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State of the Union: Short films based on video games are always funny, even when they're not
by Greg Mengel

Greg Mengel takes his own personal perspective on games and gaming culture in his column, State of the Union. State of the Union is published twice monthly on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

Youtube really has changed the way people think about short films. Twenty years ago, back in the ancient Paleolithic age now known to archeologists as "the Nineties," making movies was worlds tougher than it is now. Back in those times burgeoning filmmakers had to deplete their entire college savings, win the lottery, or sell Old Grandpa Peabody's family ranch just to buy the celluloid necessary to create fifteen minutes of actual moving images. Any cinematographic work, even a short one, was a huge financial investment. Optimistic young directors had to spend months, even years, hammering out their ideas before actually beginning a shoot. These would-be arteurs were in the business of crafting works of art told a story - short flicks that might make you laugh, cry, or learn to love again in this crazy, messed-up, coke-addicted world we live in. Back then, nobody churned out schlock.

Now, in 2010, one of the most popular short film series in the online world revolves around an average American man named Neil who magically transports himself into the world of Hyrule by asphyxiating himself with a Nintendo cord while masturbating to a pixellated fairy in the game, drunk.

Yep. How far we've come.

There are a couple of reasons why I'm more than happy with the changes that the Youtube-era short film has made. For one thing, much as I loved the painstakingly detailed production value that went into works like The Wrong Trousers, there are many times when I enjoy it less than the low-budget, low-brow hilarity of works like The Legend of Neil. There's something about those shot-from-the-hip short films, produced half on an actual set and the other half in somebody's basement, that warms my heart. They're so bad that, in pure defiance of science, they become awesome.

Second, there were never any short films or TV shows made in the 1990s that revolved so centrally around video games and video game culture as there are today. As we gamers continue growing into a strong artistic/recreational/spiritual/emotional/philosophical/biological/high school clique-ical community, we increasingly desire entertainment that resonates with us, our likes, our dislikes, our general humour as a group. Youtube is allowing us that outlet, and making me laugh frequently in the process.

With that in mind, here are six Youtube short films or short film series that focus on games, nerds, and the royal culture of gaming.

6. Street Fighter: The Early Years
Genre and topics discussed: Street Fighter, high school, crushes, general red-headedness

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:

Alright, this one is painful. It's as awkward as high school, and will hurt to watch. Still, it's got some pretty funny 80s references, like an awkward, jocky rendition of the Safety Dance, which make that hurt so good. If you ever spent a fifth grade sleepover playing Street Fighter 2 Turbo with your friends until five in the morning, then you have to give this a chance.

5. There Will Be Brawl
Genre and topics discussed: Super Smash Bros, futuristic dystopia

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:

Super Smash Bros + Chinatown + Shakespeare + Bloodsport + Blade Runner + any other violent film noir. It's adult in ways that will make you laugh, then grow up fast, as you watch your favorite Nintendo characters plunge into the dark side.

4. The Legend of Neil
Genre and topics discussed: The Legend of Zelda, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity with the fairy kind

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:
As stated above, the plot here is simple: man has one too many beers, man sees pixellated fairy acting flirty on television screen, man magically transports himself to Hyrule in a freak masturbation accident. It's a classic setup. Also, watching this series has inspired me to search for a moment when I can smoothly drop the word "cock-fairy" in normal conversation. So far a suitable opportunity has not shown up.

3. Mario: Game Over
Genre and topics discussed: Mario Bros, drug use, life in Brooklyn

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:
With over twenty-four million views, this short is a classic. It's yet another darkly realistic portrayal of Mario's downward spiral into drug abuse and despair as he tries to recover the meaning he had in his life back when he was saving princesses. If it wasn't so hilarious, it would make me cry.

2. Red vs. Blue
Genre and topics discussed: Halo, America, assorted colors

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:
Another classic series. The idea is that two opposing Halo teams are committing to battle in a civil war on Blood Gulch, but in reality it's just a collection of myriad hours of witty dialogue and satirical commentary which will easily kill that last hour before you get off of work.

1. The Guild
Genre and topics discussed: MMORPGs, and the unique people who play them

An Embedded Taste:

The Scoop:
Even though it's funny in its own right, The Guild really became famous when its creator, Felicia Day, performed as Penny in the wildly popular Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, therefore reaching the Valhalla-esque halls of internet video fame. The show is about a guild of hopelessly addicted online role-playing gamers who get into all sort of nerdy mishaps which result in hilarity. It's also worth noting that Miss Day, who can be seen portraying the musical cock-fairy (got one!) in The Legend of Neil clip linked above, may hold the world record for Object of the Largest Number of Nerd Crushes today. Take that, Seven-of-Nine.

So there are at least six ways for you to avoid watching normal TV for a while. Seven if you decide to go the old "kinkified-masturbation-to-a-retro-game" route, a la Neil. That should tide you over for a couple of weeks, at which point I'll hook you up with another State of the Union, with more tips on how to use your advanced knowledge of gaming to waste epic amounts of time. Till then, stay classy, brave explorers of the internet wastes.

PS - I only listed six, but God only knows, there must be dozens of millions more worthy video-game related videos floating around the web that I've never even heard of. If you know of any that I should check out, send them over! I love this stuff. Just leave a link to them in the comments section, and I'll give them a look. For every sufficiently entertaining link that is left in said section, I'll give you a pony.


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- Greg Mengel

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