Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

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Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Dancso » Sat Jun 06, 2015 10:11 am

I've noticed over the last several years that more and more games make references to popular culture, especially to other video games or people related to it.
You can also see the occasional great-grandfather game being referenced in homage to their likely inspiration.

I consider it likely that a number of these references will be completely overlooked and perhaps feel out of place soon, due to popular culture changing over time.
That almost makes it look like games are made to be forgotten later down the road, concentrating less on producing something original and memorable while leeching off of others' success instead.

One might say these references are to pay tribute to things that influenced the developers throughout making the game, or to things they cherish and feel the need to praise in such a way.
I'll admit I'm guilty of this: The game I'm working on has dozens of references, some of the levels actually have their story plugging a game genre or TV show. When I think about it, these references came to me somewhat along the lines of "haha yes let's do this, it'll be hilarious, I love <insert name here>". Ready your tomatoes. :oops:

Do you think people are trying to make up for their lack of creativity? (even if not consciously) Is it likely that many would use them to get some cheap laughs and smiles to boost their marketing?
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby wildweasel » Sat Jun 06, 2015 10:14 am

Sometimes, usually the more subtle references, they can actually bolster a game's awesome factor. Other times, when they're too obvious and out of place, they can ruin the moment. Look at most of Working Designs' later English releases of Japanese games; a lot of them are fantasy RPGs, and you'll run into people acting like Austin Powers, to signs flat-out quoting Guns 'n' Roses lyrics, and one character even mentions former president Bill Clinton by name. I say again: FANTASY RPGS.

Be really careful with "bleeding edge" pop culture; it'll date your game heavily. If a character in your game says "Hey, did you catch that season finale of How I Met Your Mother?", that's going to be cringe-worthy years down the line. But if they are, for example, saying "Magnify...and enhance. What do you mean we can't enhance? It worked so well on TV...", that's more effective.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Kinsie » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:00 am

I think there are people out there who are still seething mad about Fallout 2 referencing South Park and Tyson/Holyfield.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby amv2k9 » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:17 am

The long development time of games/movies pretty much guarantees that your pop culture reference will be groan-worthy by the time it actually comes out.



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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby leileilol » Sat Jun 06, 2015 11:25 am

Retro City Rampage is a nice example of how to not do it (doing it all relying on it for the whole plot) in an unoriginal tryhard kind of way. I can't stand playing it and I was looking forward to it for years since it was a homebrew NES rom in development stashed away in a corner on the SCI Studio website. Bloodline Kavkaz is probably more subtle with its 'dank maymays' than this game is with references.


Also, in a milder fashion, some of Hexen II's atmosphere is thrown out the window with the text obituaries you see when you die. With EXCLAMATION POINTS. Why does Hexen II need to reference "a can of whoop-ass!" and "chunky salsa!"? IN A FANTASY FPS! This isn't Necrodome.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Zanieon » Sat Jun 06, 2015 3:10 pm

I like some references when it is well created.

But something like this i find stupid.
Spoiler:
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby TheMightyHeracross » Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:01 pm

leileilol wrote: "a can of whoop-ass!" and "chunky salsa!"? IN A FANTASY FPS! This isn't Necrodome.

This bothers me more because cans weren't invented till the 19th century. :P
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Reactor » Sat Jun 06, 2015 6:52 pm

It wasn't different in the good old days either. Duke Nukem 3D perhaps contains the most popcult-references as Easter Eggs. Damn, even its source code holds goodies! Better-made games always had these hidden goodies, and I enjoyed finding them, let it be TIE Fighter, Prehistorik 2 or Tyrian. Along with secrets, using Easter Eggs in a game is sort of forgotten now.
Pity.

I hope Dopefish will return and "swim swim hungry" in future games, too.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby cambertian » Sat Jun 06, 2015 8:08 pm

What about all of those insane "THE 90'S WERE COOL" movies/games coming out lately? Do you think they'll stand the test of time?
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Big C » Sat Jun 06, 2015 8:18 pm

Relatedly, hearing modern internet memes in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon kinda dragged down the experience for me a bit.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Ixnatifual » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:25 am

Depends. If they are subtle/hidden and rare they can provide the occasional chuckle or satisfaction from recognising them. But when they are too obvious or common they end up feeling lame and immersion-breaking.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Project Dark Fox » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:34 am

Reactor wrote:I hope Dopefish will return and "swim swim hungry" in future games, too.

Last seen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Wondered where he's been of late myself.

See, I also wonder what sort of immersion-breaking that a random graffiti, or sculpture, or engraving, w/e of the Dopefish can cause, too. Back in the day, that motherfucker was everywhere.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Big C » Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:06 am

Project Dark Fox wrote:
Reactor wrote:I hope Dopefish will return and "swim swim hungry" in future games, too.

Last seen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Wondered where he's been of late myself.

See, I also wonder what sort of immersion-breaking that a random graffiti, or sculpture, or engraving, w/e of the Dopefish can cause, too. Back in the day, that smeghead was everywhere.


To be fair, given that DXHR takes place a couple decades from now, from an in-universe standpoint its appearance could actually make some sense given that it's in a post-internet future---the presence of the Dopefish could become like a postmodern version of "Kilroy was here".
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Project Dark Fox » Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:38 am

I have absolutely no issues with it being seen in scifi settings. Pop culture evolves in-universe, too (just good luck trying to predict it).

I more wonder with things like engravings on a temple wall or what have you.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Reactor » Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:50 am

I'll make sure to include Dopefish in Tristania 2, I truly miss him :) regardless how impossible it is to avoid them at "Well of Wishes".
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