Yes, my gatekeeper!
Last weekend, I was hanging out at a friend’s board game night. There were some dice on one table, and a deck of cards on the other. Then, over in the corner, some people started fiddling with a VHS player.
“Oh,” I thought. “Um.”
Before I knew what was happening, we had divided into teams and were playing a spirited, hilarious game of Nightmare, the classic 1991 board game originally called “Atmosfear” in Europe.
Where do I begin with this game? It is simultaneously exhilarating and funny, never scary but damned if I can’t think of any better way to spend 60 minutes with a group of friends. Preferably while drinking.
The only VHS game I played back in the 90s was California Games, which was nowhere near as much fun as Nightmare.
The setup is like this: You have a number, one to six. You press “play” on the VCR. You roll the dice to move around the board. Sometimes, this guy… this absurd, absurd guy, named “The Gatekeeper”, will pop up and yell at you. He is played by an actor named Wenanty Nosul, who is clearly having a lot of fun with the role.
It. Is. Amazing.
Sometimes he yells. Sometimes he snorts (See part five above.) He gets progressively more jacked-up looking as the game progresses. He’s never anything less than entirely entertaining. And the music. The music! Where do I begin. It sounds like Freddy Krueger music made on a Casio rapman keyboard.
You’ll draw cards that will prompt you to scream at people at a certain time; if you scare them, you get a reward. Other cards will make you go and worship the TV, or laugh maniacally until someone asks you what your problem is. It’s awesome.
The entire video plays out the exact same way every time — each game lasts 60 minutes, and you have that much time to get enough keys to win. Needless to say, there’s limited replay value. But man… you could probably play a version of this game just by using the YouTube videos (which I’ve collected in the gallery here) and recreating the board somehow.
Though I have to say, it wouldn’t really be the same without the actual VCR, with the spotty tracking lines at the corner of the screen.
For a more in-depth look back at VHS games, check out Wes Fenlon (one of our board game night’s hosts)’s great retrospective at Tested.com.
I just might have to use this final AV connection I’ve got on my TV to plug in a VCR. Heading over to eBay…