The Guy Game

“Ounces of Bounces.”

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Welcome to a hell of boobs, beer, and Ballz.™
(North American PlayStation 2 box art)

Boobs: There are folk who would go to great lengths for a mere glimpse at a girl’s gorgeous gourds, even going so far as to pay money for the privilege. In the days before easily-accessible internet porn, you had a handful of options if you wanted to drop some dollars for digital breasts on-demand: You could take the walk of shame into the back of a video store, dial up a 1-800 number and have something like a Girls Gone Wild tape delivered to you, or possibly even pay for a premium TV channel dedicated to “adult content.”

But of course, there was one more route you might elect to go: Adult-only video games. Yes, as early as the days of the Atari 2600, there were games designed with that most explicit of content in mind. While I would contend that early such titles were made more with novelty factor in mind than arousal, they paved the way for the perverted pioneers to come, who would persist in pushing pixelated promiscuity past the point of “proof of concept” and into full-fledged porn. Advancing past the technical limitations imposed on the likes of Leisure Suit Larry and Lula, it was inevitable that games would eventually come to incorporate photography and full-motion video of real nude folk.

With a focus on the female form, The Guy Game would be among the games to take full advantage of this technology. What followed in the wake of its release came critical indifference, public repulsion, and perhaps most notably; legal repercussion. Today, we’ll be examining the contents of and circumstances behind one of the most infamous adult-oriented games in our industry’s history.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a review of a straight-up porn game, y’all. A game I’ve gone ahead and added additional censoring to, yes, but a porn game nonetheless. If you’re not of legal age to look at this garbage, please don’t?

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Possibly even earlier, perhaps courtesy of some primitive ASCII rendering on an old model of industrial computer or something.

“Love Puppy Parade.”

Spring break for many is a time for reckless abandon, overcoming social anxieties, and breaking up the monotony of the daily grind, all if only for a fleeting moment. In other words: A lot of girls seem to get drunk and take their tops off in public, sometimes in front of cameras. The aforementioned Girls Gone Wild series of softcore porn videos liked to take advantage of this time of year, with compilations centered around girls getting up to raunchy spring break shenanigans — flashing for the camera and maybe occasionally kissing other girls. Relatively tame stuff to be sure, but it apparently sold plenty well and became a part of American pop culture.

The influence of Girls Gone Wild on The Guy Game is pretty obvious, and I would assume that they shared a similar production process: Set up a makeshift stage near a bar, encourage a crowd of drunks to surround and spectate, and offer cash to conventionally-attractive women to reveal themselves on camera. The only additional elements The Guy Game seems to employ are a more defined “host” character and the overarching game show gimmick, which help it easier translate into the format of a video game.

The host in question is comedian Matt Sadler, whose smug mug adorns the game’s cover and is ever-present in the recorded footage. His duties include introducing, asking questions of, and generally coaxing the participating ladies into presenting for the camera. In this sense, he does a fine job of things: He has some amount of stage presence, thinks quickly on his feet, and comes across as being affable enough to the participants. Also to his credit – aside from putting his arm around many a woman’s shoulder – he doesn’t get too “handsy” with the girls [from the footage I’ve seen]. On the other hand, he’s totally interchangeable in his role, goes for the most obvious jokes in most situations, and unfortunately for him just so happens to have a very punchable face.

The game show aspect primarily involves trivia questions, with subjects spanning the gamut of human knowledge and history. One minute the women will be dealing with standard pop culture fare (“On the original Star Trek, what was Mr. Spock’s rank?”), and the next they’ll be guessing at seemingly obscure geography facts (“The Aegean Sea is connected to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea by what strait?”). Obviously, the idea here is to start the ladies off with the easier questions before hitting them with the trickier stuff, with being made to show their boobs being the punishment for wrong answers.

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This is the first aspect of the game I’m gonna hone in on as feeling particularly skeevy to me. And before I get into it, let me be clear here: So long as the women involved are fully content and properly consent to showing their breasts, I don’t have any issue with that aspect of the game. It’s their bodies, their choice to do what they wish with them, and they certainly shouldn’t be shamed for their participation. By all accounts, the girls seemed to know what they were getting into when they accepted the invitations and signed the production releases (putting matters of sobriety aside). So, no, I’m not gonna sermonize on the fact that the women are flashing their boobs to the crowd and camera. My issue here specifically is the way they are presented to the player in the context of the video game.

