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[Comments] (3) One Guy Who Publishes Anything: I've managed to go over ten years on this weblog without slipping up and mentioning my obsession with the old LucasArts graphic adventure Maniac Mansion (there are a couple MM links in my del.icio.us account, but only one casual NYCB reference from 2007). No longer! I am a Mansion Maniac. Catching up on my syndication feeds I saw a link to a long, dirt-dishing appreciation of the game, complete with description of an ending I'd never discovered and modern-audio-format encodings of the excellent NES soundtrack I've had stuck in my head for almost twenty years--including a live surf-band version of the useless surfer dude's song, and a Castlevania-esque song that's in the ROM but not used in the game. Bravo! All I can add is an anecdote about the intersection of MM with my childhood.

I never owned MM but I rented the NES version more than once, and more than once played it into the night at CJ Cullins's house. It was probably the first nonlinear game I'd played, and we spent a lot of time trying to get all the endings or trying random mail-order stunts, which if you've played MM you know means a lot of waiting. To pass the time we heaped scorn on Dave, the main character of Maniac Mansion.

Man, we hated Dave. Dave had it all: fancy pixilated clothes, a girlfriend (a cheerleader girlfriend!), a purpose in life (to rescue said girlfriend), and friends from across the B-movie teenager spectrum. Everyone from the school nerd to the punk chick wanted to help Dave out.

And why? In retrospect, they probably wanted to help Sandy. But why team up with Dave, a man with no marketable skills whatsoever? It's true. Every character except Dave had some special ability that would help you achieve one of the endings. Even useless surfer dude Jeff could fix the telephone in the library. Dave had nothing except an awesome soundtrack (credit where due!), yet you had to include him in your party. He was the "Human" on the D&D species table of Maniac Mansion, the bland standard by which more interesting deviations are measured.

Winning a game of Maniac Mansion then was always a bittersweet experience, because it meant reuniting Sandy with her lackluster boyfriend. There was always the knowledge that as soon as they escaped the Nintendo of America-policed confines of the text, Dave and Sandy were going to go off and make out. Despite this, it never occured to us to kill Dave off before the end of the game, which I think reflects well on us. (It's just as well, since looking at online walkthroughs I see that a dead Dave gets resurrected at the end of the game!) Instead we let him languish in the dungeon, positioned by the loose brick, ready at a moment's notice to help someone else get out of the dungeon. We called him Dave the Dungeon-Dwelling Dunlop.

Now's a good time to explain that "Dunlop" was our own designated derogatory term. There were a number of company names we'd adopted as insults because they sounded like insults: the other big one was "Bechtel". We also really liked "dolt" (which I got from Pogo) because it sounded adult. A rarely-used corporate insult was "Obex" (I think this was a sportswear company?) and that's all; we didn't have like twenty of these brand-name insults, but I think the practice deserves to be brought into the modern age.

Anyway, so there we are in 1991 or whenever, having a great time exploring this game while hating on the Designated Hero with our made-up insults. In my tellings of the fiction the real romance was always the one between Bernard and Razor. Not realistic within the 80s B-movie universe of Maniac Mansion, but as it turns out not an uncommon pairing in real life.

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Comments:

Posted by Karen in Wichita at Mon Feb 04 2008 23:28

Oh, heck yes. When I worked for a failing engineering firm, the owner had the bright idea of making the engineers make cold B2B telemarketing calls. (Happily, the IT person was just in charge of rationalizing the telemarketing databases he bought.) At one point, one of the guys had to call someone named Schmenk, and just snapped (though not on the phone to Mr. Schmenk, fortunately): "What kind of name is 'Schmenk'? Sounds like some kind of Yiddish insult! 'You schmenk!'"

After that, 'schmenk' became the insult of choice. Usually applied to the owner, in his absence.

Posted by Susie at Tue Feb 05 2008 11:50

I remember that game! I also remember being called some of those names...

Posted by Leonard at Tue Feb 05 2008 13:00

Maybe someday we can play it together to make up for me calling you those names.


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