The Wire Re-Imagined as a Classic Video Role-Playing Game

If some­one has insis­tent­ly rec­om­mend­ed that you watch the whole of The Wire, David Simon’s tele­vi­sion series of Bal­ti­more­an insti­tu­tion­al dys­func­tion, that per­son has — let’s face it — prob­a­bly been a thir­ty­ish white guy. But we thir­ty­ish white guys do have our iso­lat­ed moments of cul­tur­al astute­ness, of which, accord­ing to all the legit­i­mate crit­ics, enthus­ing over The Wire counts as one. But we also go into volup­tuous Prous­t­ian rap­tures at the sight of our favorite old video games, so you’d do well to take us with a grain of salt. The above video from Col­lege­Hu­mor, a site that knows its audi­ence, trans­pos­es the social­ly crit­i­cal, bor­der­line-nihilis­tic action of The Wire into the pix­el-inten­sive, usu­al­ly moral­ly sim­plis­tic form of a con­sole role-play­ing game from the late eight­ies or ear­ly nineties. This will make a cer­tain over­lap in the cul­tur­al Venn dia­gram quite excit­ed indeed, and no doubt pro­vide a source of strange fas­ci­na­tion to the rest.

The play­er takes the role, for the most part, of trou­bled Bal­ti­more Police Depart­ment Detec­tive Jim­my McNul­ty, whose equip­pable items include “gun,” “badge,” “whiskey,” and “hair gel.” When he elects to “fight the sys­tem,” a turn-based bat­tle launch­es, pit­ting McNul­ty against the sys­tem’s lit­er­al embod­i­ment, a pha­lanx of invin­ci­ble bureau­crats. The game ren­ders a drug deal as the kind of store you’d vis­it in The Leg­end of Zel­da. Items avail­able: “crack,” “hero­in,” and “mana potion.” One stage even turns into some­thing of a graph­ic adven­ture, where the play­er, in search of evi­dence, clicks com­mands like “inspect,” “take,” and “hit,” although every pos­si­ble action seems to result in noth­ing more than curs­ing from either McNul­ty or his part­ner Bunk More­land. Clear­ly, this video con­tains a wealth of laughs for the Wire (or vin­tage role-play­ing game) diehard. If you’ve put off get­ting into the show, per­haps the prospect of get­ting these inside jokes will con­vince you to take the plunge. And putting in a few hours with the ear­ly Final Fan­ta­sy titles won’t hurt.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Wire Breaks Down The Great Gats­by, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Clas­sic Crit­i­cism of Amer­i­ca (NSFW)

The Wire as Great Vic­to­ri­an Nov­el

Bill Moy­ers with The Wire’s David Simon

The Wire: Four Sea­sons in Four Min­utes

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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