The “easy” questions generally tend to deal more with the pop culture side of things, though they also ask some pretty common sense sort of stuff — like “how many letters are in the English alphabet,” which seems like it should be a freebie. But would you believe that the girl who got asked that alphabet question got it wrong? Now, you might be thinking “Oh man, what kind of an airhead do they gotta be to not get that right?” I’d contend that this is exactly the sort of reaction the producers were trying to elicit from players: To paint the girls as “bimbos,” and appeal to the purported stereotype that most men like their women young and dumb. And if they do get the questions right, what of it? It’s all “easy shit,” and only proves to the dudes playing that these women meet the bare minimum for being functional human beings.

What all this obviously fails to account for is the environment: The loud and rowdy nature of the filming locations, the presence of copious amounts of alcohol, and the general pressure being put on the contestants. You can mock game show contestants for getting easy questions wrong all you want, but unless you’ve been in the hot seat yourself before, you can’t honestly claim that you too wouldn’t crack under the pressure. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that these particular contestants on this particular show are all clearly drunk, and probably not thinking too hard or operating at full capacity when it comes to giving their answers. Look, all I’m saying is, the ability of a person to answer trivia questions while drunk and under pressure is not the most accurate measure of actual intelligence.

But what if the so-termed “hotties” manage to beat the odds, breeze through the basics, and avoid having to take their tops off? Well, fortunately, Matt seems to have a reserve of far tougher questions which the girls are basically guaranteed to get wrong (if not most folk following along with the game as well). Again, this is inoffensive enough on it’s own and a staple of stunt trivia shows, and if the conceit of the whole game is that the women are eventually gonna have to tease us with their tits, you’re probably gonna have to hit some of ‘em with shots out of left-field. Most of these questions land in the categories of more obscure historical trivia, more specific pop culture references, and stump questions from various sciences.

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Which brings us to the core of the video game itself, and the questions asked of the participating players. Yes, as you might expect, you’re made to answer the same series of questions as the girls on camera, scoring points and presumably competing with other players to come out on top at the end. But this isn’t actually the focus of the game — not actually related to the “real” prize. Instead, after each question, players are initially instructed to guess as to whether or not the girls themselves get the questions right or wrong, followed by a round in which you’re told up-front that the girls give wrong answers and you guess at what precisely their wrong answer is. These questions contribute to filling up a “Flash-O-Meter,” which progressively de-censors the video footage until it reaches the point of being entirely uncensored.

You see, there are two stages of censorship you have to overcome before you can actually see bare breasts. In the first, the game’s logo obscures the revealed boobs. In the second, you get the traditional mosaic censor that pixelates them to the point of not being discernable. Finally overcoming that second stage gets rid of the censorship completely, also allowing players to see the previously-censored footage if they should (for whatever reason) choose to replay the episode later. Filling out the Flash-O-Meter is also essential in unlocking access to the final stage of the given episode: The “Hottie Challenge,” which typically involves the girls competing in some physical challenge where they can elect to go topless for an advantage. If players fail to fill the Flash-O-Meter over the course of the trivia sections, they don’t get to see this last round of play.

There feels like there’s a lot to unpack here. Again, I feel like I have to reiterate that my problem here isn’t “boobs as reward,” so much as it is the way the women themselves are portrayed and presented. As a player, you’re not being rewarded for your own trivia knowledge or intellect: You’re rewarded for guessing “how dumb” these women are, and in what specific ways. You’re made to try and read the women like books by their cover — presuming based entirely on their appearance what they do and don’t know, and in what specific stammering way they inevitably answer the later questions incorrectly. This isn’t a competition of wits between [assumedly] male players versus the female participants: It’s a straight-up guessing game on the part of the players at home, where it doesn’t matter if you actually know the answers to the trivia questions or not.

So, whatever; let’s pretend for a minute like this whole premise isn’t incredibly skeevy so we can move on and discuss the rest of the game. Let’s evaluate the game solely on the merit of its content and technical aspects, for the benefit of those out there who are just looking for an overcomplicated way of getting off entertaining way to spend their time playing a video game! Hey, guess what? The rest of the game sucks too and is designed completely incompetently. For such a basic game concept, the developers sure find surprising ways to overcomplicate the proceedings and test everyone’s patience.

