By John Walker on January 9th, 2008 at 12:19 am.
The time has come.
For too long I have been campaigning magazines to run an extensive feature – perhaps even a cover-mounted book – about the most poorly recognised and vitally important element of PC gaming: toilets. Toilets in games. Every time I’m asked to pitch feature ideas, there it is, the best one imaginable. And yet every time I get no positive response. That was until PC Format, in a moment of sudden clarity of vision, gave me permission to write a single page on the subject.
I reproduce that piece for you today. But not for free – oh no. Now I have my own PC gaming outlet. Now I’m the one with the power. Believe me fine folk of the world, RPS will be seeing a feature on toilets in games in the near future, and it will be astonishing. To achieve this, I want your favourite gaming toilets, and if possible, I want screenshots of them. I want anecdotes, fond memories, love letters, anything you have to say about this most essential matter. Together we will create definitive Toilets In Games feature. Email your stories and pics here.
In the meantime, enjoy this. I promise the two interviews are completely genuine: both Al Lowe and Charles Cecil geniunely wrote their responses, and should be held aloft the shoulders of the gaming public for doing so.
The Hidden Truth Of The Gaming Toilet
Toilets. A subject matter that has long gone unanalysed by PC games journalism – woefully so. Perhaps it’s because of our prudish nature, our belief that matters of the bathroom are best left unmentioned, for fear of offending a petal-like ear with the word “poo”. But this is to our detriment – we are failing to realise one of gaming’s most commonly recurring themes, and the impact it has on our playing lives.
No other genre of entertainment provides this brutal honesty about the reality of human life. The chances of a toilet appearing in a film or on television are so slim, as to reveal denial. (Nothing else could explain Jack Bauer’s phenomenal bladder control in four days of 24). And it is this denial that PC games developers fight hard to combat, yet we, the supposed experts of the medium, have this long left it unrecognised.
Toilets have been appearing in games since games developed the ability to show toilets. The seminal platform game, Jet Set Willy, used toilets as a foundation stone upon which all else was built. It is only now, upon reflection, that the true meaning of the game’s name becomes apparent, the meta-narrative truly understood.
But our focus is PC games, and in this first in a seventy part series, we will go back to 1991, and the first Leisure Suit Larry adventure. Although widely unnoticed at the time, the game featured a sequence in which a toilet being flushed led to Larry’s death by drowning. This interplay between a lavatory and our mortality was inevitably missed due to people focussing on the crude humour. We spoke to creator Al Lowe, for his thoughts (we actually did).
“It’s so wonderful to finally reveal all about that sordid scene,” began Lowe, clearly relieved that the matter was finally getting its deserved recognition. But what did the scene really represent for him? “Obviously the newspaper Leisure Suit Larry reads literally represents the newspapers of the world. Wiping himself proves the Fifth Column’s cleansing effect on humanity.” But surely it is in the act of Larry’s interaction with the toilet that the inner-meaning is ultimately revealed? “Yes, flushing the toilet is my thinly-disguised metaphor for government censorship.”
While Larry will be remembered by most as a series of games about trying to get an idiot laid, the multiple layers of truth demonstrated by the toilet scene are still revealing themselves today. Perhaps explaining this ultimate message is the drowning. “Drowning in the backed-up sewage,” finished Lowe, “represents the killing of our planet by the Tri-Collateral Commission.”
To finally dedicate the man-hours and research into this area is humbling. Thirteen years has passed, and still we have yet to fully contemplate the work of Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards’ toilet scene. And the question remains, how many more will we have to wait? The fight for truth begins today. Flush with pride, gaming public. Flush with pride.
THE LOO OF THE TEMPTRESS
Having looked at Larry, we spoke to the man at the forefront of contemporary adventure games, Charles Cecil, about his decision to hide the toilets in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon.
John Walker: We noticed that Broken Sword: TSD made the decision to include a bathroom, but to not show it onscreen. Why was this?
Charles Cecil: It is rare to feature bathroom scenes because toilet matters are usually irrelevant to the plot – generally an entertainment medium should strip out the mundane and thereby emphasise the elements of interest.
PCF: But isn’t this just a compromise?
CC: The British are unique in that we delight in the domain of toilet humour – much to the chagrin of our American cousins. Which is why in Broken Sword 3 we couldn’t let a couple of toilet-orientated gags go by. However going beyond the implicit would stray into bad taste – in the game George wees into a urinal which blocks a view of his vitals, and Nico closes the door behind her when she performs her non-specific natural functions.
JW: So are you suggesting that toilets aren’t important in games?
CC: Of course there are exceptions – who can forget the repercussions of Vincent Vega leaving his gun in the kitchen while he visits the john? We do have plans to write a toilet-based title – a game where we lift the lid on such taboos.