Tag Archives: Sesame Street

FGC #575 Big Bird’s Egg Catch

The giving birdAccording to contemporary evolutionary theory, our modern-day birds are direct descendants of dinosaurs. For the longest time, dinosaurs were assumed to merely be the big brothers to our current crop of not-so-terrible thunder lizards, but a recent spat of scientists being attacked by antagonistic pigeons has given rise to the theory that there is a direct link between your Jurassic Park’s raptors and… well… raptors. Huh. Maybe we should have been able to figure that one out earlier. But, regardless of whether or not the Dinosaucers should have had feathers, one thing is obvious: there is a clear and undeniable link between dinosaurs and birds.

So the link between Big Bird and Barney the Dinosaur is just a matter of evolution, right? Two beloved childhood stars, both literally built to appeal to and educate children. Both sing songs, teach lessons, and share an evolutionary bloodline. On a genetic level, they are practically the same creature.

Except there is one major evolutionary difference: Big Bird is fondly remembered and supported to this day, and Barney the Dinosaur was always universally loathed.

Why? It’s all about love.

Look, we all appreciate Sesame Street as some shining bastion of children’s programming, but, to examine a quote from one of its creators, Big Bird’s chosen street had vaguely sinister sounding origins. Sesame Street was to be a show that would “master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them”. It is great that there is that “do something good” caveat there, but ignore that little bit, and it almost sounds like Cookie Monster was invented by a supervillain attempting to take over the world. And, regardless of intentions, Sesame Street did take over the world. Sesame Street is a global institution, appearing in as many countries as there are palette swaps for Big Bird. And it is all based on one simple concept: learning should be fun for kids. Education does not all have to be stodgy teachers explaining math in a monotone, it can also be obsessive-compulsive vampires and cranky trash people.

Grab it!But, as time has gone on, Sesame Street has also become a place where children can learn from puppets how to be more human. Ever since the Snuffleupagus snafu of the 70s, Sesame Street has paid careful attention to guaranteeing the children of yesterday and today not only know how to count cookies, but also how to cope with a cruel and uncaring world of grouches. Sesame Street is not just about goofy songs and guest stars that are comfortable making eye contact with muppets, it is also about addressing children from all walks of life (those born into families both amazing and dreary), and teaching them that they are going to get through this world. Sesame Street is not universal for every child (how could it be?), but it does do its best accommodate as many children as possible, and express that the world may not be perfect, but they are loved.

And then there’s Barney. Barney just straight up says “I love you” like a jackass. And he does it over and over for every episode! What the hell, dinosaur?!

Barney & Friends, a children’s television show that premiered in 1988, had a similar origin to Sesame Street. It was created to fill a gap, but, while Sesame Street was broadly established to appeal to preschoolers, Barney was aiming for more of the kindergarten set. His creator, Sheryl Leach, believed that her son had outgrown anything available on television and video, so she set out to fashion a singing dinosaur that could entertain children of specific ages. After an initial VHS splash, the concept was graduated from direct-to-video edutainment to a television series in 1992. And from there, Barney & Friends became an American phenomenon, with the purple dinosaur singing everywhere from your television to the toy aisle to the Daytime Emmys. If you were exposed to a child of a certain age in the 90’s, you were exposed to Barney. And his songs would be stuck in your head for the rest of the day…

It's a sunny dayOh, and if you didn’t have a kid around that demanded to see Barney, you were probably familiar with the creature, too. Barney had a bit of a… negative following. Or, put another way, to my knowledge, this is the first time I am covering something on this blog that had a roleplaying book dedicated to a “jihad” to destroy it. Barney was almost universally loathed. Yes, of course there were “kids”, preteens, and other sarcastic malcontents that made up “funny” songs about barbequing the purple dinosaur’s head, but the whole antipathy enterprise leaked into adult entertainment, too. Remember The Critic? An obvious descendent of The Simpsons, and one of the few dittos of the era to actually be funny? A full half of its fifth episode was given over to an extended parody of Barney the Dinosaur (Humphrey the Hippo… why do I remember that unbidden?). This was a primetime show! For adults! Mostly! And they dipped into the “Barney sucks” well immediately. And if you needed something less animated, Barkley was dunking (literally) on Barney on Saturday Night Live. Barney was an object of scorn everywhere for a few years, and people were able to massively profit off the previously mentioned RPG sourcebook based on destroying Barney, or ersatz appearances like Mr. Huggles in a 2007 Xbox game (Monster Madness, incidentally). And more than a few Youtube careers were launched by involving “a Barney” in one way or another…

So this brings us back to a simple question: Why? There have always been Sesame Street parodies, but none possessed the same consistent vitriol we all saw in the Barney universe. Why was Barney so universally, consistently despised?