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In addition to Matt taking on hosting duty, there are three other voices which will talk at you over the course of the game: Narrator and game guide “Lucky Lacy,” and additional commentators Steve Graves and Dick Conrad. Lucky Lacy being the one to read the questions and explain the game rules is fair enough, and I can understand not wanting to bring Matt back in for the additional hours of voiceover in post. Steve and Dick, on the other hand, are completely useless and only serve to quip and mock the participants — both the on-screen ladies and the players. They tell jokes that routinely land completely flat, make uninformed guesses as to which girls are most likely to succeed, and generally tend to slow the flow of the game. They are far more irritating than Matt, and assuming that he wasn’t available to provide the additional commentary, the duos’ role in the game could’ve / should’ve just as easily gone completely unfilled.

As a whole, the game just seems to drag and meander and waste your time. Recycled interstitial videos that serve to introduce / re-introduce the game and it’s mechanics reappearing in every episode you play get to be tedious, though thankfully they can be skipped relatively quickly. What can’t be skipped as simply, however, are periods where the game calculates changes in score or lingers on the question screens, which may lead to fidgety button-pressing on the part of impatient players and which might also accidentally skip the bits of footage of the ladies. In particular, having to see each player individually being revealed to have guessed correctly / incorrectly and subsequently gaining / losing points after every question can be drawn out to an unbearable length (especially should you manage to gather four players together), and it’s inevitable that you’re gonna wanna mash buttons to get through it all as fast as possible.

The entire presentation of the game comes across as tacky, yet unrefined. There are lots of vibrant colors, floating background elements and other unnecessary bits of flourish that can occasionally distract from the core content. The interface is also something like a maximalist nightmare, with text and images filling every nook and cranny of the screen as often as possible and attempting to convey a half-dozen different things to the players all at once. At the beginning of a given game, you’re given your choice from a handful of “cheerleader” girls – effectively serving as your avatar, for lack of a better term – who progressively strip down the better you’re doing in-game. In effect, this means that even on the multiple-choice question screens, there may still be boobs just sort of hangin’ around, ensuring every last bit of screen real estate is completely filled. On the other hand, the video footage is given huge bezels and fails to fill out the entire display, probably as an additional means of saving a smidge of disc space.

I also have issue with the sheer whiplash between questions of completely different subject matters and degree of challenge, where it’s impossible as a player to get into any sort of rhythm or take advantage of any particular wealth of knowledge / expertise on a certain type of subject matter. One minute you’ll be remembering details from an episode of Friends, and the next you’ll be guessing how many calories are in a teaspoon of semen (the answer, by the way, is five). I much prefer the Jeopardy approach to question selection in my trivia games, where you’re given a range of specific subject matters and increasingly difficult questions within each category. As it turns out, the game actually does have a range of categorized questions hidden in an “Extra Trivia” mode that can be chosen when replaying an episode, allowing the points leader to select a topic for questions to be pulled from for participants to answer. Of course, since this mode is a total afterthought, the questions don’t correspond to what the girls in-game were being asked, further disconnecting you from the action.

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Perhaps the most egregious bit of game design, though, are the inclusion of the “Ballz” minigames. The game provides three different ball-based minigames as a means of breaking up the trivia: Ballz Shots (a skee-ball variant), Ballz In (plays something like Pong), and Ballz Out (a game where you roll around and knock smaller balls off a platform). All of these games are boring as hell, run way too long, and control horribly. You’re made to control the titular balls directly, using the analog sticks to roll them and buttons in order to active boosts and other special moves, and usually have to do your best to keep them grounded on small platforms. The problem is, the momentum is atrocious, and leads to a frustrating lack of response as you desperately attempt to maneuver. What are presented as four or five minute distractions end up feeling somehow hours long, and I cannot imagine anyone having the patience to endure any of the given games a second or third time — assuming they can even get through it a first time without skipping then midway through. You can disable the games from appearing entirely, but you know what else would’ve been nice? If the developers had designed some actually entertaining minigames.

