Back in college, I was enamored of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, an existential tragi-comedy in which nothing in particular happens for two acts except for the bizarre ramblings of the play’s two characters. When the play ends, the audience leaves either wondering what in the heck they just watched, or nodding their head as they pretend to understand the profundity of it all.
I’m almost tempted to refer to Intellivision’s Frog Bog as the ‘Waiting for Godot’ of video games, but alas that title already belongs to Desert Bus. However, Frog Bog exists in the same neighborhood. Like Desert Bus, there is a point to the game. In Desert Bus, you drive a bus for hours until you reach your location. In Frog Bog, you jump between two lily pads trying to catch flies as they pass. That’s it. That’s the entire game: just leaping from lily pad to lily pad, and eating as you go. There’s some sort of commentary on the meaninglessness of modern life buried in the plot, I’m sure of it.
I suppose I’m over simplifying it a little, but not much. There is a point to all your hopping about and eating. Flies are worth points. You are competing with another frog, either controlled by a second player or the computer. Your goal is to eat the most flies before time runs out. However, there’s no timer on-screen to give you a sense of how long you have to wait. You just jump around and eat as time passes, the sun slowly setting and sky gradually fading to black. You just consume as much as you can until the lights go out and then…it’s all over. In a way, the plot was a perfect description of the 1980s ethos.
There were two different game modes. In one, the jumping and landing points of your frog were set. The trick in this mode was to jump at precisely the right time to capture the passing flies. Everything else was determined for you. In the second mode, you could move your frog around the lily pad to change the trajectory of your jump. In this mode, you could accidentally fall into the water, wasting time as you swim back to the lily pad.
There’s a curious charm about the absurdity of the action, a hypnotic element to the mindless repetition involved in the gameplay. As pointless as it is may seem, it’s still possible to have fun with it. A man of a more philosophical bent might try to draw something out of that as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s exhibit in the Cabinet of Curiosities.
Until next time, I will remain –
Just Another Geek in the Geek Kingdom