The year was definitely 1991 and I was definitely at the theaters at the Huntington Mall. The movie I was waiting to see is slightly more foggy, but I'm betting it was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.There, from a nook just behind the popcorn stand I heard a raspy voice call out: "We'd be forever beholden to you. We're simple folk."
These were real amateur actors on a real Hollywood backlot
It was, of course, the siren song of the old prospector (Ben Zeller, who probably wishes you remembered him from his play "Back to the Hat Factory"). He was summoning me to play Mad Dog McCree which, against all reason and by no means my 10-year-old brain could devise, was a video game. But video games didn't look like this! Video games were sprites and bleeps and bloops! This was something else entirely.
These were real amateur actors on a real Hollywood backlot or someone's backyard or something.
I picked up the pistol and dropped 50 cents. I was hooked. I was broken.
I've loved this weird, dying (dead?) sub-genre of games ever since and have taken plenty of flack for it along the way. "Why?" is the most common question, and it's not one for which I've ever formulated a solid answer. Most full-motion video games I've played are, without question, very bad.
Somewhere in their excitement over CD-ROMs and processors capable of (sort of) generating video, a weird pocket of the industry lost its damn mind and thought steering a movie could be as satisfying as directly controlling a collection of pixels on screen. With the player's input basically limited to the visceral thrill of DVD chapter selection, most FMV games have controls only in the loosest sense of the word.
So what's the appeal? Is it camp? Kitsch? A questionable gap in taste? Am I a masochist?
Am I a masochist?
In an effort to find out, I'm starting the most ill-advised project of my professional career: I'm going to try to review every FMV game ever made and, when possible, I'm going to try to play them on original hardware. Ugh, I actually just got nauseous typing that. I'm terrified.
Some of the reviews will be short. Some may be videos of me subjecting Polygon staffers to my waking hell. Some may just be prolonged screams. But I'm going to try to do them all before ... well, before I die, I guess.
Currently, I love FMV games in the way that most people who say they love jazz music love jazz music: Conceptually, and from a distance. But now I'm diving deep into the pit to see just how dark things get.
This is my Full Motion Vision Quest and should you choose to follow along, I'll warn you in advance: Things are gonna get bad. Things are gonna get unspeakably grainy. They're gonna get dark (and not just because of the uniformly sub-par lighting).