Friday, September 15, 2006

Bed, Bath and Beyond! The Game

Hell is a popular setting for video games. From the Doom series to Devil May Cry, everyone's least favorite afterlife destination has had its share of digital representations. Let's face it – so far, the video game representations of the unimaginable horror have been lacking in authenticity. Never have I been exposed to something frightening and painful that I have had to turn the game off in order to prevent soiling myself. The typical portrayal of hell is similar to Dante's Inferno. Although it is a classic work of literature, no literary scholar is going to argue that Dante really went on a journey to hell. Relying on the Inferno's fictional imagery is a crutch that prevents game makers from creating a vision so horrifying that gamers may suffer from heart attacks. That is why I present to you my personal vision of the unspeakable evil that is hell: Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Opening Cutscene
The game will start with the protagonist, an average Joe named... well, Joe. Anyway, Joe isn't the sharpest tool in the proverbial toolshed nor is he particularly good looking. But, somehow he managed to snag himself a smoking hot wife named Jane. After the initial honeymoon, the relationship started deteriorating. Joe forgot little things, and Jane couldn't stand it. He forgot to celebrate the 5 1/2 th week anniversary from the first time he bought Jane flowers. Although he frequently dusted the bookshelf, he never dusted on top of the actual books. Perhaps the worst infraction that Joe committed was leaving the toilet seat up. Jane, like many women, assumed that the toilet seat's natural state was down, not up, and rather than splitting the labor 50/50, she felt that Joe was the only one qualified to adjust the position of the toilet seat. Unfortunately for poor Joe, he loves Jane with all of his heart, and he certainly can't do any better, so he wants to save the marriage at all costs. So, the game begins when Jane gives him a simple list of things to purchase from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Somehow, he must journey through the depths of hell and return with 12 hangers, a pink fuzzy toilet lid cover, a toothbrush holder, and a new shower curtain with little duckys printed on it.

Level 1: The Parking Lot of Hell
Joe had never been to a Bed, Bath and Beyond before, so he didn't know what to expect. His love for Jane and even his very sanity will be put to the test as he journeys in the Beyond! In the first level, Joe must find a parking spot, which is a horrible ordeal in itself. This will provide about half an hour of gameplay as Joe follows random pedestrians to their cars. Often, they start walking down one lane only to switch to another and before he can get there, someone else is already waiting for that spot. After the first level, Joe descends into the bowels of the existence in order to save his marriage. Little does he know that the price he may have to pay could be his very soul.

Level 2: The Demonic Laybrinth
The gameplay continues as all excursions into Bed Bath and Beyond start: at the beginning of the labyrinth of horror. For those of you who have been fortunate to avoid the pain and agony that is shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond, I will explain to you the inner workings of this hell on Earth. Unlike most stores with aisles and signs over each aisle explaining where you can find what you are looking for, Bed, Bath and Beyond is arranged as a maze. There is only one correct path from start to end, so if you want to shop there, bring your walking shoes (and some holy water) because you will have to trek through the entire store even if you just want to buy a bar of soap. So, the second level consists of Joe navigating through the labyrinth forced to look at a bunch of crap he'd never buy. The products vary depending on what's popular at the time, but their poor quality doesn't. They find a popular character and brand every conceivable product with that character. I could have sworn I saw a Spongebob Squarepants colostomy bag there once. So, once poor Joe completes level two he has made it to the end of the store. The only problem is that he has found nothing required to save his marriage.

Level 3: The Labyrinth in Reverse
The third level consists of wandering backwards through the maze looking very carefully at all the cubbies and dead ends that Bed, Bath and Beyond features. Although the store may look small from the outside, it is called Bed, Bath and Beyond for a reason. The store really goes Beyond the earthly realm into hell itself. That's why you can spend hours wandering through the maze seeing more crap than you can possibly imagine. This level actually takes nine hours for the gamer to complete, but time in hell runs slower, so Joe still may be home in time for dinner.

