"Why do you think this video game is so great, Lisa?" asked Dan Schneider, executive producer at Nickelodeon.
"Because…"I began, forcing my nervous 17-year-old brain to think up a response that would suggest intelligence beyond my years, "it's witty, facetious, and, surprisingly, has a lot of heart."
Every gamer has one special game that holds sentimental value, whether it's the first game they ever played or one that deprived them of countless hours of sleep on school nights because they just couldn't set down the controller.
My game is The Secret of Monkey Island.
It wasn't until I played through the first MI game with my dad that video games started to mean something to me. The graphics of that 1990 game were laughable, the ending was predictable, and the main character's name was 'Guybrush', but you accepted all of these aspects, if not embraced them, once you realised that Ron Gilbert could tell a damn good story.
It's amazing to observe the metamorphosis of the MI franchise: We went from pixelated, non-speaking characters in the first games to a cartoon-y style for the third, a 3D style for the fourth game (and Tales of Monkey Island episodes), and finally, a redesign of the first two games with hand-painted characters and environments for special edition releases. (The remake of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge is out for download on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this week.) Yes, the little adventure game created by just a few talented guys made it all the way from a 16-colour floppy disk to our Xbox Live Arcade.
Aside from 1980s Journey and removing those shortcut arrows from my Windows desktop icons, I'm not radically obsessed with many things. But I am the most dedicated MI fangirl you will probably ever meet. Here's why:
In 2004, I was in my third season of a widely popular Nickelodeon show and I have no idea why, but people actually listened to me. Not just any people, executives. I could get feedback from the All That writers on scripts I'd written, call the shots on which Hollywood events I attended, and, best of all, talk openly with very powerful bigwigs about my ideas.
After Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl came out, I was cranky. I'd wanted a pirate movie to be made for years – but not one about a pretty boy and his drunken, stumbling cohort. No! I wanted a satire about a boy who washed ashore on Mêlée Island, a feisty female governor, and an evil zombie ghost pirate! Well, okay, PotC had that last one, but it wasn't what I wanted.
Then it hit me – kind of like when that ham hit Paula Deen.
People were going crazy for pirates! The time for a Monkey Island film adaptation was nigh! So, I took matters into my own hands.
On set one day, I nabbed Dan Schneider, my show's executive producer. I explained my idea, we had the aforementioned exchange, and he seemed totally intrigued. He instructed me to pitch the idea to a producer friend of his.
The Internet research I did for my pitch broke my heart. It seemed like MI was dying. Fans were giving up hope that a new installment would be released, and the term "adventure game" excited gamers about as much as the thought of Rosanne Barr in a burlap thong. (Sorry for that.) Still, the series' cult following was strong and there were even entire websites devoted to the idea of a Monkey Island film.
As I waited in the producer's office, drooling over the rare WB memorabilia on the shelves, it was apparent this guy was powerful and could make movies at will. Nerves swept over me. I closed my eyes and thought of all the times as a kid I pretended to be Elaine Marley while my friends were being mermaids or fairies or whatever Disney princess was deemed the prettiest among young females at the time.
What if this is a really stupid idea? What if they do make the movie, but totally screw it up?
"I'm just going to come right out and say that I've never heard of this game," said Mr. Producer as he waltzed in the room and took a seat in his big, intimidating Ikea chair.
I pitched my idea as logically and persuasively as a 17-year-old can, handing him my stack of papers statistically confirming that the public would attend and adore a Monkey Island film.
"You realise that video game movies bomb, right?" he asked.
Duh. I'm not a complete idiot. "Yes, sir," I answered. "But this would be different. It's comedy - it would practically be a parody of PotC."
He flipped through my papers and we began a dialectic tango, going round and round, back and forth about why he thought it would never work and why I thought it would.
He finally said, "Tell you what, I'll make some calls and get back to you" in the same tone he would have said, "Stick to acting, kid."
I don't remember if I heard from him again, but needless to say, I gave up. I returned to being a normal unmotivated MI fan and waited for a fifth game like everyone else. While I never got my official fifth game, I did get to experience the gratifying revival of the franchise I thought was forgotten with Tales of Monkey Island and the special editions.
I'll never get my Monkey Island movie, but maybe that's okay. Maybe the charm of this quirky pirate tale would be ruined outside of an interactive media.
Plus, they probably would have gotten the three-headed monkey all wrong anyway.