Even by shovelware standards, Activision’s Duck Dynasty game is an odd one. The show has slumped in ratings, its stars are an embarrassment, and the trailer shows absolutely no interest in its subject or skill at bringing them to life. Add to that the Robertsons never once commenting on its existence and the game is DOA, and not in the Itagaki jiggle-fest way. Hopeless as the game’s chances may be, however, there’s still some promise in the license, and being as we’re helpful folk ’round these here parts we’ve got a little advice for Activision on how to polish this turd into a gleaming avatar of all things Duck Dynasty. It’ll still be a turd, of course, but at least it’ll be shiny!
The plot of Duck Dynasty is about becoming a Robertson, according to the trailer, but fitting into the Robertson clan has nothing to do with what makes it to TV. That’s all fluff, designed to sell an image rather than convey anything about the people on camera. The Duck Dynasty stars are every bit as “real” as Stephen Colbert’s persona on The Colbert Report, so that’s the focus the game should take. Gameplay should be divided between becoming part of the family when away from the camera and managing one’s image in front of it. With that in mind, here’s a few ideas on possible directions for the gameplay:
4. Beard Manager 2015
You can’t be a Robertson without a beard, or at least not a male one. Beard Manager 2015 sees you growing an epic chin-rug that’s carefully groomed to look unkempt. This part of the game is mostly a sim, and it requires proper management to maximize bushiness and growth speed while being careful not to frazzle the ends with too much hair-care product. In fairness to the beards being ultra-manly, the final beardly test deviates from the near-Barbie levels of hair care and instead involves punching a bear.
3. The Preachening
This section plays away from the camera and places you squarely in the pulpit of a fundamentalist church, delivering a sermon Parappa-style to your devout congregation. The trick with this game is to stay on-message, keeping the congregation engaged while trying to avoid controversial conversational paths that would attract external media attention. A few wrong button hits and you can go from testifying about Jesus’ Biblical views on helping those less fortunate no matter their faith to equating homosexuality with bestiality, and while that might get you in more tightly with the real Robertson family, that’s going to cause serious problems with the people behind the tv version.
2. Merchandise Fever!
In this mini-game you slap your face and the Duck Dynasty logo on all the cheap crap you can get your hands on, striking a balance between high-profit items and simply getting as much product out there as possible. For the sake of the game’s fiction it’s 2012, and people still watch the show and buy the merchandise, so you need to produce an endless river of junk that remains appropriate for the brand. Beer? Great! Nail polish? No, because while it’s unlikely to lose money the profits are too small to bother with. Be selective but thorough and watch the licensing dollars roll in.
1. Persona Maintenance
The Robertsons were a normal family (of millionaires) before the show but got a complete redneck makeover in order to sell the fiction. Much of your persona is set during the Beard Manager phase, but maintenance is going to be tricky. This plays like a non-combat RPG and is the heart of the Duck Dynasty game that all the other gaming segments grow out of. You’ll need to change from a clean-shaven business-type to a bushy redneck and maintain the look, adjusting your speech patterns and clothing while trying not to slip out of character. If you say or do something wrong, however, you can spend valuable Persona Points to dip into the editing room and pull your gaffe from broadcast, if you can react fast enough. Boss fights will be interviews with the media, and they’ll be extra-hard because you don’t get to know you’ve lost until days after the encounter is complete. Show a deep knowledge of tech, or wonder why the black man just can’t seem to learn his place in society, and you’ll get pulled from the show for a period of time based on how indispensable you’ve become to the marketing machine.
Duck Dynasty the show is all but over but its merchandise will be haunting yard sales and landfills for decades to come, as relevant in five years as the Dinosaurs tv show is today. That’s still no reason to give up on the Duck Dynasty game and shove something out the door as quickly as possible in order to not completely waste a questionable license acquisition, however. Duck Dynasty could be more than the hideous, zero-budget cash-in it’s shaping up to be, if put in the right hands and given proper nurturing. We here at Hardcore Gamer hate to see an opportunity wasted, and hope our ideas can inspire Activision to churn out the best possible cheap piece of licensed crap they can.