Video games and pop music are two unlikely things that somehow go great together if they’re done properly. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band… Then there’s the weird video game homages in music, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Which was more of a crazy animation experiment by some college kid than an actual video game homage, but it was cool all the same.
Around 2004, some guys must have saw that “Californication” video while on a 2AM drinking binge and thought that these ideas should be combined into a TV show. The result is one of the most bizarre combinations of music and video games that I’ve seen since Queen was involved in some mid-’90s adventure game: MTV2’s Video Mods.
One of the lesser-known shows of MTV2’s library, which consisted mostly of Beavis & Butt-head reruns and The Adventures of Chico and Guapo, that one show that Seanbaby worked on; and maybe some actual music videos.
But enough jabs at MTV: Video Mods was an unusual and previously unheard of concept. A production company would take characters from a recent video game and make a music video of a popular song, putting it in relation to said game. It sounds weird on paper, so the best way to explain it would be to show one of these “video mods”:
You’re not going insane. That is Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and some random droid jamming out to the Foo Fighters’ “D.O.A.” while footage of Star Wars Battlefront II plays sporadically over really bad CG footage. Go ahead and laugh, I’ll still be here.
(By the way, clicking the image should take you to the YouTube video, if you want to see it for yourself.)
This is MTV2 Video Mods in a nutshell. It’s a music video show, but with dumb video game tie-ins that don’t really fit. On paper, it sounds like an incredible idea that will revolutionize music and video games forever. Sadly, it fails in execution. It’s awful because the songs barely have any relation to the games being featured, and look like they were done by college freshmen as potential resume fodder.
Bad lip-syncing, bad animation that makes poser animations look like Disney’s Toy Story, all mixed in with occasional game footage to make these seemingly unrelated things tie together haphazardly.
If you thought the Star Wars and Foo Fighters combination made no sense, here’s a sampling of some of the other fine efforts these guys did over the course of a year and a half:
- Anakin Skywalker singing Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” to advertise the lesser-known Star Wars Episode III video game nobody really remembers.
- Random characters from Fahrenheit (originally known as Indigo Prophecy over here in the States) singing along Queens of the Stone Age’s “Little Sister” outside the cafe of the start of the game.
- Fairies that were featured on NVIDIA tech demos of the time channeling their inner teenage angst by flying around empty rooms singing Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life.”
- Two random Sims from The Sims 2 and Urbz: Sims in the City, some character from SSX 3, and a random mech from Tribes: Vengeance replacing the Black Eyed Peas, mimicking the music video to The Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get It Started.”
- A scene-for-scene recreation of Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacy’s Mom” in The Sims 2.
- And the most dumbest video mod out of all of them: The Beastie Boys rapping “Oh Word?” on a basketball court as a vague tie-in to NBA Street V3. This is one that needs to be seen to be believed, seriously:
Granted, not all of the videos featured were bad CG recreations of Bloodrayne singing an Evanescence song. Some of the mods were actually submitted by gamers during the early machinima boom, one example was G-Man from Half-Life 2 lip-synching to Breaking Benjamin’s “So Cold,” which was pretty cool at the time. But the rest of them are so hilariously awful.
Video games trying to penetrate pop culture has always been awkward, feeling shoehorned onto something that gives off just enough cringe to make it unbearable for anyone, no matter what kind of a “gamer” you are. This, along with the (now-defunct) Spike TV Video Game Awards, were growing pains as people tried to figure out how to make this mainstream without looking silly.
If this was MTV’s way of trying to make video games mainstream, then they failed miserably. Imagine if this show existed today, I could totally imagine Captain Price from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare singing Nickelback’s “Burn it to the Ground” in a video where he’s jamming out with Soap MacTavish and Imran Zakhaev in a middle eastern town.
No matter what song you use or what game you feature, this was a terrible idea all-around. A terrible idea that somehow lasted two seasons from 2003-05. Anime music videos have more dignity than this show ever did.
Despite me being down on this, I implore you to check out some of the videos that have popped up on YouTube. You really need to see these just to understand what I’m talking about. It’s so bad and yet so hilarious.
I also feel sorry for anyone who actually worked on this. I hope you washed your hands of this and never speak of it to your colleagues. Hell, maybe it’s a badge of honor to work on something so particularly dumb.
Okay, I’ll leave you with one more classic: Characters from that really mediocre PSP game Death Jr. singing My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).”
(Updated on 4/8/2019 with a bunch of changes and a few additional images.)