Something that brings me joy in video games is seeing what alternate universe products they have. It not only helps to build the world that you are playing in, but it can often help shed light on the different themes that the game is focusing on. What may seem like an insignificant scene dressing is often a much more important piece of that world’s narrative and philosophy.
I wanted to find the products in the franchises that have stood out to me for that very reason. What are they doing in their games, or how do they make the player think and feel? Unfortunately, I had to make this list with only one entry per series because Fallout might have made a clean sweep. With that out of the way, let’s see what’s behind curtain number one.
Nuka Cola – Fallout Franchise
Nuka Cola was the inspiration for this list. In fact, all the products that can be found in Fallout. Momentos from a time long lost, they are one of the few things that remain intact from before the bombs dropped. Of course, the most iconic of all of them is the Nuka Cola brand of soda who is obviously inspired by the real-life brand Coca-Cola. Nuka Cola’s unique rocket-shaped bottle and caps that are the game’s currency make it a fairly abundant resource in the games. You will likely always have one in your inventory and will find vending machines waiting to be pilfered filled with them.
You can even explore the remnant of factories and office buildings that were devoted to the drink to learn more about it and the company behind it. Spoiler alert, as with all Fallout business pre-war, they weren’t necessarily the most ethical. I have on more than one occasion dreamt of obtaining A Nuka Cola only to remind myself that it would probably just taste like a more dirty Coke.
Plasmids – Bioshock Series
An injectable superpower that allows you to do daily tasks like lighting the fireplace with a snap of your fingers? It sounds too good to be true (because it is). However, the plasmids developed by Ryan Industries in the city of rapture give regular people abnormal abilities. However, both the production and the consumption of these abilities are problematic. For plasmids to work, Adam must be harvested from little girls who have been modified for the task.
It is also a highly addictive substance with terrible side effects on the user’s mind and body. Plasmids are the product of a world that doesn’t care about its people and only about what is possible. It’s the culmination of objectivist philosophy and fits perfectly into the themes of Bioshock at large. Though, I don’t know if I could pass up being able to lift things with my mind if I was given the chance…
PokeBall – Pokemon Series
What would the Pokemon universe be like without PokeBalls? These little devices are the entire reason that gym battles and trainers can exist on a large scale. Otherwise, every wannabe trainer would have to go around trying to befriend Pokemon with berries and pets. Now that sounds like a more wholesome experience but probably wouldn’t make for the most enjoyable game for many people.
Thanks to Silph Co.’s PokeBall invention, trainers are able to buy capsules that have the chance to catch Pokemon, which also allows them to be trained much easier. We can’t all have out Charmander was left out in the rain moment, but we can force these lovable creatures to be our friends. And they come in an assortment of colors and styles too. You know PokeBalls sound a lot worse when you really stop and think about them.
Sprunk – GTA Series
Oh, Sprunk. This was probably one of the first fake products you remember seeing in a video game due to it being a clear reference to Sprite and making its first appearance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The lemon-lime beverage has been creeping into the player’s eye line through billboards, factories, and radion commercials for quite some time.
You can see branding for this company everywhere, and its factory in GTA: IV is famous for its giant bottle. The only problem is that after you hear about the carbonated goodness that is Sprunk through your speakers while cruising down San Andreas Blvd., the closest you can get is through a regular old Sprite. And who wants that?
OverCharge Delirium – Sunset Overdrive
OverCharge was the drink of choice for every college party and concert for a whole night running. Unfortunately, thanks to some side effects, including headaches, belly aches, and zombification, the drink would lose most of its popularity. It was developed by Fizz Co., which made the unfortunate decision to rush its production and skip health safety guidelines.
This decision would bite them in the butt when an entire city began to fall apart, and many of their local executives failed to make it out of the city. However, it did lead to the adventures of Sunset Overdrive, so it couldn’t have been all bad. The protagonist also collects the sugary drink for upgrades, so someone must still see value in this dangerous substance.
Buzz Cola – The Simpson’s Hit and Run
In a way that is very similar to Sunset Overdrive, The Simpsons Hit and Run uses a carbonated beverage to kickstart its plot. The new soda uses a “new and improved” recipe that turns people in mind-controlled zombies. The people who drink the sugary beverage will find themselves at the mercy of Kang and Kodos.
Luckily, the Simpson family abstained from the drink and chose for it to be the one healthy thing they do as they travel around Springfield, accidentally solving the mystery of Buzz Cola and its development. It’s like some of these games are trying to say something about these new sodas and the big corporations who make them. Nonetheless, Buzz Cola is an iconic product in the Simpsons world, and thanks to Hit and Run, the video game world as well.
Sentry Turret – Portal Series
If you only played Portal 1, you may be forgiven for not knowing that the turrets that you see throughout your testing adventures are actually consumer products. In Portal 2, we see a little more of the turret-making process, which involves various states of complete from only the metal wire cage being complete to the entire turret being packaged for delivery. Aperture Science needs to make money somehow in order to keep the lights on, so I guess it makes sense to sell a product that for all intents and purposes, works.
Though the at-home turret system is a little extreme, if you ask me. I hope they have a friendly fire toggle because I have never seen one of them not shoot something that was moving. Seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen, and I don’t think GLaDOS can take one of those at the moment.
Golden Warthog – Halo 2
We’ve all seen the billboard on Headlong or Turf. A bright golden warthog that was apparently being sold for civilian use due to the lack of turret and residential advertising. This one picture sent hundreds of Halo fans into a frenzy to try and find a way to unlock the golden warthog in the game. Maybe you had to beat the campaign on legendary really quickly? Maybe it was outside of the map on headlong like the scarab gun was on metropolis? Maybe you had to play a game on Terminal for 24 hours?
There were a million conspiracy theories about how to get this vehicle to appear, and they were all wrong. The warthog had never been added to the game originally but would be added to the remaster in 2014 to the decade-long relief of many fans, including myself. Even if it’s just the Halo version of a civilian hummer, it’s still really cool that just a picture could create so many rumors and conversations.
Gourmet Saltuna Filets – The Outer Worlds
The Outer Worlds has many a corporate product they are trying to get their trapped colonists to invest in. The Gourmet Saltuna Filets are one of the first the player runs into during their journey through the colonies. Manufactured by Spacer’s Choice colony Edgewater what can the fishy mixture be exactly? The player ends up at the heart of the operation and has the opportunity to keep the show running as normal or put everyone out of a job.
The canned fish can has great healing effects, and they appear overly abundant in everyone’s pockets on the planet. However, I’, not entirely sure it’s all fish that is being canned and shipped to people’s homes and stomachs…
Hyperion Weapons – Borderlands Series
Borderlands is known for its weapons, all three billion of them, and part of the reason why people form an attachment to different weapons is due to the manufacturer. Every manufacturer of weapons in the Borderlands series has different quirks or abilities associated with them. Hyperion weapons, for instance, tend to be more accurate with higher damage. The reason why I am pointing out Hyperion, in particular, is that they have a pretty large monopoly on Pandora and aren’t exactly good guys.
They are often pulling the strings from the background, all the while making big bucks off the vault hunters that are chasing the treasure rumored to be at the center of the planets. When you see a Hyperion weapon on Pandora, you can rest assured that you are going to get a quality product, one that was financed through the sweat and tears of countless colonies, vault hunters, and employees.