There are snacks and then there are snacks for gamers. Through chalky chemical combinations of dubious reputation, they’ll somehow get you to aim better Fourteen days. How did we get to the point where, for a hobby that mostly takes place on the couch, snacks are basically workout supplements? In the food-oriented episode of Split screenlet’s try to follow that line.
To begin the episode, Ash Parrish, Mike Fahey, and I discuss our favorite examples of in-game dining, including YakuzaPeking duck, Final Fantasy XVis everything, Streets of angerFully cooked human-born chickens and possibly the most iconic video game food of all: portalCake. We also discuss whether Mario Mushrooms count as food and things get strained.
Then we bring a special guest Dan Goubert, Grain expert and cohost of The empty bowl Podcastto talk about the history of snacks designed specifically for gamers. Somehow our humble hobby started with cereal, moved on to Mountain Dew and Doritos, and now eats G Fuel. Speaking of which, for our last segment we chug G Fuel and let it ravage our bodies. Then we bravely try to find out how G Fuel came to be the Player drink of choice (?) As we try to keep our eyeballs in our heads. Then we die.
Get the MP3 Hereand view an excerpt below.
Nathan: My first question for both of you Dan and Fahey is, when was the relationship between games and snacks codified? When were snacks marketed alongside video games? When did it become this very obvious relationship?
And: I don’t know if I can speak authoritatively about any snack that is to some extent paired with video games, but I think cereal and pop-tarts have always really been associated with cartoons. Saturday mornings and cereal really became a thing in the 80s just because cartoons became toy marketing vehicles back then. The idea that cartoons really are the nexus, and Saturday mornings when kids have all eyes on television, made it kind of a two-way relationship between grain – which is also something the characters market vehicles in – and cartoons. So these things tend to mix up.
There are a lot of cereal commercials going on during these cartoons, and I think video games and 80s cartoons go hand in hand. If you do one, you are probably playing the other. I think it’s this weird connection between media marketing and food that got whirled together – especially in the 80s, when that was before child advertising laws. It was frowned upon in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Fahey: Exactly that, really. And during that time in the 80s when these cartoons came out, there was a time when the video games became cartoons. So you had Donkey kong, They had FroggerYou had the whole morning arcade block. And that was when we got the Nintendo Cereal System. This is probably the earliest game-oriented food I can remember. It was a split box. They had a Mario page and a Zelda page.
And: Yes, a split screen granola – something that has been very, very rarely seen since then.
Ash: We have to get our marketing people to do it.
Nathan: Yes, we should be promoting a non-existent grain.
Fahey: Now when we talk about when games and snacks grow together in more devilish ways, where they appeal to people as gamers – I mean, the Nintendo grain was the result of Nintendo being so popular and ubiquitous in our culture that you immediately did it Millions of people were willing to eat this granola just because it said Nintendo on the front. But I think it’s younger that we have brands dedicated to serving gamer food. The first company that comes to mind is Gamer Grub, and I believe they started in 2006.
Nathan: Yes, I was wondering when many of these companies realized that they make snacks specifically for gamers, include “gamers” in their titles, and can’t put them off. Because I think for a long time, a lot of mainstream media has viewed video games as something to shy away from, as if it were almost shameful. At what point were companies like “Hey, this is a demographic, and where there is demographic, there is money to be made”?
And: That era you are talking about was right around the introduction of the first Mountain Dew Game Fuel. That was a big, decisive moment. I think the first one was branded for publishing Halo 3
Ash: So when did we go from being mainly drink-based to being associated with edible things like french fries? I think of Doritos, all that Doritos branding from back then – it was like 2008. What I think now is “then”.
Nathan: gloriole has Doritos too, right? Much seems to be driven by it gloriolespecial.
And: Yeah, I’m not sure why Doritos caught on with gamers of all places, considering it’s one of the meanest and gnarled things you get on your fingers and then on your game controllers.
Fahey: So, Gamer Grub, a snack that came in a pouch was their big deal: “This isn’t going to get your hands all rough.”
Ash: So what was it
Fahey: In a way, it was almost like a trail mix. The peanut butter and jelly flavor had those crispy peanut butter pieces, and then they had jelly gums with a really strong grape flavor.
Ash: That doesn’t sound appealing.
Fahey: You had to be there.
And: I don’t know if it’s less appealing than nacho cheese and lemon lime in terms of soda and doritos.
Fahey: I think Mountain Dew and Doritos were the whole extreme sport back then – more Mountain Dew than Doritos back then. But it was like you were on your BMX bike or skateboarding, you just pulled a 720. You’re Tony Hawk and you’re not old yet – sorry Tony – so it’s time for some Doritos. Then more and more extreme athletes said, “Great, we’re going to play video games now.”
And: Maybe it is Tony Hawks Pro Skater Franchise responsible for bridging the gap between X-Games and gaming in terms of food.
Nathan: And introduce the song “Superman” into the cultural lexicon. But yeah, that was actually my next question: you draw the comparison between sports – and the extreme sports scene in particular – and video games and snacks related to video games. I think there is a lot of overlap there, even with all that “fuel” branding it seems like snacks aimed at gamers are always about performance. While snacks for movies and TV look more like “hang out, eat, have a good time”. Meanwhile, gamer snacks have always been like “OPTIMIZE YOUR GAME”. When did that become part of it? And it’s gotten more of a thing lately because it feels like it is.
And: I mean, as the sport became more popular and productive, the moment fuel-based language hit the market was the first time that gaming could be globally competitive and profitable in terms of mass internet etc. etc. I think any young kid who wanted to prove to their parents that they could have a career as a player wanted to do their best and do their best – every chance to fool yourself that what you eat and drink will improve your performance .
Ash: This is interesting when you consider that the two major grocery brands are the Overwatch League is Cheez-Its and Cola.
Nathan: What a diabolical combination for your stomach.
Fahey: What a really old combination of men. You don’t eat Cheez-Its regularly unless you are 50 or 60 years old.
For all of that and more, check out the episode. New episodes drop every Friday and don’t forget to like and subscribe to them Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher. If you’re feeling inclined to do so, leave a review and feel free to send us a message at [email protected] with any questions or suggestion of a topic. If you want to yell at us directly, you can reach us on Twitter: Ash is @adashtraFahey is @ OnkelFaheyand Nathan is @ Vahn16. Until next week!