Monday, 21 March 2016

Everyone Poops, Even Sprites And Avatars

Originally published on Forces Of Geek, Friday 11th March. I decided to write about poop, because I'm an adult.

Whether you find it gross or hilariously funny when asked to pull someone's finger there's no denying that the expulsion of gas from our bums, along with a variety of accompanying noises, affects us all at a basic human level. I mean, why else would it provide a source of universal amusement for all young children? Ahh, toilet humour. Some label it as one of the laziest forms of comedy while others applaud it's simplicity.

You might be wondering why on Earth I'm writing about foul-smelling bodily gas and not about games. I've noticed recently that toilet humour has forever been popping up in gaming history and not exclusively to kids games either.

Surprisingly, it was Fallout 4 that prompted me to write this article, after I stumbled across a teddy bear reading a newspaper on a toilet when searching a building for ammo and supplies. Initially it made me chuckle (I think it's the addition of the spectacles!) and I quickly forgot about it but later it reminded me that games have been exploiting this form of puerile amusement for years.

If you go down to the bathroom today, you're sure for a big surprise.
Of course, as with all humour, over time repetition sets in and what was once outrageously funny eventually becomes incredibly dull ( some, even more hilarious). The things we all laughed at as children, all the gross out, smelly obvious humour eventually gives way to a more sophisticated humour as our understanding of the world and our exposure to new comedy increases.

Comedy is subjective, there are multiple things that make us laugh but the childish nostalgia of a fart joke seems to resonate with the vast majority. Toilet humour is funny because it's universally relatable, as human beings we all defecate and micturate regularly. If not, see a doctor. It's a common denominator for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, political class or intelligence.

Those of you who grew up in the late 80s/90s or like 90s music will appreciate this book title!
Programmers who want to inject a little humour into their games know they can't amuse everyone but sometimes we can't help ourselves. Even the most quick witted and vastly creative designer isn't above the overpowering effect of a well-timed parp. But sometimes they can show an ounce of originality. Not everything has to be "look at this smelly turd! Eeeewww!"

Just think of the weird and wonderful items often found within the bowls of in-game toilets, eating out of bins is one thing but in BioShock Infinite, if you find a potato in a toilet and eat it, it will actually increase your health which is as medicinally questionable as consuming 'freshly' cooked chicken in a dark, dank dungeon in certain retro titles. Seriously.

Less a block of cheese and more.. a cork or sponge of cheese
This one doesn't exactly translate well in the UK but in Perfect Dark, the designers felt the need to homage the term "cutting the cheese" by placing floating cheese in a toilet. For my international readers, it's something Americans say in place of "fart". I'm assuming it has something to do with the squeaky nature of their dairy products?

This subtle, visual joke combined with the bizarre nature of finding cheese in a toilet made for a very funny moment for anyone playing the game, whether you laughed out loud (I think this was before we would have said "LOL'd") or simply smirked, it worked.

Some of you might remember playing Counter-Strike (specifically the 'militia' level) and coming across a toilet which unsurprisingly, given the situation hasn't been flushed. One player decided to shoot at the poop multiple times and it exploded. They became patient zero in a long line of Counter-Strike players who couldn't resist the childish urge to shoot at turds whenever they encountered them. I confess that I never did but I salute you, you literal poop shooters!

Back in the early 2000s this poorly rendered cigar would have been considered the very spitting image of fresh human soil
In the notoriously difficult Discworld point-and-click game (based on Terry Pratchett's beloved Discworld novels) you guide Rincewind through a fantasy world, solving tricky puzzles; one of which involves a toilet, bizarrely. Earlier in the game, you come across someone eating prunes and in an attempt to steal an item from one of the members of an evil order, it seems pretty obvious that you must somehow give him prunes, being the natural laxatives they are.

It all seems quite straightforward, except this puzzle flummuxed so many gamers. The games designers decided that before you could do that, you had to first shove an octopus along with Nanny Ogg's "love custard" down the toilet first. Because prunes just weren't enough.

Poor, poor Octopus...look into his eyes, it's like he knows his fate!
In the point-and-click classic Day Of The Tentacle the player time travels in a rather unique vessel, a portable toilet. This game is so much fun and is probably one of my favourite puzzle games; it's silly, creative and the challenges get more unique as the game progresses forcing you to really think outside the box.  Tim Schafer is a comedy genius and his games almost always feature toilet humour.

Then there's Duke Nukem...probably the first game series I thought of when compiling notes for this piece and with good reason too, the Duke's games involve multiple toilet jokes including finding an alien using the toilet (because when the warring is done, we're not so different) and being able to throw poop which leaves disgusting brown smears on the walls, the floor or anywhere else you decide to throw faecal matter.

And if the odious Duke Nukem Forever is not to your liking (as was the case for so many of us), having defeated the final boss in Duke Nukem 3D, the Duke honoured his promised threat to "rip your head off and shit down your neck."

Perhaps in a homage to the Duke, in his eponymous franchise, Deadpool even drops a deuce while you look on in a weird mix of mild disgust and amusement but then, a game about the merc with a mouth would be crazy to omit the toilet humour.

It's not just the scatological or the contents of the toilet bowl that provides us with humour, look at The Sims. Watching a grown person pee themselves in real-life can be a traumatic and thoroughly unpleasant experience. In a video game, it's pretty funny. Thus The Sims reminds us once again how dangerously close we are to evil chaotic gods as we laugh for hours at the tiny virtual humans who are so inept they can't figure out how to use a toilet.

It seems toilet humour always has and will continue to permeate our gaming lives, whether we want it to or not, a bit like our bowel movements. And the thing is, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface. There's South Park: Stick Of Truth, World Of Warcraft, Fable, Zoo Tycoon, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Abe's Oddysee, Borderlands, Wario Master Of Disguise, Persona 4, Pokémon... probably... I mean, one of them has to, right?

Even the godfather himself isn't above base-level humour, after all Mario is a plumber, aside from mushroom consumption and goomba crushing he must be hip deep in the brown stuff most of his life.

PS I searched far and wide for this creator of this image with no luck, if anyone knows, please pop it in the comments section and I will credit accordingly.
PPS Also, I openly admit I have no idea what plumbers do. No offence plumbers, continue your fine work

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