Hundreds of crappy party games were developed and published for the Wii and Wii U back in the day. They were usually cheap, not as good as Wii Sports and quickly forgotten.
But one of those games, Game Party Champions, included something very strange. A personal story about a child dealing with the loss of their father and how that father’s ghost helps the child win the tournament of minigames.
Steve Bowler posted a very interesting thread on Twitter sharing the story behind how this all happened. He was the Lead Designer on the game.
The Game Party series consisted of 4 games and was originally published by Midway Games starting on Wii. But after 2009 and after WB Games bought Midway’s library, WB Games wanted another Game Party title. They were cheap to make and sold well. But, according to Bowler, WB Games wanted something different this time. They wanted a story mode.
This was an odd choice for a game that was going to cost $US20 ($29) and would most likely be bought by grandparents as a last minute gift. But Bowler, who was already tired of working on games like this, decided to take this opportunity and ran with it.
Bowler wrote a script for the story mode that other people working on the game would describe as “Fight Club, For Kids.” The story was serious and would be dark and weird, but the real reveal of this wouldn’t happen until the very end of the game. And then the unexpected happened, WB Games approved the script.
“When Joel told me in our next meeting ‘Hey I loved your script treatment. I sent it along to WB with my blessing and they approved it straight away,’ I kinda felt like I’d gotten away with murder. Because like, I snuck in the weirdest story-mode of any party game, EVER,” tweeted Bowler.
The story is fairly innocuous at first. The main character is silent, due to the low budget of the game and they have a friend named Jace who convinces them to stop being mopey and get out and compete in a tournament of mini-games. In a cutscene fairly early into the game, it is revealed, in this party game collection for kids, that Jace is actually trying to help the main character get over the loss of their father.
Things continue to get weirder as the game’s story mode continues. Jace only speaks and interacts with the main character and nobody else. No other characters ever talk to or interact with Jace. At the very end of the game, it is finally revealed that Jace is actually the ghost of the main character’s father.
“He’s trying to motivate his kid that he loves to get up off the couch and do something with themselves,” explained Bowler.
Actor Yuri Lowenthal voiced the dead father. He recently voiced Peter Parker in the PS4 Spider-Man game. When he read the script, according to Bowler, he was shocked and amused that somehow Bowler had gotten this script approved by WB Games.
The main character of the game is named Riley and is named after Steve Bowler’s daughter. He had wanted to record life lesson videos for her to watch after he was dead. So instead he put many of those life lessons into a party game for the Wii U.
Not many people remember this game. Even fewer players have ever actually seen the ending of Game Party Champions. One of the rare players who did manage to reach the end also recorded it and their reaction to the ending.
“I’m so sad. What about Jace?”
He left. He’s gone.
But we will always have the skee ball trophy to remember him by.