Real or Fake Video Game Peripheral

Jun 11, 2021

Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, hosts of NBC's American Ninja Warrior, guess which weird video game controllers actually exist and which are made up. DJ turntables? Electro-shock wristbands? A baby??

Heard on Sara Bareilles, American Ninja Warrior & Rugrats

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thanks, Jonathan. We're playing games with the hosts of "American Ninja Warrior," former NFL player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, and comedian Matt Iseman. Are you ready for another game?

MATT ISEMAN: Oh, love it.

AKBAR GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah, let's do it.

EISENBERG: OK, great. So you host a highly athletic competition show, but this game is about competition that is far less physically taxing. We're talking video games.

ISEMAN: Ooh.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Oh, great. Oh, yeah. Oh, this is all Matt.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Akbar, no video games? Do you play any video games?

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Well, I just bought my son - Nasir, what's the name of that game I bought you?

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Oh, Nintendo Switch. I just bought him a Nintendo Switch.

COULTON: Oh, Nintendo Switch, sure, yeah.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah, I just bought a - yeah.

ISEMAN: Nintendo Switch is great. "Breath Of The Wild" - a really good game for that. I've been PS4 and waiting on the PS5, but really been playing some "Assassin's Creed" and...

COULTON: Yeah, yeah. He's just trying to rattle you, Akbar. Don't worry.

EISENBERG: Yeah, don't worry. Don't worry.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: OK. Give me old-school ones, though. I can handle Mario and Sonic.

EISENBERG: Yeah, OK.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: And Zelda.

EISENBERG: By the way, Akbar, I love the videos of you pranking your children.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Oh, thank you so much. (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Right? You have four kids, ages 9 to 19.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, 9 to 19. Two 9-year-olds and - to 19, yeah.

EISENBERG: And there was one that I watched where you gave them candy apples for an eating competition, but it was not apples, it was onions.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Onions, yes. (Laughter).

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yes, yes, yes. And it took a long time to have those made, too.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: (Laughter) I bet.

EISENBERG: They looked amazing. They looked amazing. OK. So in this game, Jonathan and I will describe a video game peripheral - and that's something you use to play a video game other than a traditional video game controller. For example, a plastic guitar for Guitar Hero.

ISEMAN: OK.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: OK.

EISENBERG: So you just tell us if it's real or something we made up.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: All right. OK, I can handle this.

EISENBERG: OK? OK. Akbar, this first one is for you. In the 2009 game DJ Hero, players use a fake plastic turntable to scratch their way to immortality. Is that real or fake?

GBAJA-BIAMILA: That's real.

EISENBERG: That is totally real.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah, that's real. That's real. I remember that. Back in 2009, I had just gotten married. Yeah, I just gotten married.

EISENBERG: Yes.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah, I remember that.

COULTON: Did the DJ at your wedding play that game instead of...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah, right?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That is not a good...

ISEMAN: No, no.

EISENBERG: ...For your wedding, by the way, if they're like, I learned using DJ Hero.

COULTON: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: My favorite wedding DJ story - I have a friend who, when he got married, he had a DJ at his wedding. And at the beginning of the night, he walked up to the DJ, and he held out three $100 bills. And he said, this is your tip. Every time you talk, I take one away.

(LAUGHTER)

ISEMAN: Wow.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Wow. I like that.

ISEMAN: If you're a brown-eyed girl, get on out there with Van Morrison.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

COULTON: OK. OK (laughter). All right, Matt. The 2010 Nintendo Wii game Babysitting Mama came with a stuffed baby that you placed the video game controller into. And players took on challenges like rocking the baby to sleep or gently patting it on the back to make it burp. Real or fake?

ISEMAN: Oh, my God. I have the Wii, and I knew they got pretty creative with it. I don't remember it. I'm going to say fake.

COULTON: I'm sorry. It was real. That was real. That was a real controller.

ISEMAN: Oh.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Oh, what?

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: Yeah, stuffed baby. You put the controller in there.

ISEMAN: It was really weird - I mean, I felt weird putting the controller into the baby. Like, this doesn't - Nintendo didn't think this one through.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: It's an odd way to start, yeah.

ISEMAN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: I could just imagine some wife telling her husband to stop playing the baby game just 'cause...

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: You got to put the real baby to sleep.

ISEMAN: I'm going for a high score.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: That is the classic video game problem - is ignoring your child so you can play with your simulated child video game.

ISEMAN: Yes.

COULTON: That's right.

EISENBERG: OK, Akbar, in the 2006 GameCube game "My Pikachu Tamer," players attempt to train an adorable electric type of Pokemon rescued from the wild. The game came with a wristband that administered a real electric shock to the player anytime Pikachu misbehaved. Is that real or fake?

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Yeah. Yeah, that's totally fake. 2006, I was with the then-San Diego Chargers. And they didn't have that type of technology back then, nor would that be humane. So I'm going to go fake.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yes, you're so right. Thank you.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: You were right.

ISEMAN: Although I imagine right now Nintendo is going, that's a great idea.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I mean, you know, like, I feel like Apple watches and what have you sort of - they don't give you an electric shock, but they notify you when...

GBAJA-BIAMILA: They buzz you.

EISENBERG: Exactly.