So, evaluating The Guy Game using the traditional games-rating criteria results in failing scores across the board. This was not unexpected. But how does The Guy Game rate as what it really is; softcore porn? Well, speaking as someone who doesn’t really get much out of this sort of stuff in the best of cases, it certainly didn’t do anything for me. But that won’t keep me from my sacred duty as an unpaid game reviewer, trying to evaluate this adult video game from a purely pornographic point of view. Yes, I am seriously about to rate the erotic value of this video game — so skip ahead like, two paragraphs, if you don’t want to subject yourself to this awkwardness.

From the brief flashes you get during the trivia segments, you really don’t get much of a chance to appreciate the girls’ assets, even as the fully uncensored clips do tend to provide replays in slow-mo to try and maximize those short moments. What I presume most horndogs will be working towards are the prolonged physical challenge segments, where the girls are encouraged to compete topless for a more extended period of time, typically in activities where they’re made to bounce up and down. But again, that’s all you’re getting here: Momentarily topless girls performing in brief acts of exhibitionism. I just can’t help but think there’s more substantive material out there for folk who are really into this specific type of smut, and that there’s really nothing for them to get out of this game? Not to mention, if you’re in like, a party setting with a handful of other folk… All I’m saying is, I reckon you’d have to have some pretty chill friends if all y’all are content to get your rocks off together.

There’s also something to be said about the selection and variety of girls featured in the game. Naturally, they all tend to adhere to conventional beauty standards, blah blah blah — nothing particularly surprising there. What’s a little more surprising is the near-total lack of non-white girls? Like, okay, let’s do some math here and figure that with each in-game “episode” featuring at least three girls (occasionally four, as some girls pair up to compete as duos), and with a total of twenty episodes, we can guesstimate that the game features somewhere around 125~130 girls. I wanna say that the game trends about 95% in favor of girls with lighter skin tones / at-a-glance caucasian features. Whether you wanna chalk this up to the crew’s selection process, or as an unavoidable statistical situation based on the girls who showed up to South Padre Island that spring break, there’s no denying the fact that there simply isn’t much diversity in the final product.

I found myself sort of pondering the logistics of the whole production. How many questions were the girls asked that we don’t get to see in the game, where they get questions right that they “weren’t supposed to?” Were there any who completely defied the odds / expectations and somehow managed to avoid having to expose themselves, much to the chagrin of the crowd and crew? I began to wonder how I would have fared if I had the opportunity to compete? I managed to do pretty well for myself answering questions from the comfort and privacy of my home, with something like an 90% success rate when it came to the trivia. But that’s not accounting for the pressures of performing for the live crowd, or whatever ridiculous “guaranteed fail” questions they might have been able to pull out of their pocket for just such an emergency.

As a result of all this introspection, I was left with a lingering uncomfort throughout the duration of my gameplay. What I assumed would simply play as some trashy smut thinly disguised as a video game ended up feeling a fair bit more insidious and exploitative. Past a certain point, I was starting to feel pretty bad about playing a product designed to portray women as bits of amusement for players to gawk at and ridicule from the safety of their sofas. Naturally, there was only one thing I could do: I invited a friend over to play the game with me, so I could also make him uncomfortable.

Much like the women in the game, we’re going to give my friend an alias. He elected to write in his player name as “SHAME,” so I’m gonna go ahead and call him “Shane.” Shane is a straight white male in his mid-20s, and as such is part of the core demographic I believe this game sought to please. He also elected to get absolutely sloshed before playing the game, which I believe could only help in getting him in the ideal state of mind this game was intended for. Unfortunately, I don’t drink, so I still had to suffer the whole game sober again.

As the game began to lay out the rules and goal of the game, Shane almost immediately skipped them, not bothering to hear the tutorial out. Shortly thereafter, the game determines which player will be the “President” and which will be the “Asshole” — effectively, putting a player in charge of enforcing a selection of party rules that all other players must abide by, while also singling out a player for the others to especially beat up on and make fun of until they earn enough points to not be at the bottom of the scoreboard. Similarly, the president can be dethroned if they lose their points lead, and with every transition of power a new rule is put into effect. These rules include such irritating conditions as “Everyone but the President must sit on the floor” and “No one’s lips may touch their bottle, cup, or can, or they receive a penalty.” For some reason, we decided to abide by these stupid rules, leading to much sitting down and standing up and other general time-wasting.

