Exhaustive tour of video game bathrooms

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/28/exhaustive-tour-of-video-game.html


Perhaps I missed it, but It’s not that exhaustive.

Source: Image via ArsTechnia A truly graphic adventure: the 25-year rise and fall of a beloved genre from Déjà Vu, a game for the Mac, c. 1985

There were other early bathrooms in games. I have memory of one in a text game, perhaps Zork, but I have my doubts. There was an early Mac vector drawn game with a bathroom, I know because every kid, or adult, flushed that virtual toilet at least a dozen times.

Perhaps there should be a list of video games conspicuously missing bathrooms, like Myst, because I have been stuck in the maze for a bit and really have to go.


There’s a bathroom in one of the No one Lives Forever games. iirc The mirrors work, but NOLF’s engine isn’t sophisticated to enough to need more than a stencil buffer.

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Gamers: “Why are games so expensive to develop? So dumb!”
Also Gamers: “I demand that all bathrooms be fully interactive and realistic in their function, despite having absolutely no impact on gameplay.”

I created an account after years to say: “The Boggit” (Delta 4 Software, ZX Spectrum, circa 1984). Obvious parody of The Hobbit but out f you typed “pas" in the bathroom the game said “Tie a knot in it.” And "sht” got you bit on your bum by a germ. Memorable to this day.

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Well, his first two videos derive some of the humor from the fact that in order to actually enjoy the bathrooms, some killing must be done. Bathrooms play a part in the cultural narrative of the hitman.

From the perspective of a 3d shooter designer, the bathroom stalls are an excellent place to hide enemies. And, from the perspective of a game engine designer, a bathroom might be useful to test reflection, water, fog and interactive elements-- all in a single level.

However, in todays games, a clean bathroom, with shiny surfaces, full reflections, and realistic water is just too much work. Perhaps raytracing will bring back the fully interactive bathroom.

longish article, ending with

If ‘real-life’ bathrooms are notable for being both necessary resources and potent ideological actors (and those two facets of bathrooms are always intertwined), video game bathrooms would seem to be the opposite: the vast majority of them are totally unnecessary, and because they’re unnecessary, they don’t have the same kind of power over their users. They can be meaningful, poignant spaces to walk through, but they don’t engage the social self: you don’t feel nervous or comfortable, exposed or reposed, humiliated or relieved—or somewhere in the middle: just fine, maybe—on the cold of the porcelain bowl. You don’t see your face in the mirror. You don’t feel your body, in satisfaction or revolt.

But there are some video game bathrooms that try to capture that feeling—or a feeling, at least. There are some that try to represent the complex social and psychological negotiations, enabled and frustrated by architecture, that take place in that space. What follows is an investigation of three of them.

and what follows costs 6 bucks to read

After the 8th time of hearing the narrator say that being able to spend hours in the game’s virtual bathroom was “so relaxing”, I realized that: this wasn’t a parody; the guy actually likes to spend hours “relaxing” in these virtual bathrooms. So, for that gamer, at least, it has a major impact on gameplay.

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Obviously someone needs to put together a “bathroom sim” (although more than one probably already exists) for him. As it is, asking for a “relaxing” bit in a random murder simulator, er, FPS, is like demanding 15 minutes of wildflower footage be added to action movies.

I do kind of get the fascination with video game bathrooms - having interactivity adds to the illusion of a living world, and bathrooms are sort of the “brown M&Ms” of interactivity - the presumption is that if something that’s so completely unrelated to gameplay gets this treatment, then things more relevant to gameplay will also get it. Except that’s… not really how things work, in practice.

There are certainly a lot of games where bathrooms are just there because the floorplan would be totally implausible otherwise; sometimes as an excuse to show off your engine’s reflection handling and/or water effects; but Hitman and Hitman 2 absolutely wouldn’t be the same without them.

Probably half (likely more than that if you know your way around the rules) of the targets can be handled by slipping them an emetic and then giving them a discrete drowning when they head for the restroom. Slightly more convoluted than straight poisoning; but less risk of somebody dropping dead in front of a crowded room.

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Yeah, there are a small number of games where even the existence of bathrooms is relevant to gameplay, and even fewer where a functional bathroom is relevant. But it’s still something of a metric for games.

Did you ever play the Behind Closed Doors series?

An entire series of games where the pc gets locked in an outhouse, then locked out of the outhouse, and in the third game he is glued to the toilet seat.

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