Level 4: Can Anyone Help Joe?
Joe, like most Bed, Bath and Beyond patrons can't find anything on his list after wandering through the labyrinth. So the next level consists of wandering around looking for someone who works there. Occasionally Joe will spot someone who looks like they work there from the back. After trying to chase them through the maze, they shake him. If he ever does catch up with them, he will realize that they do not work for the store, they just look like it. That, or they shove their nametags in their pockets when Joe approaches them. Who besides Satan himself knows the real mysteries of hell?

Level 5: The Never Ending Line
Although Joe isn't the smartest guy in the world, a stroke of brilliance comes to him in the next cutscene. He can wait in the line at the cashier and ask the cashier where the products he's looking for are. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary line! Snails outrun the pace of the line, and as soon as he gets close to the register, the cashier closes it, and he is forced to start all over. Finally, after hours and hours of waiting patiently, it is his turn to talk to the demon at the cash register. This demon has taken the disguise of a 19 year old high school drop out goth who resents having to work at a place with such bright lighting. In this cutscene, Joe is almost on the verge of tears because he's so happy that after all the grueling trials, he can remain (somewhat) happily married to Jane. Unfortunately, the goth demon has no idea if the store actually sells any of the products that are on Joe's marriage saving list, nor does she know where to look for them. When Joe asks politely if she could find someone who could help him, she claims that she does not know how to operate the paging system. Joe can barely let out a “But...” before she screams in a shrill voice “NEXT!”, and effectively filters Joe's existence out of her perception. Joe has reached the depths of despair. He considers shopping elsewhere, but Jane is a shrewd as she is attractive (probably more so) and will want to see the receipts, so if she finds out that he didn't buy the products at Bed, Bath and Beyond like she requested, she will surely divorce him.

Level 6: The Depths of Despair
Since Joe is committed to maintaining his marriage, he cannot leave the cursed void. Unfortunately, he cannot find the requisite items to maintain his marital status, so he is trapped in hell. This level strives to recreate in the gamer the inner turmoil that the our protagonist Joe feels. Frequent flashbacks to the good times of his courtship and marriage with Jane are interspersed to fully illustrate to the gamer what Joe is about to lose. The first time Joe laid eyes on Jane at the company picnic, their first kiss, when Jane bought Joe all new clothes for his birthday, when Jane cried because he didn't wear those new clothes every day, and so on. A special despair meter will ship with the game to make sure that the player is truly feeling the despair. When the player reaches the lowest level of despair that is tolerable, a special cutscene will trigger. In this cutscene Joe will sigh and collapse against a wall of towels, and they will knock over revealing a special cubby that houses all of the items that he's looking for! With a renewed vigor, he navigates back to the checkout line.

Level 7: The Never Ending Line Part 2
Joe is forced to wait in the line again only to suffer the same hardships that he faced last time. Long, slow moving lines and closing registers are minor frustrations to him because he feels relaxed because he was finally able to locate the items and save his marriage. Unfortunately, this is no time for the gamer to let his/her guard down! The last level is about to begin!

Level 8: The Final Boss
Joe finally reaches the cashier, and it's the manager of the store. Thinking that the manager would be responsible, he is horrified to find that the manager is even more worse than the goth demon! The manager clearly hates his job but hates life even more than that. He gets a sick pleasure out of the misery of others. When our long suffering hero whips out his credit card to purchase marital happiness, the manager has a sick smile on his face as he points down to the out of order credit card swiper. Joe suggests that the manager logs out and logs into one of the several other cash registers that are empty with a working credit card swiper, but the manager refuses. Joe digs through all of his pockets, his wallet, scraping together all the money he possibly can. He comes up 1 penny short. Pleading with the manager does no good, and Joe is about to offer his eternal soul in exchange for a penny and his marital bliss, but luckily an angel in disguise as an irritated and impatient customer rudely shoves a penny in his hand, thus ending his excursion into the depths of hell.

Ending Cutscene
Thinking that his marital woes were finally over, he returns triumphantly to his loving wife, only to find out that she's not speaking to him because he left the toilet seat up again. She snatched the items that caused Joe so much strife out of his hands (including the receipt) and slammed the bedroom door in his face. She threw out a pillow and sheet indicating that he had to sleep on the couch and immediately locked the door. Exhausted from his grueling trek into the bad half of the afterlife, he took the pillow and blanket, curled up on the sofa and got some much deserved rest.