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.