Plastic cups always make me think of Jurassic Park. If I see one of those little white plastic cups from a water cooler sitting on a desk, I’m always tempted to stamp my foot on the floor and shriek, “Turn the light off! Turn the light off!” as the water in the cup begins to ripple and quake.
And then someone will walk into the office and see me stamping on the floor and shrieking while staring at a plastic cup, and they’ll demand to know exactly what I’m doing, and I’ll try to explain that whenever I see a white plastic cup from a water cooler I’ll always feel impelled to recreate the scene in the Jurassic Park movie where the T.rex is coming and making the water in the cup ripple and the little kid’s saying to the other little kid, “Turn the light off! Turn the light off!” and then the T.rex bites the car and then it eats the man sitting on the toilet.
And then the someone that walked into the office will give me a look of extreme distaste and walk out of the office.
But Spielberg’s ability to create scenes so memorable that simply catching sight of an everyday object reminds you of them is a rare talent. You could show me a thousand objects – including Transformers, a signed photo of Nic Cage, a Will Smith talking doll or even a special edition DVD of Pearl Harbor and I still wouldn’t be reminded of any scene in any film Michael Bay ever directed.
Anyway, my point is that while iconic characters and locations are comparatively common, it’s quite unusual for objects to become so burned into the subconscious that the slightest glimpse of them in the real world immediately reminds you of a film or video game.
Here are five inanimate items that, while not uncommon in everyday life, will forever be associated with some memorable video gaming moment.
1. Crowbar Handy for opening crates and locked doors, Half-Life‘s Gordon Freeman demonstrated just how useful the crowbar could be for keeping rampaging xenomorphs at bay. The remarkably tense early scenes in Half-Life, where the relentless Headcrabs had to be beaten into submission, ensured that the humble crowbar would become almost as recognisable as the bespectacled scientist himself – shaky cam monster movie Cloverfield appeared to pay homage to Half-Life with its protagonists using metal bars to defend themselves from leaping, face-grabbing miniature critters.
2. Cardboard Box The Metal Gear Solid series appeared to become increasingly po-faced in every generation, but the moment when Snake scuttled around behind enemy lines inside a cardboard box gave the PlayStation console one of its most memorable and genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.
3. Typewriter Perhaps memorable for all the wrong reasons, the typewriter was an object that appeared constantly in the Resident Evil franchise, and marked the point where Capcom decided its tired, zombie-addled customers could save the game and rest their weary heads. While longterm Resi fans bemoaned the loss of a series staple when the typewriter was pensioned off in RE5, the rest of us gave a sigh of relief.
4. Fossil Whatever your views on Nintendo’s Animal Crossing – tedious digital doll’s house, a shameless endorsement of capitalism or the greatest non-violent game since Little Computer People – its character designs are unique and often disarmingly funny. And besides, it’s a palaeontologist’s paradise – even I got hooked on running around the forest, digging up fossils and sending them off for classification, before taking them to the museum to be displayed. Then I got bored and played something more violent.
5. Ocarina Once an obscure wind instrument found in gift shops, the ocarina shot to legendary status in the fifth Legend Of Zelda title, Ocarina Of Time. As the title suggests, the magical ocarina allowed Link to move back and forth in time, with Link moving from boyhood to adulthood at numerous points in the game. Ocarina Of Time marked a turning point in Shigeru Miyamoto’s franchise – the first 3D Zelda, the game established most of the elements that would define the later games (the lock-on control system, graphical style and dungeon sequences). Eleven years on, and a better Zelda game has yet to be released – and the ocarina remains inextricably linked to this classic title.
Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.