TFG: “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” and the World Trade Center

Ghostbusters. NO! No, I’m talking about the 2009 video game. Developed by Terminal Reality and published by Atari, “Ghostbusters: The Video Game” was released on major consoles and computers. Employing the voices of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton… and using a script written by Aykroyd and Ramis, it’s the closest form of media that could be considered a second sequel to the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” movie (after the release of “Ghostbusters II” in 1989.) I’ll give a slight synopsis of the original movie, but chances are you’ve already seen it. It’s the story of how three scientists form a paranormal investigation and elimination or “ghost busting” business in New York City; and how they along with their new-hire Winston saved the city from the Sumerian demigod Gozer. You know, that old cliché. However, since it’s a movie, there was no real way for the camera to be a character …at least in the same way as the main or supporting characters or even New York City itself. There was always a level of abstraction in the film that prevented the viewer from actually busting ghosts directly This is why a video game based on the movie was deemed not only viable, but potentially profitable However, the first incarnations of a “Ghostbusters” video game left… a lot to be desired. It wouldn’t be until 2009, 25 years after the film’s release, that we have a game that no only gave the player a chance to be a Ghostbuster themselves But also interact with the original characters and a brand-new group of adventurers. The player battles new and familiar foes in both New York City and the ghost world. It’s a fantastic work of nostalgia, and a loving tribute to the original cast, as this would be the last time all four main actors would work together on a “Ghostbusters” Project until Harold Ramis’ untimely death in 2014. I highly recommend the game if you’re a fan of the movies in general and the first movie in particular. HOWEVER…. I noticed an omission. It’s a small one, and in all honesty, it’s barely noticeable. And when the complete package is given to you, It does nothing to offset the positives that the game has. For most people, it’s a simple exclusion or at least one that was understandable. But for me, it almost took me out of the game entirely. It’s in the intro. We open at the New York Museum of Natural History two years after the events of “Ghostbusters II” in the year 1991. The museum is hosting a Gozer exhibit using artifacts from the estate of Ivo Shandor, the Gozer-worshipping architect of the building that Dana Barrett and Louis Tully lived in during “Ghostbusters I”. Suddenly a blast of psychokinetic energy, (mentioned in this game is a “psi-energy pulse”) emanates from the museum and spreads through the entire city, leading to the title sequence as the game begins. When the blast rips through the city, two establishing shots are shown. For this game to take place in New York in the year 1991, there’s something…. …missing in these shots. I’ll give you two guesses. Yes, they’re missing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I noticed right away that the two shots are from around Midtown and Liberty Island, both focusing in some way around the area of Lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers stood prominently back in 1991. My issue with these shots is that unlike the 2016 “Ghostbusters” movie, The video game is pretty much a continuation of the first two movies. Dan Aykroyd even said so himself. “Ghostbusters”, despite its fantasy and supernatural elements, take place in a real-world setting. To give an example of what I’m talking about, let’s consider “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. If you take the ‘toons out of Los Angeles in the film… you’ll still end up with Los Angeles. If you take the ‘toons out of Toontown, you get an empty piece of paper. [Valliant screams] So when I saw of the Twin Towers were missing in this game, I thought, “What happened between the events are ‘Ghostbusters II’ and the events in the game that had caused him to essentially disappear?” Unless a ghost ate them in 1990, there’s really no reason for them to be missing in New York. This isn’t like Gotham City in the Nolan “Batman” movies where the buildings constantly changed to fit the plot. The omission of the Twin Towers in the “Ghostbusters” game is probably a creative decision by the game’s developers, and as far as I’ve seen they haven’t really discussed at length. I, however, can narrow it down to two possible reasons: 1: They left them out not to offend anyone 2: They left them out from lack of due diligence Let’s start with the first reason. The developers of the game might get some bad press if there were a public outcry about including the Towers in the game, especially since a blast of psychokinetic energy is seemingly emanating from where they were