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In the context of multiplayer, the game tries to paint itself as “a combination of competition and teamwork,” as the goal in answering the trivia questions is obviously to earn points for yourself and try to get ahead of your friends, but in guessing the ladies answers, you’re meant to cooperate and decide together how you should be voting. That said, each player still casts their own individual vote on how they believe the girl will answer, with one wrong guess meaning that the Flash-O-Meter fails to move at all / the entire party is made to suffer. Over the course of our game, we only just barely managed to move the Flash-O-Meter into the green, replacing the logo censorship for the mosaics. At this point, Shane astutely noted “Why even bother having two different types of censorship? Isn’t that just a waste of disc space?” I did not have a good answer for this.

Shane found the Ballz minigame to be particularly boring, noting after a four minute match of Ballz Out “that felt like ten fucking minutes.” I must agree that time really does seem to slow down during these pointless diversions. By this point in the game, it may be worth noting that we had traded President status back and forth around two or three times, and we were also sick of having to pick stupid new rules every time this happened. At some point, I found myself having to play while standing up and unable to say numbers out loud, which I managed to do without penalty, which Shane at least managed to find some amusement in. I countered by becoming President again and adding a stipulation to all the above that he also had to pinch his left nipple while answering questions, which put a quick damper on his mood.

By the middle of the second trivia round, Shane had taken the lead again, and made the executive decision to skip all the video content so that all we were doing was answering the trivia questions. When it came to guessing the incorrect answers from the girls, we no longer had the slight window into their thinking provided by the preceding video clips, which effectively made our choices a matter of complete guesswork. Amazingly, this actually served us better than trying to read the girls’ body language and presume how they would answer based on that, but still not well enough to uncensor the video completely / unlock the final round. And so, that’s where the game ended. It proceeded to call us losers, tell us we sucked, and then had the audacity to ask us to “please try again.” Needless to say, we declined.

Overall, Shane’s impressions of the game were about what I expected: He questioned what, if anything, the intended audience was meant to get out of the game. All the fluff around the trivia game detracts from the fun of answering questions, and the way it’s presented makes it all feel like busywork getting in the way of the boobs. He did give me a bit of perspective in that dudes getting together to enjoy a bit of light female nudity doesn’t always have to incorporate some uncomfortable circlejerk scenario. But all the weird mixing and matching of different interests and ideas present here probably wouldn’t hold the attention of a group of drunk guys: If they wanted to get together to play a trivia game, they’d pick a better dedicated trivia game. If they wanted to look at boobs together, they’d load up some boobs on a computer. Shane had no patience for or interest in the way the game decided to present itself, and I can’t hardly blame him.

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Is there anything else I need to cover here? Well, I guess I could mention that there are unlockables to open up as you progress through the game’s episodes, including a series of bonus videos. Honestly, these might be the best part of the whole game, as they largely feature drunk dudes making complete asses of themselves on camera while Matt as the host practically makes fun of them to their faces. It’s also edited to portray these guys in the most embarrassing possible light, which only feels fair all things considered. That said, you never see any of them whip their junk out from what I bothered to sit through, so y’know — not quite fully balanced out here. Still, if you enjoy cringing at awkward dudes lying about how many times they’ve gotten laid / making painfully awkward passes at girls, there may be some amusement to be found in the bonus features for you.

Obviously I’ve already pointed out more than a fair share of issues with the game by this point, and it’s clear that my opinion of it isn’t all that high. So, what would I do if I had the unenviable task of trying to improve this package? I reckon it depends on what stage of production we’re pretending I’m inserting myself into. If I’m trying to salvage all the footage that’s already been filmed and make a game out of it, I’d probably try to tie the presentation of the game more into the spring break shenanigans; getting rid of all those weird gradients and abstract shapes that comprise the backgrounds, and maybe designing it more around the idea of being in front of a crowd on the beach or at a bar. I’d get rid of the insulting guesswork of whether or not the girls answer questions right, and only reveal “the goods” if something like the majority of players answer the trivia questions correctly themselves. Oh, and I reckon I’d toss in some shorter / sweeter little minigames — stuff that maybe takes a minute tops to play through, styled after drinking stunts like doing kegstands or whatnot.

