The Hidden Truth Of The Gaming Toilet

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.

A classic toilet.

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.

How could we leave it out?

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).

Larry as God intended.

“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.

George follows toilets all the way along their path.

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.

__________________

« | »

.

141 Comments »

  1. rob says:

    Also in Day of the Tentacle your time machine was a toilet and could be used to flush items from one time to another.

  2. Tim Stone says:

    Being a realism-hungry simulation fan, I’ve always rated Kingpin’s crappers highly. First (and last?) game to park polygonal poos on its porcelain.

  3. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Nope, you’ve reminded me. There’s a bit inside a really fucked up police station in Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth, where you take refuge in the toilet. Not only is there a pooh in the toilet, but it makes your vision go all blurry.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    To get it on the table, I may be the only person who remembers the classic Spectrum adventure series .

    Games which were solely set inside a toilet.

    KG

  5. Janek says:

    In terms of toilet use, an honourable mention probably has to go to Black & White. Certainly one of the most notable examples of the “crushing villages with giant poo” genre.

  6. Andynonymous says:

    Long time reader, first time poster here. I’ve finally appeared from the shadows, and it was the humble ‘boggy crapper’ that has enticed me out. That was a reference to the tier 1 toilet option in Theme Park btw. See, I fit right in.

    Anyway, my most prominent memory of toilets in games is destroying every last one on Duke Nukem 3D on the Sega Saturn, in order to unlock the secret minigame ‘Death Tank’. You had to systematically destroy every toilet in the game, and it took me aaaages, as there are a lot of toilets in that game, even a whole level set in a toilet factory or something as I recall, with conveyor belts transporting the porcelain targets through the level like some sort of toilet Duck Hunt.
    It turned out to be well worth it though, as 2 player Death Tank was great. Like Worms, but with a single tank each, and purchaseable upgrades.
    Since then my relationship with in game toilets has mainly been restricted to triggering a rubbish flushing noise, for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Ho hum. Maybe DNF will make a return to the glory days of gamer/toilet interaction.

  7. Homunculus says:

    To get it on the table, I may be the only person who remembers the classic Spectrum adventure series .

    Games which were solely set inside a toilet.

    No, I remember Behind Closed Doors as well. Games nowadays don’t have a tendency to retort when you type rude words into them.

    • Kosie says:

      We once typed a few banalities into the Police Quest parser to see what the effect would be. The game replied with “Didn’t mama teach you any better?”

  8. Warthog2k says:

    Ah, the Behind Closed Doors series (Zenobi iirc?) great fun games.

    As for Toilets in games – World of Warcraft has 9.5 million players and no toilets anywhere. Hell, the Horde had to wait for the Burning Crusade expansion before they even got seats…

  9. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    I recall one of the later levels in Soldier of Fortune….. There was a well primitive toilet with a lovely turd sitting within.

  10. drunkymonkey says:

    Oh yes, the toilets in the early Playstation Medal of Honor games were a constant delight. It was almost worth playing through the game just to find all the urinating Germans. In fact, Frontline’s encounter with one such aboard a U-Boat is a fond memory of mine.

    Uh…

    Of course we have Postal. I always thought you should get extra points if you were to actually have a slash in the toilets themselves, rather than on poor victims of your unreasonable mayhem.

    But, like almost everything else it does, Half Life 2 does it best. Brilliantly rendered, you can throw the urinals AND THE SINKS. It’s like a double whammy of absolute brilliance.

    “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.”

    That better not have been a joke!

  11. Nick R says:

    As well as Earthworm Jim (the toilet was a warp allowing you to skip half of the first level), there was this Mega Drive platformer based entirely around toilet humour:

    Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure

  12. nickski says:

    max payne – bog = painkillers, which on occasion had me skittering around like max had been on the tube for half the nothern line after a ’4 pint lunch’ during which he’d foolishly broken ‘the seal’ (not the aquatic mammal btw). aaaaaaaaand release, aaaaahhhhhhhhh, sweet relief.

