Family Feud would like to thank Gahd, Mom, and Apple Pie for its transition into Videogamedom. Family Feud: The Video Game pledges allegiance to The Flag every morning. It reaches for the shottie under the pillow and hollers “get off ma propertay, you dang varmints!” It straddles a warhead and rides into the Middle East yelling “YEEEEEEEEEEE-HAWWW!!”
Family Feud: The Video Game is a delightful little slice of Americana with a side of ass. It’s a snapshot of post-war America and is most definitely not for the politically correct [or even the correct] at heart. If you think you’re even remotely intelligent, and your heart beats in time with the rhythm of the masses, then I challenge you to defeat the Dunnigans, the Halls, and the Romeos in a round of Family Feud. You will swear, you will be confused, and you will laugh your ass off*.
* Unless of course you are an American Baby Boomer from the Deep South, which, alas, I am not.
Family Feud is by very nature a populist game show – there are no right or wrong answers – you must divine the Will of the Hive Mind to win. In the SNES iteration, that Hive Mind seems to consist of one or two game developers, and it would appear that they were 51 year old white American males at the time of development (and presumably still are white, American, and male, provided they haven’t died and/or undergone drastic cosmetic surgery since then). Discerning the most popular responses of the ‘virtual live studio audience’ to the survey questions, then, can be an exercise in frustration and hilarity. It’s like one of those text-based adventure games, for example Hugo’s House of Horrors, where the real task at hand was to discern the quirky inner workings of the game developer’s mind**. (Thank God Tim Schafer et al. came along to show us what commands were actually available to us with the introduction of the text menu so I could stop typing ridiculous things like ‘put knife in Igor’ and ‘put rubber bung in hole’).
Case in point: when asked to ‘name something that gives off heat’, I naturally responded with ‘fire’. BE-BOW! WRONG! A member of the Dunnigan family answered ‘sun’ – “number one answer!” – $5,000 bonus! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! THE SUN IS FREAKIN’ MADE OF FIRE!!
Case in point #2: ‘name something you’d expect to find in a courtroom.’ ‘Gavel’ – correct. ‘Judge’ – correct. ‘Jury’ – BE-BOW! ‘Lawyer’ – BE-BOW! ‘Bible’ – BE-BOW! Handover to the Whitebread family, who sweep it away with an answer of ‘flag.’ God bless their bleeding star-spangled hearts. The remaining answers on the board included ‘Jury Box’ and ‘Bailiff.’ So let me get this straight, the proposed majority walking into a courtroom would expect to find a judge, a hammer, A FLAG, and a jury box; but no jury in said box, no lawyers, plantiff, defendant, or even a Holy Bible to swear on?! WHAT SORT OF HEATHEN TOPSY-TURVY WORLD IS THIS?!!
** (Unlike those text-based adventure games, these text-input events come in short, measured bursts. If you don’t get the answer right, the reveal is not too far away. The host will soon say, “and the survey says!” and either put you out of your misery or send you into a fit of blind rage. This feedback loop of anticipation-revelation-response puts the game squarely in ‘so bad it’s good’ territory.)
I don’t know if these questions were lifted from a board game version or devised by the developers themselves, but as a 25 year old white Australian male lefty scumbag, they [and their answers] disturb me (you’ll find some of them scattered throughout this review). The only way to claim victory in this game is to think like ‘them’ (this is simultaneously the game’s most frightening and entertaining aspect). You must become the post-war white American slob, the one that can fit 16 hamburgers on his grill; the one that plays Battleships with his son while the women wash up in the background; the one that endures harsh northern hemisphere winters (more on that later). There’s even “Duelling Banjos”-style Hillbilly music for ‘thinking music’.
“Quick, Huckleberry Finn, ya only got 39 seconds to come up with an ans-wer to this here question!”
“You’d best know that ah’m fixin’ to answer this here quiz thang in four, Mister Sawyer!”
God forgive me for my terrible Southern accent.
Never before have I been forced to consider Family Feud as a purely American phenomenon, having enjoyed the relatively long-running second-last Australian series as hosted by Rob “where is he now?” Brough – complete with permed mullet and unnervingly resilient game show smile – as a child of six and seven. The game show’s signature ‘be-bow!’ sound is so ingrained in Australian culture, uttering that very sound has become an acceptable substitute for the words “wrong!” and “think again!” The writing you see here is the shocked response of a man whose senses have been assailed by something so thoroughly American, it is overwhelming. But Family Feud is for everyone! I naively told myself on my initial playthrough. The game then pulled out its mustard-ketchup-pickles mortars and blew me away with a resounding “NO!!!”
Let me set the scene for you: I live in one of the hottest countries on God’s Green Earth; I have played an outdoor rock gig in 50 degree (that’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit to you, Joe American!) sunlight on a stage with no roof; sanctimonious Poms/Yanks/Poles come down here and proudly declare that we have no winter at all. Imagine my culture shock when the virtual host asks me something to the effect of “what would you need to put away when summertime arrives?” What would I put away? I, who saw my first snowflake at the age of 22, in a foreign land? I wouldn’t put away anything! No! Think like an American! Ummm…“mittens” – ding! Uhhh…“sled?” – be-bow! Damn! “Bob-sled?” – be-bow! “Scarf!”, come on, Americans are always going on about scarves– be-bow! WTF?!!
Then comes the swearing.
Play this game. Play it with a sibling. Give your virtual family a swear word for a name. Laugh at the implied sexism of the questions. It’s like digital crack from an alien world.