The Most Australian Video Game Ever Made Is Bizarre And Kinda Racist

Until today I had no idea this video game existed. But it does.

It's the weirdest thing ever.

It's called Aussie Games and was released in 1989 as sort of a response to California Games. California Games, for those of you who aren't old and decrepit, was essentially a series of mini-games and it was amazing. There was skateboarding, a BMX event, surfing — that kind of thing.

Aussie Games was somewhat of a clone. At the very least it took the idea — mini games centered around a theme — and gave it an 'Aussie spin'. And by 'Aussie spin' I mean it collated every single stereotype (racist or otherwise) and shoehorned it into one single (mental) video game experience.

Aussie Games was made Beam Software, the legendary Australian studio that gave us games like The Hobbit and Shadowrun. Interestingly it was made by Gregg Barnett, who created the enduring classic Way Of The Exploding Fist. A man who was a genuinely gifted coder and game developer.

As strange, weird and racist as it is I'm finding it hard to be bothered by Aussie Games. Mainly because it's so clearly a product of its time. It's clearly an attempt to capitalise of the massive success of Crocodile Dundee — which was about as popular as a movie could be in the 80s. During that time the world was genuinely in the grip of Australia-fever and Aussie Games looks as though it went pretty hard and fast down the 'exploit every Australian stereotype possible for material gain' route.

It was also a time when people played loose and fast with borrowing game concepts or ideas. The 80s really were the Wild West of game development and people were genuinely making the rules as they went.

Aussie Games featured an AFL-styled punting game, boomerangs, and a game called Skeet Shoot where players had to shoot an empty beer can thrown from the a moving ute. Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.

The video above shows footage of 'Bellywack' — a game about doing belly flop dives into the Harbour Bay.

I love the scoring system as well: an 'Aussie Meter'. Get to the top and you were a 'True Blue'. If you sucked at the game you were a 'Rat Bag' or a 'Drongo' at best.

There are serious problems with this game, obviously. Particularly with the representation of aboriginal culture, but I think it is important to remember when and where this was made. I also get the sense a lot of this is just one massive in-joke. Beam Software was an Australian studio. This was made by Australians who must have been fully aware of how ridiculous this all way and just decided to go all-in on the buffoonery. I mean this is insane.

According to the Play It Again project by ACMI, Aussie Games may have been released a little later than initially planned. Beam Software founder Alfred Milgrom recalls that it was made around the time when Beam Software was sold to Mastertronic and the relationship wasn't great at the time. Many of the games made during that period were either unpublished or published later by Mindscape in the US. Aussie Games was among that group.

It sort of makes sense. This game was clearly not made for an Australian Audience.

You can find out more about Aussie Games here at the Play It Again website.


      I'm still amazed that apparently when that episode first aired, it was a national outrage.
      I thought we had a sense of humour!

      Of course, it did eventually become beloved by all, but it shoulda been that way in the first place!

    "There are serious problems with this game, obviously. Particularly with the representation of aboriginal culture, but I think it is important to remember when and where this was made."

    It's cool, it was culturally acceptable to be racist back then. LMAO

      It's more along the lines of old Looney Toons and other cartoons where the racism certainly isn't ok but it was common and accepted.

      I don't think it's wrong to look at something as a product of its time, especially since attempts to whitewash them come across even worse.

        Pretty much this. As stated in the article:
        As strange, weird and racist as it is I'm finding it hard to be bothered by Aussie Games. Mainly because it's so clearly a product of its time.
        The game was made during a different era, with different cultural acceptances and outlooks. Yes, racism is racism, but we don't have time machines so people need to stop judging different eras and generations through today's extremely sensitive eyes.

    I REALLY want a copy of this - on my PS4 - as a remaster. Do it someone! And keep the racially inappropriate content intact

    I'm offended that you are offended that its racist.

    I'll just leave this here.

    That Collingwood footballer on the title screen looks happy.