Now, what would I do if I had complete creative control and a blank slate to work with? My vision is something that presents itself so self-seriously as to be completely goofy: Some hoity-toity overproduced TV game show kind of deal – something like Who Wants to be a Millionaire – where correct answers win you glimpses at ass instead of cash. Hire some genuine models who are more comfortable with revealing themselves, put a comical number of layers of clothes on them for starters, and have each correct answer further undress them. And if you get them completely naked, you can even bring back the physical challenge element from the actual game, having them run some sort of weirdly intimidating obstacle course or something while in the nude. Am I producing high art here? No, of course not: I’m just trying to trim the fat, cut some of the more insulting elements, and make the nudity feel like more of a properly earned-and-deserved reward. And honestly, I still wouldn’t play this stupid thing for myself, because I honestly don’t see the point in it.

Look, I’m clearly not a member of the intended audience for this game. But I feel like I still better understand what guys would want out of a game like this than the actual developers did. It’s almost like, they understood that straight guys are supposed to like naked women, but somehow didn’t quite understand why? It all amounts to a confused mess, unsure of its own purpose or goal, meandering and wasting time all the while. And so, while I may not be part of the target audience, it’s plain to see that even the majority of the target audience wouldn’t get much out of The Guy Game. Though I guess the question here is, for those who actually paid money for and had high hopes for this game, did they really deserve any better?

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I worry that this might come across like me “assuming ethnicities based on skin tone,” which is absolutely not what I’m trying to do here. Rather, I am contending that this is exactly what the production crew for the game did, in looking to cater their game to a very specific demographic of white dudes who seem largely blind to the attractiveness of non-white women.
If you’d like, you can insert your own obvious / assumptive joke about me being “too ugly” to be considered or “not really a lady.” And if you do, than you should also have the self-confidence to go ahead and send me photos of yourself for me to personally evaluate and rate you on your appearance? I promise that I totally won’t just publicly say equally mean shit to you in order to fill you with self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness. Because that’s a really cool way to spend your time online and to live your life in general.

“This Game’s Gonna be Bigger than Grand Theft Auto.”

If VGChartz is to be believed, The Guy Game managed to move something like 200 thousand units across the PS2 and Xbox (plus whatever pittance of units the game managed to move on PC). For a game as obviously cheaply made as this, this may well have meant the game made a tidy little profit. But even if it had been a total dud, it would’ve been a mere drop in the hat for the conglomerate of Take-Two. Having acquired publisher Gathering of Developers earlier in 2000, their seal was just one of many labels Take-Two had control over at the time, before folding most extraneous brandings into their 2K Games label in late 2004. This meant that The Guy Game would be one of the last games published under the Gathering banner — which is actually quite fitting, given their penchant for E3 booth babes clad in Catholic schoolgirl apparel and general “bad boys of publishing” persona they had attempted to establish for themselves.

This is usually the part where I get to report on the obviously overwhelmingly negative critic reviews the game received, and we all get to share a laugh at the game’s expense. Except, things aren’t quite that simple in this case. Rather than The Guy Game being rightfully raked over the coals by everyone in the industry, some publications actually endorsed it. And I’m not just talking obscure little dot com sites without a shred of credibility or integrity: I’m talking GameSpot giving it a 7.5. And that wasn’t a review written by one of their many freelancers of the era, either: That was the score awarded by Jeff goddamn Gerstmann. Now, granted; GameSpot mandate at the time seemed to be to review games with the consumer / intended audience in mind, and Jeff is very clear to point out that the game is meant to appeal to a “pretty specific audience.” And you wanna believe that if given the game in modern day and free to give his more personal opinion on it, Jeff would rightfully savage the game as the piece of garbage it is. On the other hand – over a decade old or not – snippets like this are still funny to look back on:

“This topless trivia game is a slickly produced product that has some pretty strong appeal to a specific audience. […] If you’re a fan of trivia games but not a fan of cursing and some topless girls, then the game isn’t for you. If you’re looking for something more risqué than some occasionally exposed breasts, then get out of the game section and head to your video store’s back room. But if you’re up for a little bit of trivia with a dirty sense of humor and you have three like-minded friends, The Guy Game won’t let you down.” ~ Jeff Gerstmann, GameSpot

