDC was sent into a deep spiral of doubt and shame. After a life of proving that, in spite of his Satanic appearance, he was a pious and devote follower of the teachings of Bejeebus, BUDC was once again reviled by those whose acceptance he desired the most. After being cast out of congregations across the country, BUDC started Our Lady of the Devote Boss, a church that would allow him to teach the love of Bejeebus to all the bosses across the world. But, BUDC needed money…
Virtually unemployable because of his appearance, BUDC knew he would have to be an entrepreneur, but what could he offer? After failing as a masseuse (splinters), a day care provider (the severed heads he keeps around the house were frightening the children), and a roadsign ( the signs were too low to the ground), BUDC did something drastic. He changed his name to Bud See, started walking on his head, and put on some pants. After dismissing the severed heads to do as they pleased, Bud sat and thought about how he would make enough money to support himself, the family he so desperately wanted, and his church. Then he saw it, a local game store was closing out it’s cleaning supplies. Pawning every item he owned, Bud bought every cleaning supply in the store and formulated his plan. Bud then spent the next three days calling EVERY boss he knew, from Mid- Bosses to Mini- Bosses to Big Bosses. He went through his Rolodex from beginning to end and told every one of the Bosses he knew to come to his apartment with an open mind and a nice suit. Oh, and $50. On that abnormally cold day in November, Bud would give birth to GameWay and the lives of his fellow Bosses would never be the same. (He didn’t literally give birth to GameWay so much as figuratively.- Editor)
“We had to do something by our own and for our own or else we would have been in trouble. Most Bosses are naturally inclined to crime due to stereotypes, but we had to find a legal way to make money and support ourselves. When I saw that blowout on game cleaning supplies, I KNEW what we had to do. GameWay is a business owned and operated exclusively by former game Bosses. Well, except the factories that make the stuff. And the trucks that deliver it. And the… well, that’s not important. The point is, this was a way for former game Bosses to make money legally and logically. We have a simple credo: Look respectable, Say your prayers, take your vitamins, edify your fellow GameWay representatives, and I always get a cut. You aren’t going to print that last one, are you?”- Bud See, formerly Bouncing Upside Down Crucifix, founder of GameWay
The story of Bouncing Upside Down Crucifix ends happily, but not all stories can end this way. Some stories from the archives of gaming history end in tragedy. This is one such story. This is what the Hell happened to…
Of Guns and Guys: the Bayou Billy Tragedy
After his game Mad City was a minor success in Japan, Bayou Billy was thrilled to see his name in the title of the American iteration, the Adventures of Bayou Billy. Born William West, Billy had an affinity for women, gun play, driving, brawling, and alliteration. He was born to be a video game star. Dubbed “Bayou” Billy by the executives at Konami, Billy was told he would be THE star of the 1988 Christmas season. While the past belonged to Donkey Kong, Pac- Man, and Mario, the future was all Bayou Billy. After pulling some strings to give the role of love interest to a girl he met at a nightclub, the single named Annabelle, Billy was prepared to be an action game star. The Nineties would be the Decade of Bayou Billy. The future looked good.
During production, however, a seemingly minor event would lead Billy on a downward spiral he could not break away from. While visiting the set, Konami reps noted Billy’s glasses for the first time and they were horrified. Fearing for his job, Billy threw off his glasses and carried on, despite being dreadfully nearsighted. No one on the game’s staff would realize the horrible implications of this until too late. When the game shipped, however, players were angered rather quickly by the game’s terrible collision detection. Apparently, Billy’s nearsightedness was so bad that punches couldn’t land correctly, gunshots flew off in odd directions, and we don’t have to mention the driving. Needless to say, Billy never became the franchise player he thought he would be. To make matters worse, his family disowned him for not using his real name on the game and Annabelle was carrying his baby. The worlds of Billy West and Bayou Billy had collided and collapsed upon each other, leaving only a broke and lonely man with too many obligations.
Fearing that he would never find game work again, Billy took Annabelle with him to Louisiana, they had a quick wedding, and settled down in the tiny town of Snake Biscuit, LA. Billy found work as an alligator wrestler, and while it was dangerous work, it paid well enough to keep his family fed. Unfortunately, a routine alligator stunt went dangerously, and then fatally, wrong, when Billy’s glasses slid off of his nose and into the mouth of the alligator he was wrestling. Without thinking, Billy reached for them and the alligator snapped. In that instant, Annabelle became a widow and William West Jr. lost his father. Game fame, in this case, was a fleeting thing.
Too many in the know, the worst gaming tragedy and the most uplifting tale are deeply entwined enough to be considered one tale. When one partner goes down the dark road, what does his partner do? The answer might surprise you. What the Hell happened to…
Bullets Across Heaven: the Story of Blue and Red from Gunstar Heroes
Unlike most fates in the world of gaming, Blue and Red have been consistently popular and have maintained a cult following since their debut in 1993. While Gunstar Heroes was never a huge hit, sales wise, it is, was, and always will be a critical hit in this country. Demand for both the Genesis and Game Gear, as well as the little known SEGA Master System port of the Game Gear version, iterations of the game is always fairly high and mint copies are treasured by collectors. The future looked as bright as possible for these two straight shooting heroes from the planet Gunstar, but they didn’t expect the light of fame to fade so fast. Little did they realize that Treasure doesn’t make sequels to games and the chances to work as stars in other games were not going to be easy to come by. Enter Konami.
