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Category: Famous Crap Games Throughout History

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #10: Gin, Rummy

Everyone who is of a certain age and social class will have heard of, and probably played, Gin Rummy. That two player card game where each person has to create sets of cards – runs and matching values, rather like Mahjongg for children. This is not Gin, Rummy.

To play Gin, Rummy (the comma is important) each player had a number of shot glasses and several bottles of both gin and rum. Any number of people can play, although local laws may dictate that players are over the age of 18, 21, or not from alcohol barring religious orders.

The game is quite simple: in Round One, each player downs enough rum to kill a buffalo. Any survivors move onto Round Two. In Round Two, all remaining players simultaneously down one shot of gin at a time. The last person alive wins, and can help themselves to the contents of the losers’ pockets/handbags/pants as appropriate.

You would think there is perhaps nothing crap about this game at all, but there is a sad side to all the fun. Since 1960 more than 7 million people have died from liver related diseases, every single one of which has been irrefutably linked to playing Gin, Rummy. Even worse, two men were arrested in 2006 having between them stolen more than £3.50 in change from the pockets of their friends. They’d cheated the game by watering down their own rum and using a cow in a buffalo suit as their reference measure.

Gin, Rummy is now illegal in 27 US states and is outlawed in Ghana and Denmark. In 2013 Essex County Council attempted to ban the game in the county’s pubs, against fierce opposition from members of the local heavy drinking industry. They unwisely chose to ban or not based on the outcome of, you guessed it, a game of Gin, Rummy. Three councillors died, a buffalo was arrested, and two publicans woke up in Zeebrugge with very dry mouths.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #9: Incontinental Circus

It is well known that in the late 1980s the Japanese game company Taito made a slight error with one of their titles, releasing an F1 racer called “Continental Circus” after a poor translation of “Continental Circuit”. It was an easy mistake to make, I mean, the S key is right next to the IT key on Japanese keyboards.

What is less well known is a far more interesting story and it started two years before Continental Circus, with Incontinental Circuit.

Taito (back then, known as Potaito) had developed what they thought was bound to be the next big thing in gaming – two player head-to-head motor racing with bladder control. Literally. A pair of huge arcade cabinets, each housing a large screen, a reclining chair, a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a number of straps and sensors that needed to be attached to the player. A drinking fountain was angled towards the player’s mouth, and after inserting a few 100 Yen coins, the game began.

Much like in most other motor racing games, the aim was to win the race, but the twist with Incontinental Circuit was that your car’s engine power increased as you, the player, physically filled their bladder. The more you drank, the higher your vehicle’s top speed. Don’t drink, and your car loses power. The first to pass the Chequered Flag was the winner, the first to pass urine was disqualified. That’s right – moisture sensors in the seat would alert the game to your embarrassing release.

Unfortunately for Potaito, they were hit from all sides with issues. The main one that hit the headlines was over gamers sitting in a pool of other peoples’ fluids as arcade staff failed to mop up after disqualifications, and all the associated health risks that came with it. This was the 1980s, remember, and popular myth at the time was how easy it was to contract AIDS from arcade machines. Other problems just made things worse. The water fountains needed to be connected to a water supply, which was something most arcades struggled to accommodate. All that water (and “previously drunk” water) in close proximity to electricity caused several shocking deaths, and one unfortunate individual managed to drown when his water fountain malfunctioned and he couldn’t get out of the seat straps quickly enough.

What really killed the game off, however, was the cheating. Players soon found that by wearing adult nappies, they could thwart the sensors and wet themselves all they liked without the game noticing.

Finally, and perhaps most damning of all, was when the game was produced, the translator at Potaito managed to name the game as Incontinental Circus, rather than Incontinental Circuit, confusing gamers everywhere.