    Must be rare. This must be worth anywhere up to 900 Dollarydoos

    Pretty good stuff, it's no Mel Gibson's safari 3 though...

    As strange, weird and racist as it is I’m finding it hard to be bothered by Aussie Games. Mainly because it’s so clearly a product of its time.

    A little bit confused here. Would such leniancy be afforded to sexism? This is a constant excuse i hear people saying (or inferring aproduct of culture) but it's usually met with a quick "that's no excuse!" retort. They aren't always the same, obviously, but aren't we just picking and choosing based on based on insecurity if there's no criteria?

      Don't be bringing high brow discussions in here ya dingus!

      Actually I would argue yes, depending on the case, it would. Take the pretty average Teen Wolf or Bad science(God that's such an awful movie); made today the things would have so many issues with the portrayal of women that would garner serious criticism, but given the general film-making attitudes of the time it's largely forgiven by modern audiences.

      I also think the use of this line refers to what is done in financial interest (because there isn't always a strong association between morality and profitability); racist stereotypes sell so someone exploits that. Sex and sexualisation of women sells so someone exploits that. It's a vastly different situation to, say, Birth of a Nation which is a film that doesn't merely reflect or exploit racism in this case, but rather pushes a view that is sympathetic to the KKK; something that I don't believe has been forgiven as much as forgotten given the importance of the film to the development of modern cinema.

      To be clear; I don't think context absolves the text of its sins, but many are still in denial/ angry at the notion that games pander to male audiences at the most juvenile of levels; when it's pretty obvious that women have frequently appeared as the reward or end goal for male heroes, so I think a lot of people do ignore, play down and forgive the problems of many media forms for the context they were created in (be that the commonly used reward/ goal systems in games, the uncomfortable objectification of female characters in movies or the racist stereotypes pushed in 'blaxploitation' films) because they can't separate their enjoyment of or involvement with the form or individual example from the morally or socially problematic behavior they exhibit.

      ....aren't we just picking and choosing based on based on insecurity if there's no criteria?

      Isn't that the default?

      I like to think of it the same way the Looney Toons (I believe) dealt with it. Before the show plays, it informs the viewer that the content is racist and that's how it was back then. They won't change it, because it would be awful to forget how far we'd come from then.

    Wow, that's more dinky dee than I could handl-- dinky di, I meant dinky di!! FUCK YOU SWEDISH MAD MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAXXXX!!!!!!

      I don't know why, but now I'm imaging a Mad Max mod where Chumbucket is replaced with the Sweedish Chef, dialogue and all.

    I can't seem to find it in the article, but what was offensive about the portrayal of Aborigines?

      I was going to ask the same thing. That this game was somehow 'racist' is mentioned in the headline even, but the only reference to racism in the article is a brief mention that it somehow has a racist representation of aboriginal culture.

      I remember this game from when I was a kid, but I don't remember anything standing out as racist. Not saying it isn't the case, could just have been my naivety (as I was a kid at the time). I would just like to know how this game could be considered racist, not just that it somehow is.

      See for yourself, Aboriginal content starts at 9:05

      I guess maybe because it's America's idea of an Aboriginal person throwing a boomerang out into the outback? all Aboriginals wear the same outfit and throw boomerangs?

      The picture card at 10:13 is pretty tasteless too.

    I actually remember this game from when I was a kid. It was a good way to pass the time (for a kid). Although I always sucked at the Bellywack.

    Aussie Games was designed to capitalise on the success of California Games and the popularity of the Crocodile Dundee Films. Gregg Barnett role was as the producer of this game not the designer or programmer. My research suggest the mini games were shared around the office to various people at Beam Software but the project got rather lost due to the sale of Melbourne House round this time to Mastertronic.
    Read more here

    If you have any memories of Aussie Games please share them on Play it Again.
    Where we are recording a history of Australian games of the 1980s.

    If you have a copy of Aussie Games please share scans of the box art and instructions and let us know if we can get a a copy of the game file. We can help you with this.

    Let us know about other Australian games of the era
    Many thanks

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