I reckon we should probably get a second opinion [or two] on this one. 1UP.com’s Andrew Pfister weighed in with a more progressive take for the time: “Strong is the temptation to dismiss The Guy Game as, well, merely a harmless game ‘for guys.’ The problem is that it gleefully beats the horse that Girls Gone Wild and an armada of ‘lad mags’ shot dead in the late 1990s, and it drills in even further the stereotype that this is how young men should behave—that is to say, badly.” GameSpy’s Justin Leeper approached his review from a more practical standpoint, reinforcing my belief that even the intended audience wouldn’t get anything out of the game: “‘But it’s a great drunken party game!’ some will scream. I’m sorry, but it’s far too complicated and asinine for intoxicated people to grasp. It took me forever to reach unobstructed FMV toplessness, and I was sober — plus, I was conspiring with my friends to fill the Flash-o-Meter. People who want nudity will buy nudity that doesn’t make you jump through hoops to get to it.”

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And so the game sat on game store shelves, likely garnering odd glances from curious teenage boys and disgusted looks from discerning mothers. But as it turned out, it wouldn’t be staying on those shelves for too long. Come December of 2004 – just three months after the game’s release – it was suddenly pulled from shelves and prohibited from further sales, as the result of a judge’s issuing of a temporary restraining order. In the Travis County Court of Austin, Texas, a lawsuit was brewing that would spell doom for The Guy Game — not to mention, elevating the controversy level of the game from “crude annoyance” to full-on “illegal goods” status.

In the game’s final episode, there’s a contestant who goes by the alias Diane. Diane, at the time of filming, was only 17 years old — a year too young to provide proper legal consent / to appear nude on video. Not only that, but she also claimed to have been illegally intoxicated at the time of signing her already fraudulent consent, which I certainly don’t doubt given the atmosphere. The production crew failed to recognize her ID as being fake (despite displaying obvious inconsistencies), and according to Diane, also failed to inform her that the recorded footage would be used in the promotion of and as content in a retail game release. An appeal presented on behalf of Topheavy Studios, Inc. provides further, fascinating details into exactly how incompetently this whole production was handled, as well as providing the frustrating bit of knowledge that participating contestants were paid all of twenty dollars for their services.

If you wanna argue that Diane’s the one at fault here and somehow schemed this whole thing up as part of some long con, whatever. I mean, you’re an asshole, but whatever. I contend that Diane was too young to know any better, was probably just looking to get drunk and party during spring break, and accidentally found herself in the middle of a sleazy production run by sleazy dudes looking to profit off of inebriated women. In either case, the fact of the matter is that the game contains video of an underage girl revealing herself on camera, and that pulling the game off of shelves was the only responsible thing that could be done. Of course, this didn’t stop Take-Two / Topheavy from trying to appeal that judgement, or from trying to capitalize on their newfound notoriety. In a quote off their now-defunct website following the lawsuit, they almost seem proud in boasting “The rumors are true! The most controversial video game ever created — THE GUY GAME — is no longer available! The Man has decided that our fun and hilarious presentation of Spring Break revelry just wasn’t appropriate for the world of gaming.” They also go on to instruct their consumers on what to do with their copies of the game: “If you’re lucky enough to own it, hide it under your mattress!”

In a final, desperate attempt to profit off of this human misery, Topheavy Studios re-compiled their footage into a online-order DVD release, predictably titled The Guy Game: Game Over. According to most sources, this release strips the game of any and all pretenses of gameplay, and simply provides the raw, uncensored footage of the girls answering the trivia questions and competing in the physical challenges. The storefront for the DVD would also go on to claim that the release includes “New Video Footage the rating board didn’t want you to see,” and “New Hotties that were too extreme for the video game!” Of course, we can assume this actually refers to footage that wasn’t good enough to make the initial cut, which is all probably just as tame as everything else we saw in the game. Did I mention yet how everyone involved in the development / marketing of this game comes across as a scumbag?