With the game an expensive flop (all those proprietary and unusual components almost bankrupted Potaito before the cabinets even hit the arcades), Potaito gutted the core game and repurposed it as a more standard F1 racing game. No water, drinking or sensors. They called it Continental Circuit, but somehow the same translator made the same mistake again. He never found translating work after that, and the entire fiasco was blamed on him and him alone.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #8: The Butter Principle

In the early 1990s, with 16-bit games consoles firmly established as the dominant force in game entertainment, several companies hopped on board the money train with their supposedly better products, only to find said train derailed worse than Potters Bar. Atari released their fake 64-bit Jaguar, Samsung brought out the poorly named Samsung Hardware Interactive Technology Box, which used unusual architecture based around a 19-bit RISC CPU, and Trip Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) from Electronic Arts set up the 3DO Company to release their 32-bit monstrosity: the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer device.

Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was looking for strong lineup of launch titles for his new console. Coming from EA, he convinced them to port some of their successful Megadrive and Super NES titles to the 3DO in enhanced form, adding more features, better graphics, and full motion video. These titles, and others from the likes of Capcom and Bullfrog were to be part of a three-pronged attack on 16-bit consoles:

  1. to deliver the same titles as competitors, but higher quality (e.g. Street Fighter II and FIFA Soccer)
  2. to deliver new titles that would not be possible on older hardware, using new 3D and FMV hardware (e.g. Twisted: The Game Show and Need For Speed)
  3. to deliver new titles that were possible on older hardware, but exclusive to the 3DO

One of those games developed in-house at 3DO was The Butter Principle. Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) was directly involved in its creation, even coding much of the game and drawing the toast graphics himself.

In his autobiography, “I Was The Most Important Man In Gaming”, Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) recounts how he came up with the idea:

“Long before we had ‘casual gamers’, I realized there was a completely untapped market of people who didn’t play video games. I theorized that these potential customers saw complexized rules in games as the main barrier to play, so sought to developize titles not unlike those single moms find so addictivizing on their mobile tablet phones today. One of my best ideas was a simple game where you had to predictivize which way up slices of digitalized buttered toast would land.”

This idea became The Butter Principle, and it was released alongside the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer at launch to dismal reviews. “It was ahead of its time, “ explains Hawkins (grandfather of Justin and Dan Hawkins from UK rock band The Darkness) “and the public weren’t yet ready. I don’t think reviewers understized it properly. It was never meant to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog or Madden NFL.”.

In reality, its failure was more down to the very nature of the real life Butter Principle. In the game, just as in real life, the toast would always land butter side down, making every single outcome exactly the same. That and the fact it cost $100.

“The failure of The Butter Principle at retail is the overriderzing reason why my 3DO did not perform as well, saleswize, as expected. Ultimately, I place the blame of my downfall entirely on Edge magazine, and their review of The Butter Principle. They awardized it just 4/10, and my career never recoverized. One day I will have my vengence.”.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #7: Fire Equals Pain

Many, many school games can fall into the category of “crap”, like marbles, football and Hang Mr Frobisher, but few are both crap and stupid in the way Fire Equals Pain is. Or rather, was, as it is banned from every school across the whole of the UK, and has been since a well publicised incident in 1984. Up until then it was a common winter sport in Physical Education lessons, and even had inter-school competitions, with a national Fire Equals Pain league set up in 1956, initially for boys only but girls were allowed to take part after 1966.

It’s unknown who originally came up with the idea for Fire Equals Pain, and informally it was known by many names in different parts of the country. In Cornwall, it was called simply “Burn”, in parts of Wales it was known as “Fireboys” (as in “Choirboys Play Fireboys”), and in Newcastle school children referred to it as “Aye, That’ll Hurt”.

The premise is simple, and stupid, and you’ve probably played it or a variant yourself at some point: hold your hand over a lit candle, match, or lighter for as long as possible. Whoever can do it longest, wins. There’s a doubles version, where both players on one team hold each other’s hands over the flame. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people got burnt.