Maybe it’s just because he loved too much.

Go Barney!Barney is supposed to be a big, purple manifestation of unconditional love. He loves you, you love him, we’re a great big family. Barney is great for kids, because his unconditional love of the audience tells children that there are people out there that will love you no matter what. That is a great moral! But, to anyone over the age of five, it sounds an awful lot like bullshit. In fact, that very bullshit is likely a significant reason why Barney was so loathed. A generation of kids that had just experienced He-Man, G.I. Joe, and Ninja Turtles was now seeing the next generation (or their little siblings) being influenced by Barney the Lover. And, whether anyone really understood what was happening, they all recognized this… deception. Barney did not love you. Barney did not even know you. And neither did Prince Adam of Eternia, Sargent Slaughter, or Leonardo, but they all took time out of their day to give you some Sailor Says knowledge and sell a few toys for a half hour a day. They didn’t know you, they didn’t care about you, but they made you think they cared about you. And you, a stupid kid, bought it, literally, every time you waddled into Toys R’ Us. And an entire generation was just starting to realize this. He-Man had retired. The Ninja Turtles were losing shelf space to the Power Rangers. Our lovers had left us, and here was a new sucker ready to be tricked by the latest dinosaur of love. He’ll leave you like they all left us, Little Timmy! Do not love Barney! He doesn’t really love you! Flush his body down the potty while you can!

Just not goodThat is the difference between Big Bird and Barney. Despite a similar evolution, they are both the products of very different times. Big Bird loves you, but it is not his whole identity. Barney exists in a world wherein he cannot conceive of being unloved, and, while that works for some ages, it does not for people starting to understand all their heroes were little more than toy commercials. And, as a result, to this day, Big Bird continues to star in any number of counting-based videogames, while Barney never escaped the Sega Genesis. Love did not keep Barney alive, and it never could. In our modern world, Big Bird still stalks the Earth, while Barney is extinct. A big, purple evolutionary dead end.

… Or maybe just nobody liked his songs. Man, I’m not a paleontologist.

FGC #575 Big Bird’s Egg Catch

  • System: Atari 2600. It’s got pretty good graphics for an Atari title!
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. Likely assuming their audience were literal preschoolers, that alternating happens pretty damn often. You don’t have to wait for your turn for long.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is a game for babies… and surprisingly well-balanced for multiple ages. The lower-difficulty levels see a Big Bird that automatically magnetizes to where an egg falls, but later stages allow the player to more precisely position the bird so as to more effectively fail at catching an egg. Oh, and the chutes get more zig-zaggy. And invisible. That makes things complicated!
  • Where did they go?You are in Control: Big Bird’s Egg Catch was built for the Atari Kid’s Controller. That controller was, essentially, a num pad. It was basically only built for educational/egg-based games. But since it had more buttons and was more complicated than your typical Atari “paddle”, it was kind of ironic that this became the “Kid’s Controller” and not “Accountant’s Delight”.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: Many of “my” Atari games were games my grandfather found interesting (like Pac-Man) that I incidentally got to play. But I want to say Big Bird’s Egg Catch was the first videogame ever distinctly purchased for “Little Bobby”. Either that or my grandfather really liked gigantic birds.
  • How about that Barney Genesis Game? Barney’s Hide & Seek Game (yes, “Game” is part of the title) is basically a platforming title wherein you find marginally hidden children (and one child dinosaur). As much as it would make sense, It is not a “find in the picture” game, and it definitely controls like a Mario title… albeit a Mario title wherein our hero is trapped inside of a bulky dinosaur costume. Barney steers like a drunk truck is what I am saying. Regardless, it is not nearly as fun as catching eggs with Big Bird, but it… uh… exists? Technically? I guess it officially has significant (for the time) voice acting, so that’s nice.
  • Fly awayDid you know? Barney’s “I Love You” song was used for psychological torture at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. That’s the fact. No moral.
  • Would I play again: Big Bird’s Egg Catch could work as some kind of cell phone title that is played for like ten minutes while waiting for your shots. But am I going to break out the 2600 to play it some more? Nah.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Contra for the NES! We are going from loving birds and dinosaurs to extremely unloving commandos! Please look forward to it!

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

Trash!And now for a peek behind the curtain at the many rejected ideas for how to approach Oscar’s Trash Race.

