Digital Pictures’ Horrifying Make My Video Series

After years of blocky pixels and rudimentary graphics, the promise of full motion video on home gaming consoles was nothing short of revolutionary. Throw a few of your favourite tunes into the mix and you’ve got yourself the makings of a fantastic time, right? Not exactly, I’m afraid. The 1992 release of the Sega CD in North America offered gamers the exciting chance to enjoy CD-ROM-based titles from the comfort of their living rooms, but a lack of imagination and the limitations of a technology still in its infancy sabotaged this much-maligned accessory from the outset. Rather than simply provide CD quality audio and superior graphics on existing franchises, Sega and its network of developers fetishized the possibility of shoehorning hours of live action video into their new titles, releasing a slew of panned games like the notorious Night Trap and Ground Zero: Texas that played out like dumb B movies with occasional interaction from the player. That’s where Make My Video comes in, a twisted experiment from American game developer Digital Pictures, who in 1992 alone churned out entries for Kris Kross, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and INXS. At a time when staying glued to your TV set was among the sole prospects for watching your favourite group rock out, summoning a music video, any music video, on demand was nothing to sneeze at. Digital Pictures saw a gap in the market and promptly flooded it, assuming legions of horny teenagers would pay top dollar for anything from the Make My Video series, regardless of the disastrous end results. Horny or not, these teenagers could smell a rat a mile away, especially one plague-riddled and covered in shit. Digital Pictures was trying to squeeze blood from a stone, only this time with Marky Mark’s washboard abs.

Despite being marketed and sold as three distinct products, each entry in the Make My Video series is essentially the same. Every jam-packed game includes three songs and videos from these unsuspecting artists lured by the promise of transforming their life’s work into a “groundbreaking” experience on the Sega CD. Players are treated to “Jump”, “Warm It Up”, and “I Missed the Bus” from Kris Kross, “Good Vibrations”, “I Need Money” (yeah, we know, why else would your music be on here?), and “You Gotta Believe” from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and last but not least, “Heaven Sent”, “Baby Don’t Cry”, and “Not Enough Time” from INXS. Now don’t everyone rush to the store at once! The simple premise behind Make My Video is that the player must apply feedback from the game’s impressive cast of gender and racial stereotypes to create an improved music video that wins them over and allows everyone involved to move on with their pathetic lives.

The only notable difference between the games is how these suggestions are conveyed to the player. Make My Video: Kris Kross is set in a radio station where the resident DJ’s continually harassed by callers waxing poetic about their ideal Kriss Kross video, which they expect you to deliver in no time flat. Well, I want a jumbo jet and a pony, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, pal. Make My Video: Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch is driven by an intense sibling rivalry that pushes our brother and sister duo to craft an amazing Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch video by seeking help from their parents, “the boys”, “the girls”, and a random boxer with a penchant for ripped muscles (no sexy stuff, though, he’s training). Finally, the backdrop for Make My Video: INXS is a dive bar featuring a pair of women who declare they’re not leaving the pool table “until somebody out there makes the ultimate INXS video.” Wait a minute, how is playing pool related to INXS? That’d be like me saying I’m not going to the dentist until they find Noah’s Ark.

So how do you actually incorporate all of these ideas into your Kris Kross, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and INXS videos? After selecting whatever song you want to tackle the game shifts to the Make My Video interface, where by pressing the controller you can alternate between potential scenes or play around with various effects. This basic as all hell video editing is done in real-time while the song progresses, so there’s no ability to go back and fix anything if you screw up. I don’t know, that’s pretty wiggity, wiggity, wiggity wack if you ask me. As far as available clips to splice in, when “editing” players can choose from the original video itself or an abundance of cheap, grainy stock footage. I guess after spending all that money securing the rights to these certified bangers from Kris Kross, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and INXS it was public domain or bust, not Lollapalooza, for Digital Pictures. What a shame. And because it’s all done in real-time, your thankless task doesn’t end until the song’s over, and then you’re forced to hear the damn thing all over again before finding out from the peanut gallery if your video’s cash or trash. This is no way to appreciate music on any level. You’ll absolutely hate these tracks after a few run-throughs, even if you were a fan of them in the first place. “Kris Kross will make you jump”? More like jump off a fucking bridge! The game’s only remotely enjoyable when you mash the buttons as quickly as possible and stack layers of dizzying effects on top of each other, then sit back and watch the seizure-inducing video overpower your senses. But after all that you can’t even watch your creation on a full screen in stunning high-definition. Instead all you get is a tiny viewing area that barely takes up a quarter of your TV. Even by 1992 standards players were better off sticking with MTV.

Mixing hot music with the excitement of video games should’ve been a no-brainer, yet Digital Pictures flew more than a tad too close to the sun with Make My Video. Heck, there’s probably footage of that buried somewhere in the game. Maybe there’s still hope. All right, nobody leaves until I see the perfect Drake video!

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