However, the Fire Equals Pain League Association (FEPLA) put an end to playing the game in any form after an important league match ran into overtime. Usually, when it’s a draw, the players play again, only hold their hands half an inch closer to the flame. A normal Scarborough Rules match starts with hands at four inches, but when tied, another round at three and a half inches is played. If the players are still tied, this is moved to three, then two and a half, then two inches. In this match between Paul Tripping of Dagenham and previous champion Rhys Anpeace from Aberystwyth, the pair were exactly level after all these additional tie break rounds.

The crowd were tiring, the referee wanted an end to the match. He consulted the FEPLA officials and it was decided to swap out the regulation candles for bunsen burners for one final round. It was a tragic decision.

No sooner had the round started, it was noted that the bunsens were set to a blue flame. The match recorder wrote in her witness statement that both Tripping and Anpeace alerted the referee to this mistake, but the referee insisted they play on at a deadly one inch elevation. The crowd gasped, and the whistle blew. Within seconds both Tripping and Anpeace’s hands were alight. Both struggled hard to maintain their stance, and quickly both were completely ablaze. Members of the crowd shouted for them to stop the game, but the referee insisted play continued. A man on the front row, John Johnsonson, grabbed a fire extinguisher but before he could use it the referee wrestled him to the ground, knocking him out. What happened next is unclear, as the flames had spread from the two players to the surrounding area, and everyone except the players and referee fled the scene, just in time to survive a massive explosion that fire investigators later attributed to Paul’s superheated bladder swelling like a hot air balloon, then rupturing.

The game was never officially played again.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #6: Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker

As the end of the 8-bit era drew near, very few companies remained committed to developing games for the Spectrum and Commodore 64. Sometimes an easy port of a 16-bit or arcade title would appear, along with a few games rehashed as sequels and several versions of Fun School, but as potential buyers dwindled so did the number of releases.

One way of maximising sales in a small market was to buy cheap licences for known media, such as Charlie Chalk and Rentaghost. Well known enough to pique interest, but not well known or popular enough (at the time, at least) to demand large licensing fees. One such bargain basement buy were the rights to Alan Whicker, snapped up by IJK Software.

Not his TV show “Whicker’s World”, though. That was still out of the price range of such small time game producers. To get around this, IJK decided to carefully choose a game name that contained the words “Whicker’s World”, but not actually be “Whicker’s World”. They decided upon “Alan Whicker’s World of Cane Furniture”. This quickly caused problems, as the low resolution of the Spectrum’s screen meant that the title would not fit on a single line, so it was changed to something that would – “Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker”, which manages it with just two characters to spare.

IJK brought in long-time associate Harry S. Price to create the game for them. Well known for being able to quickly create original ideas, cheaply, Price was ideal. You could say The Price was Right.

No, I suppose you couldn’t.

Price set to work turning the name into a playable game. As he’d done before, he borrowed a game engine from another title to save some time, and redrew some of the graphics. Within a week he’d created a totally original game, where you as Benhouse Barry have to visit locations around the world, collecting wicker furniture while avoiding Alan and his Angry Red Ostriches. IJK Software were pleased with Harry’s work, and paid him £150, equal to the Alan Whicker rights.

whicker

Your Sinclair, the only Spectrum magazine left at the time, reviewed it but it scored poorly. Their main complaint was that it reminded them too much of an earlier Spectrum game, although they couldn’t quite remember which. They also mentioned that each level, although named after a famous city, bore no resemblance to it, unlike, for example, Pang, or Short’s Fuse. Finally, they slated the way Alan’s comical head bounced around after Benhouse Barry in a completely unrealistic manner. “A total waste of a good licence”, they concluded.

By the time the sequel, Alan Whicker’s World of Wicker 2 (fully using all the available screen space), was announced, the 8-bit game market had completely collapsed and even Your Sinclair had folded – and not just down the middle where the staples were. Promises of a more open world game, with flick-screen platforming and set in the “IJK Wicker Furniture Factory” fell on deaf eyes and the title was cancelled shortly after Harry S. Price was arrested (and subsequently executed) in an unrelated plagorism case. Rumours of a 2013 Xbox One launch title reboot by Rare turned out to be unfounded.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #5: Bore

Perhaps the worst thing, besides swingers, to come out of the 1970s Dinner Party movement, was the word game “Bore”.