  13. AbyssUK says:

    Postal 2.. the whole world was a toilet. (+the game)

  14. xeno says:

    So many bathrooms/toilets, so little time. So, the two main ones that I thought of right away.

    1. The very first level of Goldeneye. This was a seminal moment for me, gaming wise. I’d made the jump from NES to N64, with pretty much zero gaming experience in-between except for a few MU*s in college, so something that visceral (for me at the time it was) was amazing. I spent so much time on that level, just that first part. One could blast the poor sucker in the head and just kill him, sure, but it was just plain dumb fun to shoot his hat off and listen to him grumble about it, or accidentally move to far and fall on top of him and have to resort to fisticuffs, etc.

    2. Silent Hill 2 for the ps2. Another game that starts in a bathroom! \o/ And one that I was stuck in for about 2 hours when I first got the game. Some friends were over and we were pretty well lit, and I just couldn’t find the way out of that room. I don’t even remember giving up on it, but I do remember the next night, with a clearer head, starting it up and walking right out like I’d done it a thousand times, and *then* realizing that I’d been lost in there the night before.

  15. Iain says:

    My earliest toilet-based games memory has to be trying to avoid being killed by them on the Eugene’s Lair level of Manic Miner on the Speccy.

  16. Feet says:

    The Chron-O-Jon from Day of the Tentacle.

    http://dotc.ytmnd.com/

  17. jamscones says:

    The fashionable Shifter mod for Deus Ex introduces (very) minor skill point awards for flushing dirty toilets as a Public Hygeine Awareness bonus.

  18. Baksheesh says:

    Didn’t the old Startrails: Realms of Arkania game have toilets in it?

    I am thinking particularly of the third game in the series.
    I remember being struck by how “realistic” the dungeons, castles and houses were with kitchens and other necessary rooms that are often excluded from games.
    I think they had toilets too but I am not sure.

  19. Arnulf says:

    I had once a pretty long Rollercoaster Tycoon phase. Where you could place toilet stalls into your park. Sometimes conveniently near the exit of an especially intense ride…

    Link (in the top right corner of that screenshot)

    Complete with flushing sound.

    The poor guys that were running with their hands before their mouths… it was heart-wrenching.

    I loved RCT.

  20. Tak says:

    Howdy from across the pond. Been reading for a while, first time post. My computer is out of action ATM (hopefully up in time for me to submit a screencap) but in Red Orchestra Ostfront: 41-45 there is a map that has a toilet in a partially bombed building, complete with someone’s ‘leftovers’. When it was first noticed by the public at large, you could generally get a grenade kill of two or three from newcomers standing around gawking at the slightly-too-perfect poos.

    Someone, please sumbit a screenshot of this in case I don’t get to!

  21. Dinger says:

    Maybe it’s banal to point out that the GLaDOS’ first lines (while you are looking at the toilet) include: “Your specimen has been processed.”

    And, I must vote that of all the drivel that’s been written, ranted or drooled about Bioshock, Rob’s comment in this thread wins, and he doesn’t even mention the game:

    Déus Ex deserves an honourable mention since it presented you first with a moral dilemma – do you go in the smelly gents or do you sneak in to the ladies’ – and then graphically showed you the repercussions of your choice (Manderly has a go at you for being a bit of a perv).

    Complete with a superfluous sharp accent. Bravo. Caution explosive decompression of masturbatory rhetoric.

  22. Chis says:

    This does suggest a whole new rating scheme: StT (Start to Toilet).

    I sense a Doom fan! RPS should do The Hidden Truth Of The Gaming Crate next.

  23. Champagne O'Leary says:

    I have to add the toilets in Hitman: Blood Money. I’ve noticed the cubicles in the toilets don’t seem to have doors, or if they do it would be physically impossible to close them while in the cubicle. I’d hate to walk in on someone taking matenrity leave (dropping the kids off(having a poo)) with no door to hide them.

