Welcome to FMV Hell

I’ve spent the last several months being extremely amused by the existence of FMV (full motion video) games. I remembered them being a thing from when I was little, but I never really paid them much mind until I was an adult and discovered that the cartoon ones were often beautifully animated. Since I’m an animation nut, I got hooked really quickly.

Specifically, I got hooked on Braindead 13, a title from 1995, because main character Lance Galahad (his real name) is the most 90s fictional character I’ve seen in years and I find it hilarious. It’s more or less a playable cartoon, but the animation is gorgeous and I never get tired of watching it. That and I find Lance’s existence really, really funny because he’s basically a walking time capsule for me.


Look at this kid. Seriously. He just screams “HEY! IT’S 1995 AND THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE THINK IS COOL EVEN THOUGH IT’S REALLY NOT!” I love him. He even does the Hat Turn of Seriousness, a gesture which 90s children like myself would later come to associate with Ash Ketchum:

And he looks like a colossal nerd doing it, too.

And he looks like a colossal nerd doing it, too.

This kid aside, FMV started to hit the big-time with the 1983 release of Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair, which he followed up with Space Ace in 1984 and an eventual sequel to Dragon’s Lair in 1991. Since these games ran on LaserDisc technology, there was a lot more storage space, so instead of using sprites to represent the characters the games were able to incorporate Bluth’s incredibly gorgeous animation. Although they were basically ten minutes of quick-time events and didn’t feature any other gameplay, the animation drew a crowd.

A bunch of other games followed suit, although not all of them were as fortunate to have animation on this scale. In fact, a lot of them used live-action video, and that’s where this gets funny. Live-action FMV games are often regarded as some of the worst games ever made, and once you’ve seen them it’s really easy to see why. Take, for example, perhaps the most famous of all FMV games, Night Trap:

The best way I can explain Night Trap to people who have never seen it is that it’s kind of like playing Five Nights at Freddy’s in reverse. You’re switching between cameras, but instead of trying to stop something from getting to you, you have to stop these things called augers from getting to the girls at a slumber party by activating traps in the rooms they’re in. If you’re good at FNAF, you might have a knack for Night Trap. The problem is that in order to see the story of the game, you can’t stop enough augers, and if you stop all the augers, you miss the story. Fortunately, someone put the feeds for all of the cameras into one video simultaneously:

This game is notable, though, because there was a scene where one of the girls was attacked – fully clothed – in the shower, and people thought this was obscene. (She wore a nightgown.) This was, however, around the time of the congressional hearings concerning video games in the United States, and games were being heavily scrutinized. (Nobody seemed to actually bother to look at Night Trap, though, because somehow people involved thought that the player was trapping the women, not saving them.) At any rate, with games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap raising a stir, the ESRB was eventually introduced, and the existence of the ESRB is probably a good thing because your five-year-old cousin probably shouldn’t be playing GTA.

There’s no doubting, though, that the lowest of the low is the “adult” game Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties. I can’t even describe how bad this game is. It needs to be seen for itself. It’s not even an FMV game – it uses more of a slideshow format, so you feel like you’re playing through a really bad PowerPoint presentation:

Enjoy your descent into Hell.

I’m not sorry.