Those who who have heard Radio 4 intellectual panel game Just A Minute will be familiar with Bore, albeit in a refined and more enjoyable form. Like Just A Minute, Bore involves the player being given a topic to talk about, but unlike Just A Minute, there are no other rules, except that everyone else must listen.

Since repetition, hesitation and deviation are not only allowed but actively encouraged, the game is relatively simple to play. The player continues to talk until all the other dinner party guests make their excuses and leave, or overdose on Babycham. In one famous case a guest actually shot themselves in the ear just to stop the lecture the player was giving about how Tarmac consistency differs throughout the United Kingdom. Bore was briefly banned in response, but this was quickly overturned when the Lord Justice David Quincepipe ruled that tedium was not a crime.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #4: Super Trouser

Many companies now associated with other things once dabbled in card and board games. Nintendo used to make playing cards, General Motors invented Ludo, and Argos were originally known for their ivory domino sets.

Another such company was Moss Bros. These days, they’re the go-to place for wedding trousers and cravats, but during World War II their main business was creating pocket board games that wives and mothers sent to their men on the front to keep their morale high and their minds occupied. In the “keep them sharp” way, not the “like Poland” way. They produced many popular games, such as The Cockerel And The Farmer, It’s A Long Way To Tip O’er Mary and My Three Laces, but it was Super Trouser that was their undoing in the pocket gaming sector.

Simon Goss of the Moss Bros Museum explains:

“Super Trouser was a miracle of miniaturisation at the time. All of Moss Bros’ pocket games were designed to be about the size of a packet of cigarettes for easy transport to our boys in the trenches, but the sheer number of parts and game complexity meant for some genius packet stuffing. Three new previously unthinkable origami folds were devised for the game board alone, and there were some two hundred tiny hand carved tokens, each unique and barely larger than a matchstick tip in every set. With no cheap overseas labour to construct them, Moss Bros had to hire London street urchins and train them up with advanced whittling techniques. It was unprecedentedly expensive and intensive work.”

This expense up front would have taken the company under, but it was made even worse by Super Trouser being too fiddly to unpack and repack, and too difficult to understand. The rules were bizarre and complicated, and the instructions needed a magnifying glass to read, as they were printed small to save space.

“It was even worse than that,” continues Goss “since even those learned few who managed to decypher the rulebook were stymied by the strange decision to not include the necessary seven sided die. It was impossible to play without it, and they weren’t exactly easy to come by in Flanders.”

“Some tried to make do with a standard six sided die, but it was ultimately futile. Some squares on the board could never be landed on without rolling a seven, meaning the endgame ‘Pocket Wrestle’ stage was never reached.”

With a die of the correct number of faces, the game was still baffling to most. The basic premise was simple to understand – three to nine players each moved a small canvas trouser counter around the board, collecting the carved token items as they progressed. These tokens were stuffed into the bulging pockets on each pair of trousers. Different tokens, when owned, changed various rules or routes on the board, and players could deploy a number of tactics to improve their own chances of winning, such as drawing a “frayed stitching” card, or making a “pocket shuffle” move where they could steal another player’s gained tokens. Once all the tokens had been collected, the game moved into “Pocket Wrestle”, where the two players with the most tokens could make a grab for the tokens owned by the other players.

“Of course,” says Goss “it was far more involved than any short description can suggest. I have documents from the original designers stating that even they got confused after the first three hours of play. Even Alan Turing gave up at fourteen hours having studied the rules for over a month. He never even reached Pocket Wrestle.”

