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Have You Played... The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield?

The goggles, they do nothing...

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The Simpsons has often been eerily prophetic of future events, be it unreliable autocorrect on portable Apple devices, horse meat scandals, ebola outbreaks, a thin-skinned satsuma becoming president, The Simpsons somehow still continuing decades later…

Even so, revisiting 1997’s The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield reveals striking similarities to many of the VR games we see twenty years later. Janky 90-degree rotation-based movement! Low resolution 3D sightseeing! Minimal interaction! Becoming entirely tedious after 15 minutes!

Virtual Springfield was/is less a game and more a tourism app, albeit tourism in an imaginary place. From a first person perspective, navigate crudely and mechanically through the streets of Springfield, visiting places and faces we knew and loved from what was then a show at the peak of its powers.

We just couldn’t get enough of The Simpsons at that point, so the idea of seeing Moe’s Tavern, Burns’ nuclear power plant and Evergreen Terrace in Actual 3D! On Our Actual Computers! Whenever We Wanted! was almost irresistible.

The reality was… well, we endured it for the jokes and quotes and the box-ticking. Gotta catch ’em all, right?

The whole thing is framed as a theoretical VR game, goggles placed over the player’s perspective in its opening moments, and from there it’s basically Google Maps Street View in rudimentary 3D. The 90-degree turns and lurching leaps forward are much like so many VR games’ awkward button-based movement, and the heavy, jaggedy aliasing is pretty comparable to gog-o-vision too.

Of course, being The Simpsons, it’s arguably protected by a thick layer of irony, and might only be rubbish because it’s pretending to be rubbish.

Even so, re-release this in actual VR and hell, I’ll play it.

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Who am I?

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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