This is a counting game: Try to determine if readers can actually count.
Rejected: This site is based on numbers going up, readers obviously can deal with high numbers.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, write an entire article while “grumpy”.
Rejected: That one cat has grumpy covered for the entire internet for years.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, your favorite muppet, talk about that.
Rejected: The world doesn’t need to know about my various grouch-based fandoms.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about Sesame Street, the children’s television show.
Rejected: Your humble author has incredibly vague memories of ever watching Sesame Street, predominantly because my recollection as a toddler is a bit sketchy. There is also a general feeling that any other writer on Earth could write a more loving and carefully researched article on Sesame Street, particularly in comparison to that love letter to Voltron.

Trash!This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about your first beloved portable videogame system: The Cookie Counter.
Rejected: It was a basic calculator with a built in game of Juggler. I think I loved that device more than some of my childhood pets. And, God, I am never going to admit to that in public. It was a calculator! I don’t own enough pocket protectors to confess to that kind of embarrassment.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about going to Sesame Place as a kid.
Rejected: Nobody ever wants to hear stories about other people’s vacations. Or day trips. Or whatever it was when I got my cousin to throw up in the water park, and it was the funniest thing a five year old had ever done.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about the way public broadcasting allows for a universal, pre-school sharing of culture and ideas that allows for greater socialization for both kids and adults.
Rejected: Pretty sure I’ve covered the concept of shared experiences already by claiming we are a generation raised by the good lord Hasbro. Big Bird is nothing before The Primes.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about another PBS star, Mr. Rogers, and reveal the secret about Mr. Rogers that no one must ever know.
Rejected: No one must ever know.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about how Public Broadcasting is important for education across economical classes, and it is currently in danger thanks to our government.
Rejected: Again, there are those that can write so much more eloquently on the subject of PBS being important, and probably wouldn’t have their Ice Climbers fanfic thrown back in their face in an act of proving that all education is moot.

Hey, speaking of the current state of our government, this game is called Oscar’s Trash Race. Why not compare the current state of politics to a “trash race”?
Rejected: A little too “how about those clowns in congress”.

Oh, come on, you could easily compile a list of Trump’s actions since his campaign started, combine it with all those times he said and did the complete opposite while holding the position of president (but never did whatever is the opposite of “being a racist”), and end it all with a note on how the race is still going, and we’ll probably see something even worse in less than a few hours.
Rejected: That sounds way too depressing.

So much trashAnd the Democrats! They’re doing nothing to stop anything! Just roll over and show your bellies, minority party, God forbid you do a damn thing to actively support the people that voted for you. Senator Jeff Flake, a man who has never ever voted against Trump’s interests, has more public clout as “the resistance” than the milquetoast losers helming the Democratic Party. And Sanders and Biden are apparently top contenders for 2020! Has anyone learned anything!? Maybe we don’t run a bunch of rich white people that are old enough to have personally told Martin Luther King Jr. that he was being “uppity”! This is the greatest trash race of them all!
Rejected: What did I just say about things being way too depressing!

This is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: And how the hell is the Government shutting down every other week a thing that is happening now? I don’t care that it only shut down for a couple of hours, that’s a couple of hours too many! It’s not just because we should care about government workers, we should also care about the people that are supported by and rely on government assistance. People that just want to live without fear of their lives being effectively cancelled because some tyrant with significant ties to construction companies wants to build his damn impenetrable/invisible wall!

Take it offEr-hem, this is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: Oh, right. Yes, you need a special number pad controller for this counting adventure, and that probably wasn’t the easiest thing for parents of toddlers to understand back in 1983. Heck, people still barely understood the concept of the WiiU three decades later… and I don’t want to run in that trash race, either.

Just make a post about all the possible ways this article could go, and call it a day, because this is a game that was made for toddlers, and playing it as an adult is not exactly the most thrilling thing in the world.
Rejected: That… That actually works. Approved!

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

  • System: Atari 2600. I really doubt we’ll see a mobile rerelease of this one.
  • Number of players: Two? Weren’t all Atari games two player in some way? Don’t quote me on this, I’m not a trashologist.
  • Favorite Trash: About the only interesting thing in this game is what trash the trashman drops off to placate Oscar and his apparent need to count trash before waddling forward. One of the possible dumps is a series of TVs, which, considering this was at a time when Atari still had to accommodate for black and white sets, must have been horrifying for any parents in the room. Think of the expense!
  • All trashDid you know? Then and now, I’d rather be playing Big Bird’s Egg Catch.
  • Would I play again: Only if I forget how numbers work. Oh man, I hope this isn’t some kind of ironic wish situation, and I’m in a horrible accident later today. Please, God of Horror Comics, please don’t do this to me!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Death and Return of Superman! Geez, title, spoilers! Please look forward to an inevitable resurrection!