All was not lost for Moss Bros, though. With funds almost depleted by the end of the war, they sold their pocket games division to Nestle and sought out another market. It didn’t take them long, as the elder Moss brother realised that all those returning soldiers would need new trousers, and the modern Moss Bros as we know it today was (re)born. Super Trouser was forgotten as a failed game, but the game is still remembered as an ironic note in Moss Bros history.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #3: Big Boy Barry Bubbly Binge Bingo Bloodbath

In the mid 1990s Sky television in the United Kingdom broadcast a “television programme” called Games World. It was a poor relative of the obviously superior Gamesmaster, but did have the advantage of a low audience share due to being available only on the satellite channel. These rock bottom viewing figures ended the show’s run well short of Gamesmaster, although the demon bosses at Sky reran Games World so frequently in the subsequent years that 95 percent of the channel’s output for the whole of 1998 consisted of The Simpsons and Games World, with the remaining 5 percent being The Simpsons special episode of Games World.

One of the recurring sections of Games World was presented by “games expert” and “professional food eater” Big Boy Barry. His play tips and banter enthralled and entertained all six of the show’s viewers, none of whom were actually old enough to own a Sega Megadrive so couldn’t even make use of his hints on beating Dr Doom on level seven of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Barry (real name Barrymondo) was the closest thing Sky had to a celebrity, so they decided to make use of his likeness in increasingly confused and unsuccessful ways. At first, they simply used him in print adverts in Saga Magazine and Your Stepladder Monthly, pimping their The Simpsons exclusivity. Then they moved into merchandise, with Big Boy Barry brand baked beans, lighter fluid and flypaper.

Barry tried to distance himself from Sky, stating that with the cancelling of the Games World TV show, they no longer owned neither him nor his likeness. His lawyers prepared to sue the Emperor Of Sky Television, but Sky produced a contract signed by Barry’s birth parents stating they willingly sold Barry, Barry’s likeness, Barry’s milk teeth, Barry’s soul and all of Barry’s future offspring to Sky Television for the sum of five magic beans. Sky’s Barry-fuelled media onslaught carried on unchallenged.

Some badly directed TV adverts featuring Barry in compromising sexual situations with assorted hand puppets were mistakenly broadcast during CITV’s Children’s Ward rather than after 10pm on Channel 4 before ER, and Sky decided it best to shelve Barry as an asset. His personal life suffered and he hit the bottle hard, spending his dirty Sky money on case after case of Moet.

Until 2003 when they decided to reboot Big Boy Barry as a grown-up. A new series of Games World was commissioned, and filming began on the new, more adult, video game show. Sex and violence were to feature more heavily, and Vinnie Jones was to present a strand each week showcasing real life knife fighters playing Street Fighter II and Barbie Horse Adventures. Taking their cue from Gamesmaster (again), it was decided a humourous location for the show was a good idea, and so a deal was struck with Mecca Bingo to film the studio segments in one of their swankiest bingo halls.

Then one of the producers had a brainwave: why not create an actual video game, about the All New Mecca Bingo Games World Show, to go with the series? Veteran crap game developers Titus were approached to program something that fitted in with Barry, the new adult direction the show was moving in, knife fighting, and Mecca Bingo. “Big Boy Barry Bubbly Binge Bingo Bloodbath” was born.

Released for the Nintendo Gamecube just days before the new series was due to air, the title immediately caused controversy. Barry was portrayed as a drunken oaf, swilling champagne and threatening little old ladies with shouts of “One and eight, I’LL KNIFE YA!” and “Two fat ladies GETTIN’ KNIFED!”. This was neither in keeping with Nintendo’s usual family friendly output, nor the game Sky expected from Titus. Somehow, not a single person at Sky had even seen the game in any form before it was on the shelves, and the bad publicity caused outrage amongst the armchair Daily Mail readership. Sky had no choice but to not only recall the game, but cancel the show – replacing it with more episodes of The Simpsons.