ISEMAN: I've got the Oura Ring. And periodically, my phone will buzz and go, time to stand up and stretch those legs. My ring is calling me a lazy POS.

COULTON: Yeah.

ISEMAN: This is not why I bought this.

COULTON: I don't need a machine to remind me of my shortcomings all day long. I've got that covered.

(LAUGHTER)

ISEMAN: That's what Twitter's for.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yeah, that's right.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah. There's so many ways to feel insignificant.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: OK, Matt, the 2009 game "Tony Hawk: Ride" came with a full-sized skateboard controller. That virtual shredder stood on to pull off sick moves. Real or fake?

ISEMAN: I remember in the arcades playing "720" where you had the skateboard. I mean, it sounds so plausible. And yet I don't remember the board control. I was wrong last time, though. I'm going to say no, no, it's fake.

COULTON: No, it's actually real. It's actually real.

ISEMAN: God.

COULTON: And the reason you don't remember it is because the game was critically panned, and many people called it the worst game of the year.

ISEMAN: It reminded me of the Power Glove Nintendo had...

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Oh, I do...

ISEMAN: ...'Cause I got that. And it was in the movie "The Wizard" with Fred Savage. I got it. And it didn't - it was impossible. You have to put these controllers around the TV.

COULTON: Yeah.

ISEMAN: And you're sitting there moving your wrist - flap, fins (ph). Nothing happened. After 30 minutes, I realized, OK, I'm just going to wear this to parties and try to pretend I'm bionic. But other than that...

(LAUGHTER)

ISEMAN: Granted, I was in college at this point. So it probably...

EISENBERG: Sure, sure.

COULTON: It was cool then to be bionic. Yeah.

EISENBERG: Yeah, sure. All right. Akbar, Bar the 1999 PlayStation fighting game "Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style" came with a giant controller shaped like the Wu-Tang Clan's iconic W symbol. And one magazine noted that the players needed, quote, "the gargantuan hands of a mutant" to comfortably use it. Real or fake?

GBAJA-BIAMILA: This is in 1999?

EISENBERG: 1999.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: I, too, was in college back in 1999.

EISENBERG: Yeah?

GBAJA-BIAMILA: So out of the hundred guys on the football team that, you know, I played with, I would have seen that. I don't remember this game. But I'm going to say this was fake because my sample size of a hundred teammates - I never saw any of these in any of the dorm rooms or apartments, so it's fake.

EISENBERG: Well, maybe they just made good decisions with their purchases 'cause it was real.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Really?

EISENBERG: But it was impossible.

ISEMAN: I'm going on eBay, and I'm getting that now.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Put it on the wall right next to your precious Power Glove.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Look at these controllers.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Get ready to lick dust.

COULTON: I don't let everybody into this room, but take a look.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: This is my controller room.

ISEMAN: I do have all of my consoles going back to "Pong."

COULTON: Wow.

EISENBERG: Oh, really?

ISEMAN: Seventeen consoles I have now up in my attic. I can't get rid of them.

COULTON: Holy moly.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Hold on. What is a "Pong"?

(LAUGHTER)

ISEMAN: Thank you, Akbar.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Was that before Atari?

ISEMAN: It was before Atari.

COULTON: The very first home thing.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: You were alive then?

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

ISEMAN: I was alive then, Akbar. I remember back when video games were played on the radio.

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Is that true? Is that true or false?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: All right. Last question for you, Matt. In the mid-2000s series "Donkey Konga," used two bongo drums to play along to songs like "Losing My Religion" and "Whip It." Real or fake?

ISEMAN: Now, this - I worked on a home makeover show where we sold things at yard sales. And I remember the bongo drums. So I'm going to say, like, Matthew McConaughey, (imitating Matthew McConaughey) all right, all right. I think that's real.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: You're absolutely correct. It is real.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That game should just be called "Becoming Matthew McConaughey."

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's like - that would be perfect.

ISEMAN: When he won his Oscar, nobody really brought up that whole naked bongo playing thing. And I think that should be celebrated.

COULTON: Yeah, yeah.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was a good phase. Who didn't enjoy that phase? All right. Great second game. Not that we're keeping track but Akbar did win that one.

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: I cannot believe - OK. I need to give an acceptance speech because this will be the only time that I think I'll ever beat Matt...

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: ...In trivia. I just want to thank my family.

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: I want to thank my - all my fans. Thank you...

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: ...So much for helping me with this. This is amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's amazing.

ISEMAN: I feel like Ivan Drago after losing to Rocky. I'm disgraced.

(LAUGHTER)

ISEMAN: I'm disgraced.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Right.

EISENBERG: Angry.

ISEMAN: I'm going to be banished to Siberia.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Oh, my goodness, so much fun.

ISEMAN: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Thank you. Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Matt Iseman host "American Ninja Warrior," now in its 13th season on NBC. Matt, Akbar, thank you so much for joining us.

ISEMAN: Ophira, Jonathan...

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Thank you so much.

ISEMAN: ...Thank you.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: Thank you...

ISEMAN: We had a blast.

GBAJA-BIAMILA: ...Guys so much. I got to say this was the best ever, best ever.

(LAUGHTER)

GBAJA-BIAMILA: I promise.

ISEMAN: OK. OK. Easy, Akbar. We get it.

COULTON: All right. All right.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.