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NERDING DAY

Nerding Day: Howard Johnson’s Sega Game Tips

Sometimes cross-promotions are successful, like when the Target Dog fought and ultimately killed the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Of course, today, we’re not going to talk about the most beloved dog murder in modern history. We’re talking about a period during the early 90’s console wars when Sega was so horny for synergy they got in bed with a hotel chain who willingly abbreviated their name to HoJo, which sounds like slang for something teenagers do to each other in the back row of movie theaters.

The branded Sega tip videos, which severely missed an opportunity to call themselves Just The Tips, started in 1993. Sega provided Howard Johnson hotels with Sega Game Gear portable consoles, Sega’s version of the Gameboy, and a library of games for kids to play. If they wanted, they could also request the Sega Game Gear tips video, a film fifteen minutes long, and written by someone who clearly hated children.

Watching this video feels like dying. This is something that your brain does to inform your body that something has gone horribly wrong. The premise of the video is a lie in every way. The only “tips” it’s able to choke out are that video games exist, and you can play them while staying at a Howard Johnson hotel. It delivers this information to you through a close up of a man’s face screaming at you while strobe lights flicker.

It feels very threatening, like watching the video has summoned this dude, and if you don’t purchase Sonic Triple Trouble within seven days, he’s coming for you.

The video’s plot is that a lame adult hotel guest is being haunted by a zany long-haired Howard Johnson employee who poses as a waiter, lifeguard, and bellhop to yell at him about Sega games whenever he needs something. It’s positioned as a Twilight Zone-esque nightmare that the SAME MAN has MULTIPLE JOBS, which in the 90’s was spoooOOoooOOOky but now is just called being a millennial. 

The strangest moment in this video is when the hotel guest walks in on a housemaid cleaning his room, and the camera closes up on the maid’s butt. Of course, it is not really a pretty lady at all but the same man who has been torturing the hotel guest with his fantastic video game tips all day. 

Realizing his mistake, the hotel guest passes out, I’m assuming from the immense rush of blood to his boner after discovering his extremely specific lifelong fetish of having a man in a maid uniform read him a Howard Johnson commercial.  

The Howard Johnson promotion went so well there is a sequel to Sega game Tips volume 1, Sega Game Tips Volume 2, which is just the exact same movie with updated “tips.” So, instead of watching a man being driven to madness by a lunatic screaming at him about the Aladdin game, it’s the same thing with The Lion King game instead.

Again, this video is fifteen minutes long, and most of that is one screen showing different video game tips. The amount of text on the back of the box has got to be just about as long as the script, and I know if I call 1-800-I-GO-HOJO I’m getting charged a dollar a minute to have a man in a maid outfit seductively whisper a Howard Johnson commercial to me, and actually, you know what that does sound kind of hot.

Once Howard Johnson was ready to move on, Sega’s wandering eye turned to Post Cereals as a vehicle for delivering their tips. They even reused the hotel employee from the HoJo videos! Jesus, that sounds so dirty, I grew a pencil-thin mustache while writing it.

This time the employee even gets a name! It’s Michael B! I assume with each video they’ll keep giving us information about Michael until the David S. Pumpkins bit they’re doing with him really starts to pay off. I Googled him relentlessly to find out if he’s some kind of professional wrestler who got lost and wandered onto the set, or a talk show host from the 90’s I was unaware of, but as far as I can tell, Michael B. is just Michael B., a regular dude who likes screaming in people’s faces about Sonic the Hedgehog. The strobe lights are…part of it?

The Post Sega game tips video, which was available by sending proof of purchase to Post, features Michael in his kitchen of the future. That means the kitchen has a computer and two TV’s in it, which is not futuristic so much as it is a bad idea. Don’t put all of your electronics in one of the two rooms of your house with the most water.

There’s a lot of aggression toward Michael B. in this video. It’s almost like they rehired the actor but didn’t really want to, so instead of being the impish character who tortures the lame adult, here Michael is tackled by a football player from NFL 95 and blown up by the Sugar Crisp mascot.

Once again, the game tips are all like, don’t forget in Ecco The Dolphin, you need to come up for air, which is just a basic mechanic of the game and not at all a tip. The Ecco The Dolphin section also ends by flashing this quote, which sounds like it came from the day Sun Tzu was really phoning it in.

The third and final entry in the Sega Tips trilogy sees Michael B. replaced by a younger, nameless actor. I like to imagine that he became a real diva behind the scenes and started demanding that they give him a live Sonic The Hedgehog to finish the trilogy. 

Lunchables goes a little more meta with their Sega game tips video, showing a kid we’ll call Michael C. going to watch his Oscar Mayer Lunchables Lunch Combinations Games Tips Video. (Video title by George RR Martin). 

Michael C. is sucked into the TV by the tape and then enters an Oscar Mayer vault and gets into a Sega branded roller coaster, which shoots him down a tunnel. Following in the video’s grand tradition of doing something weird and vaguely sexual, the roller coaster pauses in front of a group of brown pulsating udders which Michael C. touches and then licks his hand, as any normal person would do when presented with a pulsating alien object. 

What does this have to with Lunchables? God, nothing I hope.

Eventually, the roller coaster stops at a sign that says Next Level, and Michael C. finds an Oscar Mayer brand TV that, once turned on, plays for the rest of the video. Hey, this time, at least the tips are actually tips! Like, real cheat codes, and advice for finding hidden stuff in levels!

It took them three videos, two hosts, and several upsetting skits, but they finally figured out what an actual game tip is! I never thought I’d be proud of Lunchables, but here we are.

The video ends with Michael C. safely waking up in bed, finding that the whole thing was a spooky dream, which I hoped would happen to me after watching all three of these movies. Still waiting. 

You can try and wake Lydia from her living nightmare on Twitter! 

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Jamie Gordon: Who has always instinctively known to use his sonar songs to get clues from glyphs, and never needed to be told.