Appaloosa Interactive, on Konami’s behalf, were working on a new, 3-D installment in the famed Contra series, on which Red and Blue were stunt doubles in their younger days. Desperate to keep working in the profession they both loved, Blue sought out the game’s producers and got himself and Red hired on to do stunt work. Feeling let down because he had to move backwards to the Contra series instead of forward into a new Gunstar, the last straw for Red was when he saw a copy of the Japanese only Gunners Heaven. Drowning his sorrows with the elves from Capcom’s Roosters game and Lee Baxley, Red was full of rage and scotch when he hit the set on the fateful morning. Seeking to avoid yet another of Red’s drunken furies, Blue left the set and set out on his own. It would be the next day before he found out what happened next. Filming went on as usual, with Red acting as professional as possible, considering the belly full of booze and head full of hate he had. Then, a grip made a mistake that would change everyone on the Appaloosa back lots life forever. Laying on the ground, just feet away from Red were a Chaser and a Force power up. The gunpowder was there, all it took was a spark. At the exact wrong moment, Axel and Reka from Gunners Heaven passed through the set on a tour while they talked about new contracts. Red saw… well, red, picked up the two power ups and the rest of his story would be told on the evening news.
Halfway across the country, Blue was speeding down the highway in his red Ferrari with one hand on the wheel and the other on his new girl, the blonde from OutRun, Susan. When the radio stopped playing mid-song to report on the holocaust in Hollywood, Blue went for the dial until he heard the words he never thought he would, “The police are trying to communicate with the gunman, believed to be beloved video game star Red of Gunstar Heroes fame…” Blue flipped a u- turn and headed straight back home. He was on the city limits when the radio once again told him what he didn’t want to hear, ” The stand off at Appaloosa Studios has ended in tragedy today, with the gunman, Red, shot dead by the police after six hours.”
Wracked with guilt and torn apart by depression, Blue retreated to his favourite pastime, eating Cheetos and playing SEGA Master System games. He was halfway though Fantasy Zone when it came to him. He had to do something to stop the tragedies that overtook Red, Bayou Billy, and the dog from Duck Hunt. But what could a washed up video game star do? A motherfucking charity song, that’s what! So, in only two days, Blue gathered the ducks and clay pigeons from Duck Hunt, the aliens and soldiers from Area 51, a few ninjas, and the entire zombie union in a studio. This motley crew of extras, teaming with famed producer Dr. Dre, produced the charity song, “Super Heroes Organized Out To Stop Teenage Use of Firearms and Flame-throwers.” “S.H.O.O.T.S.T.U.F.F.” became the number 15 hottest song in the country and raised an astounding $15.07 to help prevent teenage gun use. Blue found his calling as a social lobbyist.
And Now For the Galaxy Exclusive Interview
I had to pull every string I have, look under every rock, and slum my way through every used game store, Goth club, and flea market in a tristate area, and lurk on every off the wall forum I could find. I had three people show up claiming to be him and all three were fakes. Every lead went nowhere. Then I got it. An e-mail that only said, “I am him. Meet me at Orange Julius.” Could it be? Was it possible? Could the famed son of Dracula, star of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night be working at an Orange Julius in the mall? I had to investigate…
What the Hell happened to…
Alucard, the Son of Dracula
*click* Is this thing on? Okay… ummm this is Chuck Platt, reporting for 411Games with an exclusive interview with a former game star. Could you please state your name?
Interviewee: Sure… My name WAS Alucard…
Chuck: Was? Surely you cannot lose your own name…
Guy Formerly Known As Alucard (GFKAA): You have apparently never messed with… you know who.
Chuck: Point taken. So where are we?
GFKAA: This is my Seclurum Nocturne. My sanctuary. My home.
Chuck: Ummm, why is it in the back room of an Orange Julius?
GFKAA: Have you ever had an Orange Julius? Delicious. And the pay is pretty good. And I can trade hot dogs for Hot Topic clothes.
Chuck: So, Mr. Lucard…
GFKAA: Don’t call me that! If HE hears you, he’ll sic those god forsaken lawyers on me. You know, they make those flying Medusa head things seem friendly…
Chuck: Sorry, so what do you do with yourself nowadays, Mr. umm X?
GFKAA: Well, when I’m not serving up hot dogs and Orange Julius goodness, I’m either hanging out at GameStop and making fun of the games people are buying or practicing my cowbell for my band, Don’t Fear the Peeper. We cover Blue Oyster Cult songs.
Chuck: Sounds like a full life. So, do you ever think about getting back in the game business?
GFKAA: I AM still in the game business. I write for a website and everything.
Chuck: You DO?! Which one?
GFKAA: *Smiles Wide, teeth showing and thumbs up*
Chuck: Dear God! You can’t be! Are you?
GFKAA: Yes, it’s been a work all along. I got myself hired and got tight with Alex Lucard just so I can kill him and take his place. He’s been getting all my big fat royalty checks from Konami since freakin’ Castlevania III. I have to wear a damn hairnet here. A hair net! So, I started working on the site and lured him in. It has been a trap all along. I, Bebito Jackson, will reclaim my rightful place as Alucard and make tons of money. And I’ll so make Alex eat off the floor. Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!
Chuck: Umm Bebito… Sorry to tell you this, but now I have all this on tape. You are so busted. I won’t let this out if you give Williams the Tuesday slot.
Bebito: Umm okay. Just don’t let Lucard know. That dude’s freakin’ scary…
*Door busts open*
Voice: Get down Mr. Jackson! This is the FBI! You are under arrest for posing as a game journalist! Put your hands on your head!
Bebito: Curses! I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that damn Chuck and his dog! Curses!