  24. James G says:

    The Jet Set Willy toilet proved to be not only my first toilet encounter, but part of my first gaming encounter. I was five, my parents had just set up the C64 which had been out of action (presumed dead) since I was born, after I had been amazed by the BBC Micros at school. Their attempts to be educational with Hangman failed when the game failed to load, and instead I was introduced to Jet Set Willy. I still recall seeing the toilet (Not to mention the one on the cassette case) and, being five, being fairly amused.

  25. Doug says:

    There is a level in Metal Gear Solid that involves a pair of guards, one of whom has a bladder the size of a thimble. He must also have a fondness for Super Big Gulps because he runs to the bathroom all the time.

    If you’re stealthy enough you can actually attach a remote mine to his back while he’s at the urinal, only the minute you detonate it a dozen guards appear and make a beeline directly to you…

    So a typical gaming session involved doing the remote mine thing and then setting up a dozen claymore mines to deal with the incoming bad guys. Good times.

    The toilet in Portal is probably the most polite one in gaming. “Your business is appreciated.”

  26. baf says:

    Probably the most thorough implementation of a toilet I’ve seen in a game was definitely in the text adventure Corruption by Magnetic Scrolls. In addition to its normal function, you could open the cistern to find a plastic bag of cocaine hidden there.

  27. Larington says:

    Necro post, I’ll admit, but I have to add some games to the list:

    They Hunger mod for HL1 – One of the old fasioned wooden shack crapping holes has a guy who has jumped into the hole (lifted the top off and somehow put it back down).

    And also Tunguska the secret files had a sequence in toilets where a military train couldn’t leave the station because the guard had dropped the appropriate document/item/key/whatever (I forget) down the toilet and was now crapping himself because there were really vicious russian agents who’d probably beat the crap out of him for a delay on the train journey.

    I’m pretty sure you could walk into the bathroom on the train in the syberia series (Also adventure gamey), but don’t think you were able to get the character to ‘do the business’.

  28. Serondal says:

    Still waiting for part 2 of this 70 part series.

  29. SpinalJack says:

    It might be on the Wii but how can no one mention the fact that the loo features in No More Heroes when the character regularly drops a log upon returning home from a long day of assassinating to save the game?

    http://www.wiiwii.tv/2007/09/14/no-more-heroes-weekly-update-travis-on-the-loo/

  30. IOD says:

    You think a real stalker needs a toilet?

  31. Josh W says:

    You can’t portray it with a screencap, but the there is a section to do with toilets in FEAR2 in the hospital that I found very amusing, I can’t say more without giving it away.

  32. Konstantin says:

    Back in 1999s one Russian game blogger (not me) also was charmed by videogame toilets and their specific philosophy. His blog now dead, but toilets collection still can be found on Skive Blog (there is some russian languge there, but screenshot list readable anyway). Around 70 games released before 2001 listed.
    There are also my contribution -screenshots for Quest Toilet in Modoc (Fallout).

    Vaguely translated quote from blog: “Vents are antipods of toilets, they unreal. Just compare how often you going through vents in real life, and how often you go pee, see? So, to be GOTY good videogame must have carefully chosen quantity of vent tunnels and latrines. Maybe game can be composed from them only”.

  33. gozzilla177 says:

    toilet moments: bully scholarship edition throwing fireworks in the toilet as a prank

    mass effect 2: walking into the opposite gender’s bathroom the onboard AI will tell you your restroom is on the other side of the ship.

    dead rising: going to the bathroom to save the game

    fallout new vegas: forced to drink from a toilet to survive because my character was dying of thirst in there realism mode haha

  34. Kosie says:

    In 1987, both Police Quest and Space Quest 2 were released and had fully loaded restrooms which were usable. In Police Quest 2 (1988), part of an investigation had the player look for weapons in a toilet. SIERRA I MISS YOU!! (just had to…)