Videogames in other Media Ep. 4: The O.C.

The TV Series The O.C. had an interesting take on Video-games and gamer culture generally. One of the most memorable characters from the show was Seth – a gamer and comic nerd from a rich family. He was also responsible for the comic relief in the series. Personally, I really liked the character. I think they did a great job at creating an extremely likable yet believable nerd character. You would laugh with the character not at him, quite rare for the portrayal of gamers.

In the series various characters were frequently playing Video-games. First it was mainly Seth with his friends, later on even the adults joined in. Gaming was shown as a very social thing to do.

Gaming plays an important role even in the pilot episode. The protagonist Ryan comes from a poor family and gets arrested for stealing a car. His attorney wants to help him out and invites him to live with his family in a rich neighborhood. This becomes a constant source of conflict throughout the show. In the pilot, there is a scene when Ryan first meets Seth, the attourney’s son. It goes like this:

I’m afraid the video is in French. You can see the english version here. Fast forward to 1:55. Here is what Seth (the gamer) says at the end:

Oh, hey, do you want to play Grand Theft Auto? It’s pretty cool. You can, like, steal cars and…not that that’s cool…or uncool. I don’t know. Um..

The acting is passable. Ryan is not using the controller properly but he shouldn’t be a gamer anyway so I’d let that one slide. Seth’s acting is a bit more troublesome because he is looking at the buttons and he is supposed to be an experienced gamer. The trash talk is borderline. It seems a bit over the top, even for Seth.

But the general idea if the scene is quite good. Ryan is a stranger to this environment. It’s awkward when he first meets Seth. The video-game is a great plot device to break that first ice and establish a common ground for both characters to learn about each other. Seth is immediately characterized as a talkative gaming enthusiast.

Of course the reason I mention this is the final joke. Even though it looks like the both characters bonded with each other, mentioning the game GTA and how it portrays stealing cars as entertainment re-established that both come from very different backgrounds. The initial awkwardness returns. This is exactly the kind of writing that is possible when the writers know something about games. It perfectly underscores the differences between the characters. It also can be seen as a social commentary – the criminal’s life is the spoiled rich kid’s entertainment. But in the end, it’s just also simply funny.

I liked the seres a lot. It was one of the “girly” series I watched with my Girlfriend a lot. Unfortunately, the quality dropped rapidly after the first season. But I look back fondly on the first season and especially the first few episodes, not only because of how it managed to avoid typical video-game stereotypes.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Videogames in other Media Ep. 4: The O.C.”

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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