in one of the shots. I cannot and WILL NOT speak definitively on what anyone affected by the Twin Towers will think of including them in the “Ghostbusters” game. However, I do not think there would have been a public outcry. I could base this opinion on what didn’t happen elsewhere. Until 2001, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were used in visual media as a demarcation of location, used in establishing shots of New York City and countless movies and TV shows since their construction and opening in 1973. After 2001, however, the Towers were used as an additional demarcation- one of time. The sight of the Towers in post-2001 visual media let the viewer know that it is taking place in New York in the late 20th or very very 21st Centuries, or in an alternate universe where the Towers still stood to present day. From what I’ve seen, no groups or individuals have come out against their inclusion in movies: including “X-Men Apocalypse”, “Munich”, “A Most Violent Year”, “A Futile and Stupid Gesture”, “Madagascar 2”, “Spider-Man”, “The Walk”, and “Watchmen”- the last of which came out in the same year as the “Ghostbusters” game. So it is my humble opinion that there would probably be a lack of outrage if they were included in the game- especially considering that it took place when the buildings were still standing at the time. The second reason is lack of due diligence. This is the most likely reason. Maybe they were on a tight schedule and just Google searched two pictures of New York and hoped for the best. Maybe they felt that most of the gamers playing this were not from New York, or were unfamiliar enough with the city’s geography and probably wouldn’t notice. A cursory knowledge of New York’s skyline from watching TV or movies would probably show you that the Empire State Building is over… here somewhere in the middle… Central Park is that green bit there, The Statue of Liberty is somewhere in the water, I guess, and Times Square is over… …there? And so forth. There’s a lack of a response about the Twin Towers omission from people who actually played the game, so I think the developers made a safe assumption. And it’s a shame because that means that the people who played the game at the time were getting used to see a shot of Lower Manhattan without the World Trade Center. It was probably considered such a minor issue by the developers, that they decided to pick their battles. But even for only a few seconds of non playable footage, that’s still an unfortunate compromise. Now that I’ve given reasons for why the developers might have left the World Trade Center out, let me humbly recommend the following suggestions that could have avoided this issue entirely. 1. Use different angles of New York. Not every view of New York needs to involve Lower Manhattan. Use a shot of Midtown going north to the Empire State Building, Central Park, and beyond. Or use a shot from across the Hudson River with Lower Manhattan just out of view. It’s not a dramatic shot from Liberty Island, but it would be forgivable. 2. License shots of New York City from before 2001. The actual destruction of the Twin Towers is not the only thing to change in the New York skyline between 1991 and the game’s release… even if it is the most significant. Other skyscrapers like the Bank of America Tower, the New York Times Tower, and 4 Times Square didn’t even exist in 1991. So instead of using images full of anachronisms to begin with, containing 12 years of changes to the skyline… Just find a similar picture from the 1990s. It doesn’t even have to be precisely from 1991. A shot including the Americas Tower from 1992 would be technically off, but less noticeable. #3 (and this is the simplest solution)… REMOVE THE DATE. The realistic setting of New York in 2009 can’t explain away as to why the Towers aren’t in the game in 1991, Which is why the developers mostly didn’t provide one. However, if you make the date ambiguous… then there are no solid anachronisms. Yeah, the actors who played the Ghostbusters aged between 1991 and 2009 But the actual characters don’t have to. Perhaps the exposure to unending amounts of PKE Energy, ectoplasm, and supernatural marshmallow fluff slowed the aging process. It doesn’t matter because we don’t have a set date to compare it to, and it’s a better explanation for characters who don’t exist… rather than no explanation at all for buildings that did exist… …and sadly do not anymore. Is this a relatively minor issue regarding a game that was released almost a decade before the making of this video? Yeah. Is it still something that irks me to this day? Yes. I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way, though. Despite all this, the game as a whole is great, and it was absolutely fortuitous that we’ve got all four “Ghostbusters” actors to don the jumpsuits and power the proton packs one last time… …if only vicariously through pixels. Until next time.

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