I love video games. You should know this by now. What you may not know by now, however, is that I also love sitcoms. No matter what you’re looking for in a sitcom, there’s probably a comedic situation on television for you! Except doofy, inattentive fathers. They haven’t done that yet.
ANYWAY. One of my favorite shows on TV right now is The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom about four nerds and their hot blond neighbor. It’s got phenomenal writing and an absolutely stellar cast, but one of the best things about it is their attention to nerd detail.
The majority of the show takes place in the apartment of physicists Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper, who happen to be huge nerds. Sci-fi and comic book memorabilia are wantonly scattered about, which is cool, but what really impresses me is the video game stuff. As I write this, we have an episode on pause. I can see in the background, without even really squinting, the Master Chief helmet from the Halo 3 Legendary Edition, the Xbox Best Of Platinum Hits version of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, and the collector’s edition of City of Villains for the PC. This is one shot. The background stuff in their apartment seems to change every episode.
The four main characters (Leonard, Sheldon and their friends Howard and Raj) have “Halo Night” every Wednesday, and it’s not used as a one-off gag. They refer to it, and even show it, in several episodes. The thing is, though, they’re actually playing Halo! The sound effects are from Halo. The in-game terms they use are from Halo. They even use the controllers like they’re actually playing Halo!
You know how whenever they show someone playing a video game on TV, generic bleeps and bloops fill the air as the actor flails about in a humiliating attempt to push every button on the controller as fast as possible? Not here! They hold the triggers and have one thumb on each analog stick. It seems like such a small thing, but on a show where they literally have a science consultant to make sure that the things they talk about and the white boards the characters use to use equations are accurate, it’s just that much more impressive the way they try to get these things right.
(The only other time I’ve seen an actor play a video game correctly on TV was once on an episode of Glee, Finn was seen playing Halo and he was using the controller the right way. Then he ruined it by saying he “got vaporized on level 2.”
There was an episode where Sheldon’s mom mailed him his Nintendo 64, and he was excited to play Super Mario 64 (referred to by name) with Leonard, who had a date over. So Sheldon took his laptop and sat outside the apartment to play Super Mario 64 on an emulator (he actually says it’s an emulator when their neighbor Penny asks what he’s doing). When she interrupts him, he pauses the game. You know what you hear? The pause sound from Super Mario 64. When he’s playing, you hear the music from the Bowser levels. You hear Mario yell “Yah! Wahoo!” as he jumps. We can’t see the laptop screen, but we know for a fact that Sheldon is indeed playing Super Mario 64.
Another episode had Penny getting addicted to the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Age of Conan. Again, referenced by name, but we see the game itself this time. They throw out a lot of terminology I didn’t know since I haven’t played the game, but the way Penny behaves isn’t just stereotypical “addicted gamer”; she’s on a Ventrilo line, talking to her party, concerned with things like who was going to tank their next encounter.
The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite shows because THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I can relate to them. I’m not a scientist, but I’ve spent many a Saturday night playing video games with friends instead of going out. I’ve been ridiculed for having a collection of toys still in the packaging. I’ve been nervous talking to girls. If you’ve got any nerd in you at all, you’ll be just as impressed with the show as I am.