Very few copies of the game still exist in the wild, but rumour has it Titus sold the game engine and assets to Rockstar Games, who repurposed it as the more media-friendly Manhunt.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #2: Bumhandler

Archeologists are split on the original source material for this Dragon 32 game. Some academics suggest it is a video game based on the life of little known 1940s New York businessman Eric Bumhandler, who, in his later years, spent much of his time helping the homeless (“bums” in the American vernacular) find homes and jobs. His decision to do this was down to inadvisably joining a cult in 1953 where he learned that the true path to God was to “live life in his name”. Unfortunately, this was due to a broken typewriter shift key and it should have read “live life in His name”. As a result, he became a Bumhandler by trade as well as name. His fellow cultists Mario Drinkless and Mary-Ann Slaughter sadly met their end through this terrible typographic mishap. 

Alternatively, it is possible the game is a conversion of the 1981 German-only arcade machine “Der Hinterngropen”, where you play as a man in a bowler hat who waits at a bus stop and grabs the bottoms of unsuspecting passengers as they embark. 

The true origins are not provable either way.

In Bumhandler, you play as a man who wears a bowler hat and stands waiting at bus stops. As the passengers get on the bus, you have to grab their posteriors without them realising what you’re doing. Poorly laid out controls and a multitude of bugs made the game virtually unplayable, hindered even further by the instructions only existing in German.

Not surprisingly, the game never sold many copies. Also, it was on the Dragon 32 so crap by default.

Famous Crap Games Throughout History #1: Monkey Polo

In 1779 Lord Mongoose of Essex devised a simian-based ball game for two teams of eight players. Each team captain was assigned a monkey, and all other players a polo mallet. Play was on a circular field except during the winter playing season, when play was in the drawing room.

The aim of the game was to thwack the monkey off the shoulders of the team captain (ideally without also thwacking the captain’s head off at the same time), which scores the team a point. If a player managed to thwack a monkey outside of the circle (or, in winter, out the window or up a chimney), then the team was allocated a Bonus Banana allowing them to double up on monkeys for the next quarter of the game.

Play continued until either all five quarters of the game had been played, or the players had exhausted all the monkeys.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Lord Mongoose for a quick chat about the game he invented:

Lord Mongoose, sir, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about Monkey Polo.

Your Greys. You must refer to me as “Your Greys”.

Sorry, Your Grace. My ap…

GREYS. Not Grace. Did your parents teach you nothing, you beastly child?

I, er, no. Sir. I mean Your Greys. So, about Monkey Polo. How di…

Ah yes. My greatest invention that was. Monkey Polo. Did you know Queen Victoria played it at her coronation party? Of course, the monkeys were gold plated and each player was one of her personal knights. But it was still Monkey Polo.

I did not know that, no. So how did the game co…

Not like that Butter Monkey Polo “game”. From the 1960s? What rot that was. They stole my game, replaced the monkeys with knobs of salted butter, and made the circular field a pentagon! A pentagon! I sued the TV network that came up with that nonsense, I can tell you.

Interesting. I think. Perhaps you could tell me a little about how you came up wit…

I invented Exploding Chess too, you know. I admit, I took my inspiration from the normal chess game, but it was my additions to the ruleset that shows my true genius.

Exploding Chess? I don…

Of course you must have heard of it. Was an absolute riot in the opium establishments in the 1800s. The full details are far too complicated for someone such as yourself to grasp, you’d need to play a thousand games to simply understand the rules, but the main distinguishing feature over its more rudimentary fore-father is the introduction of pawns whittled from blocks of TNT.

Uh, isn’t that a little, er, dangerous?

What do you mean? Opium is perfectly safe.

No, I mean the TNT.

What TNT? The monkeys ate bananas, not TNT. What are you talking about, boy?

I meant the TNT in Exploding Chess.

Where did you hear about Exploding Chess? Are you a Nazi spy?

Erm, no, you just told me y…

Nazi! You’re a Nazi! I knew it! Get off my lawn or I’ll fetch my blunderbuss.

So there you have it. Monkey Polo. What a load of crap.

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