As previously mentioned, Take-Two would easily recover from and continue to persist after this fiasco. Topheavy Studios would seem to fold shortly after the release of their DVD, with their website being decommissioned by early 2006. The Gathering label would soon cease to be; whether as the result of being too damaged after being attached to The Guy Game, or simply as part of an inevitable corporate consolidation by Take-Two. As for that lawsuit, it seemed to have quickly fizzled out, as the plaintiff was likely deemed to have no right to recovery / compensation. In the end, everyone involved in the whole ordeal seemed to come out worse for it on the other end. Nothing was gained, everybody loses, and the industry moved on while trying it’s best to bury this sordid affair.

Of course, when you try to tell a gamer they’re not allowed to have a certain game and try to limit how many copies of it exist, they’re gonna do what gamers do best: Deem it a “collector’s item” and hoard whatever copies they can get their hands on. While Amazon rightfully refuses to allow users to sell the title on their service, you can find eBay listings for the game still averaging at around $50 — more than the game initially sold for on launch (a retail price of $40). One copy I spotted selling for around $110 lists the product as “The Guy Game Microsoft Xbox ADULT NUDITY PULLED FROM SHELVES RARE NEW SEALED,” which sort of fails to mention that it’s not all necessarily “ADULT” nudity we’re dealing with here.

It’s not often on this website that you’ll see me directly deride the developers for their involvement in these bad games: More often than not, they’re just folk doing a job as best they can, often saddled with unfortunate circumstances and put under an unenviable amount of pressure to produce. So, I hope you’ll forgive me on this occasion, for saying straight-up that everyone involved in the creation of The Guy Game did a bad job and should feel bad. You’ll often hear people say that “the worst kind of ‘bad’ is ‘boring bad,’” but of course there are gonna be exceptions to that rule. In the curious case of The Guy Game, I would argue that “exploitative, insulting, borderline-malicious bad” is a far worse level of bad.

This wasn’t an easy game for me to get through, dear readers, and I hope you understand if my frustrations made themselves evident in this article. Of course, this isn’t the only “adult-oriented” game to build something of a bad reputation for itself, and so there are still similar titles for me to cover further on down the line. Hell, when I saw them try to claim this as “the most controversial video game ever created,” I just had to laugh and think to myself “yeah, you wish.” But man, I tell you what; I’m gonna need a bit of a breather after this one. Howsabout we get back to some classically bad games for a nice while, huh?

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Let’s not kid ourselves here: The budget for this whole project was undoubtedly shoe-string. That’s hardly an excuse for overarching bad design and some of the particular corners cut here, but it does point to this game being rushed out the door as quickly and cheaply as possible.
I’m obviously a fan of Jeff Gerstmann, and I would go as far as to say that he played a large part in inspiring the creation of this website. I don’t hold this decade-and-a-half game review against him, and all indications from his more recent output point to him as being one of the most genuinely good dudes in the industry. I reached out to him for a comment on his old review, but he didn’t get back to me, and I definitely don’t blame him for not wasting his time on my goofy little inquiry. What I’m trying to say is, definitely don’t “go after him” for a weak review he wrote when he was fourteen years younger.

Kane, Brad, and Brenda Brathwaite. “Book Excerpt and Review – Sex in Video Games.” Gamasutra. December 12, 2006. Web.
b Gerstmann, Jeff. “The Guy Game Review.” Gamespot. September 1, 2004. Web.
Pfister, Andrew. “The Guy Game.” 1UP.com. September 15, 2004. Web. (Archive)
Leeper, Justin. “The Guy Game.” GameSpy. September 8, 2004. Web. (Archive)
Warner, Richard. “Topheavy Studios, Inc. v. Jane Doe”. Chicago-Kent College of Law. Illinois Institute of Technology. January 17, 2008.
b “THE GUY GAME.” TheGuyGame.com. Taken from an archive of the site dated June 24, 2005. Web. (Archive)
Surette, Tim. “The Guy Game banned, goes straight to video.” GameSpot. July 8, 2005. Web.

Cassidy is the curator of a bad video game hall of fame. Whether you interpret that as "a hall of fame dedicated to bad video games" or as "a sub-par hall of fame for video games" is entirely up to you. Prefers "They / Them" pronouns. Genuine cowpoke.

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