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Though pop culture is packed with terrible video game stereotypes, there are good portrayals of gaming and gamers, too.
Last week I tackled television's worst portrayals of gamers. This week, it's time to take a look at the medium's best, counting down from 10.
10. GEORGE COSTANZA
Seinfeld: "The Frogger" (Season 9, Episode 18)
It's popular to point out how un-revolutionary Seinfeld feels today. Its impact on the TV comedy landscape was so instantaneous, its imitatable aspects so immediately apparent ("Pop-culture references? All of the characters can be selfish jerks??") that it felt like The American Sitcom went to bed as Family Ties and woke up as Seinfeld mere hours later. It can be easy to forget just how much of what we take for granted now was birthed by Jerry Seinfeld's offbeat ode to NYC malcontents -- so of course, Seinfeld pioneered pop culture's now booming retro game affection.
In many ways, Jason Alexander's George Costanza was the "worst" of the show's proudly-awful main cast: Detached urban-coastal myopia was their shared sin, but George lacked Jerry's wit/talent, Elaine's semblance of struggle or Kramer's otherworldliness -- George was only a jerk.
But even jerks have their humanity, and it's somehow fitting that one of the few times he got a genuinely (if still pathetically small-scale) sympathetic "quest" to undertake it was about preserving a childhood memory... of video games.
George's rediscovery of an ancient Frogger arcade cabinet that still held his high-score, and subsequent attempts to acquire and protect it, were an endearing window into how he became the "grown-up" that he is; with the hilarious live-action recreation of the game as the icing on the cake.
9. JOHNNY ARCADE
Video Power (Series, Season 1)
As I've delved into elsewhere, Acclaim and Haim Saban's brand-X Captain N wasn't exactly good television. Just about everything in Stivi Peskosky's kid game guru was panderifically chintzy, right down to a character named "Arcade" who exclusive raved about console games.
Still, revisiting Video Power gave me a renewed affection for the erstwhile Johnny Arcade, who in retrospect feels like an unusually successful attempt at positivity as marketing: The idea of Johnny as the equivalent of an MTV VJ (the position nearest to godhood in 80s pop-culture) but for games was as cynical as these things get, but the idea that a kid whose passion was video games could also occupy the zone between "bully" and "teacher's pet" that defined the Heroic Ideal of that TV youth heroes (see also: Simpson, Bartholomew J) in an age when most of pop culture was still content with the sun-deprived friendless-loser archetype? Good on you, Johnny Arcade.
The less said about Season 2 the better, though. ::shivers::