“Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties”: Gaming’s First (and Only) Surrealist Softcore Adventure

You may be wondering why we’re presenting you with a grainy JPEG of a ’80s woman who fills the frame with cleavage. Is this shameless pandering to our core demographic? Are the editors asleep while I goof off at the wheel?

No, this is a still from the opening image of “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties”, and if you think that title makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, get used to it. “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties” is essentially a Skinemax movie…except it’s made entirely of still images, and it was an alleged game for the 3DO, that you can actually play along to, since it’s a “game” the same way a series of DVD menus is a game. Welcome to the rabbit hole.

The Backstory

Whenever you combine games and sex, it just never ends well:

Case in point.

As Kirin Entertainment presumably learned the hard way. I say “presumably” because, well, there’s almost no information about this game anywhere on the Internet. We know this was Kirin’s first game. We know they had another 3DO game, an RTS called “The Perfect General”, and a PC game called “Esoterica”. Beyond that? There’s almost no information about the company that made this game anywhere on the Internet.

Granted, this was the mid-’90s, a dark time before the Internet, before we had access to absolutely everything we could possibly want. Googling basically turned up their publishing list and that was about it. The IMDb, which is usually pretty reliable for video games, turned up a short film called “She Don’t Vear Panties”, which is apparently about a quack gynecologist being eaten by a vagina or something. For all intents and purposes, Kirin ceased to exist when the 3DO bought the farm.

In the absence of hard facts, we’re forced to speculate. OK, not really, but it’s fun. We like to think Kirin was the front company for a bunch of drug dealers who sold their products on the mean streets of wherever the hell they were located, because a Google search didn’t turn that up, either. In between cooking or growing their product, they developed video games.

This is probably totally untrue, but after you see what this game is all about, you’ll understand why we came up with this story.

The Game Itself:

This is the intro. You might be wondering who this woman is. This is left essentially unexplained. You might be wondered why the cameraman chooses to zoom in on her breasts. This proves you need to get out more. By the way, this is the one full motion video sequence in the entire game.

After this, we’re presented with a series of still images, starting with what has to be the single saddest attempt to simulate a dream sequence ever:

Why, yes, the voiceover that opens this is read in a very bad Asian stereotype. It will get much worse. And the quality of the voiceovers themselves, with all that breathing into the mic and other pop sounds, will also remain and be just as bad. What’d they use to record the audio on this? A Radio Shack mic plugged into a CD recorder?

After John poses to show off his abs and gets bitched out by his mother the file photo for not humping more women, he goes to a parking lot and meets Jane. John falls in love with Jane, but Jane has a job interview with a “hairball”:

Oh, right, the narrator. Who the hell this guy is, and why he has a large collection of sweet hats, is one of many things this game never bothers to explain. Mostly he exists to interrupt what little flow this game has and make you wonder what the hell’s going on. Oh, and there’s another narrator. She’s a radical feminist. She gets murdered, and chickens love it.

No, I’m not making this up. Are you kidding me? I started writing this feature with a full bottle of whiskey and now I’m down to the last inch. Alcohol will not burn this monstrosity from my mind.

Sadly, the more prurient option has been removed from YouTube (although not the sequence featuring full male nudity, that’s still floating around) leaving only the prim one. Namely the one where Jane gets her shirt off anyway.

What was the other option? Light S&M and whipping.

Yeah, seriously. In fact, dominant women running around in their bras is an ongoing theme in this game:

And, as you might have guessed, rampant sexism. This is one ending of the game:

The moral of the story: put out or he won’t love you, ladies! This is the woman he saved from being raped, by the way. Oh, there’s also an option where John and the rapist both turn out to be gay and prance off into the field together, because this game hadn’t managed to offend enough people yet.

As otaku have noticed, this actually is a fairly common form of “game” in Japan called the visual novel. These aren’t really popular here, unless you count “Phoenix Wright”, which we do, because it’s awesome.  So this would just be bad to a Japanese person, not bad and off-puttingly bizarre like to us Westerners.

But it’s baffling that anybody, even the Japanese, decided this needed to be on a system like a 3DO. Yeah, the 3DO had a lot of flaws, Trip Hawkins’ ego among them, but lack of graphical horsepower wasn’t one of them. That’s why they demanded $700 a system for this beast.

This game is in some ways a proto-DVD; you’re familiar with the technology from watching movies for the last, say, decade. Say what you will about the quality of the games, or the quality of the system, it was incredibly powerful and could do stuff that any other console at the time couldn’t even pretend to achieve. More to the point, as gamers at the time remember all too well, the big craze was “full motion video”. The idea was game systems were going to provide us with interactive movies, instead of, you know, gameplay. And since this was softcore anyway…where’s the softcore?

So why the slide show? Why only the one FMV sequence? Why the blatant sexism? Why…anything?

In the end, this game leaves you alone, with an empty whiskey bottle and questions that will never be answered. Fortunately, the game offers a solution to this:

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