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Pierce is summoned to a remote warehouse by Gilbert Lawson (Giancarlo Esposito), the executor of his father's estate. Instructed to bring seven of his closest friends, he brings the study group (Levar Burton was a maybe), only to find a multiplayer gaming console set up waiting for them. It transpires that the last wish of Pierce's father was that he and his friends play a very special video game programmed specifically for Pierce... one which, if he and the group fail to win, could see him left with nothing.
Tropes appearing in this episode of Community include:
- Abusive Parents: We receive yet more confirmation, if any was needed, that Cornelius Hawthorne was an utter bastard to his son. Both of them.
- Actor Allusion: Did Lawson's avatar's way of cleaning his glasses remind anyone else of a certain Chicken Brother?
- "Right. White Crystal. You think dad was into meth?" I wonder what other business Gilbert Lawson used to run.
- Archnemesis Dad
- Batman Gambit: Jeff uses Britta's "strength potion" this way.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Annie and Shirley try to buy weapons for the group. They somehow end up stealing them, murdering the blacksmith and his family, and then burn his house down. Shirley in particular seems to take to the 'new morality' of the video game world a little bit too quickly and efficiently:
- Big Bad: Lawson
- Bigger Bad: Cornelius. Not that this is exactly surprising.
- Big No: Lawson gives one when the program of Cornelius refuses to give him the inheritance and attacks him instead.
- Black and Nerdy: Lawson.
- Bookcase Passage: Opened by straightening a crooked painting.
- Butt Monkey: Britta. As usual.
- Call Back: "LeVar Burton was a maybe."
- When the game ends, lame fireworks graphics go off. Also as in "Basic Rocket Science", the computerized Hawthorne is reminiscent of SANDERS.
- "LOOK AT ME NOW, DAD!"
- Jeff says describes the lab as being 20 cat turds and a Pixies poster from being Britta's apartment. In the opening shot of Anthropology 101, a Pixies poster is on the wall of Britta's room.
- Captain Obvious: Jeff warning to the study group not to die. They immediately lampshade this by pointing out that they weren't really eager to die to begin with.
- Check Point Starvation: Death causes the players to respawn in the study room at the beginning of the game and without equipment.
- Chekhov's Skill: Britta's skill at screwing up everything. She creates a "strength potion" that ends up killing Lawson who was on the verge of Total Party Killing the Study Group.
- It's even possible to see Britta finding a secret passage as screwing up "playing as a girl".
- Child Soldiers: Abed's children.
- Chocolate Baby: Lawson, who Cornelius hated even more than Pierce.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Pierce fails to see the obvious racism and thinks the directions are alluding to his father taking crystal meth.
- Abed, upon discovering Gilbert's note to Pierce:
Abed: "After you've squandered the last of your savings, I'll watch you writhe, penniless, in the gutter, through a telescope in the penthouse office of Hawthorne Tower." You can leave notes. This game is incredible.
- Collapsing Lair: Hawkthrone Castle.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Troy's jealous that Hilda can have Abed's babies, but he can't.
- Crazy Awesome: Abed decides to stay with Hilda and finds out he can have children with her, who he can command to do anything. Hilarity Ensues.
- And then there's the final battle with Pierce's father, which involves shooting Abed's children at a giant rock monsters legs so they can pickaxe it to death, Troy and Abed shooting lava at it out of golden mechs, Shirley piloting a helicopter against it, and Pierce riding an atomic bomb.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Britta.
Jeff: This place is twenty cat turds and a Pixies poster away from being your apartment.
- Crime After Crime: Annie accidentally kills an NPC and to cover it up, she and Shirley commit murder and arson.
- Dead Baby Comedy: Abed uses his "children" as infant soldiers in a massive Zerg Rush, at one point shooting them from cannons at Cornelius's Humongous Mecha. There's also a baby skeleton hanging from a noose in a jail cell within the underground mining complex.
- Death by Racism: Britta certainly seems to believe this is the case for Mega-Cornelius:
Britta: Die, racism!
- Defictionalization: There is currently a fan out there working on a real-life version of "Journey to the Centre of Hawkthorne".
- Deep-Immersion Gaming
- Description Cut:
Britta: Here's the thing about women, Jeff. We don't hack and slash our way through life, because we're one with life.
Annie: Help me hide the body!
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: About what you'd expect from a game that's been continuously developed with presumably very strong funding for over thirty years, to be played whenever the producer dies.
- Digitized Sprites: The game automatically digitizes the group into avatars.
- Driven to Suicide: Pierce tries to suffocate himself by burying himself alive, believing he can't win the inheritance. Partly Played for Laughs since this is occurring in a video game.
- Egopolis: The village turns into this after Abed takes it over, including a giant fortress with a statue of his face on the roof.
- Escort Mission: Turns into one of these as the other study groups member have to protect Pierce and get him to Hawkthorne Castle.
- Lava Adds Awesome: "Troy and Abed shooting laaaaa-VA!"
- Fetch Quest: The White Crystal.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Of a sort; Pierce and Gilbert initially clearly cannot stand each other, but by the end -- after learning that they're half-brothers who both had to suffer the abuse of their father -- are clearly starting to bond with each other.
- In the blacksmith's house, there's a picture of Hilda on the wall.
- Pierce's conversation with Gilbert at the beginning of the episode. At one point Pierce refers to Gilbert as 'soul brother'. He doesn't suspect at the time, but this turns out to be more true than he realizes...
- When the study group first arrives at the gaming centre, Gilbert initially appears by suddenly announcing himself and startlingly the study group. He keeps doing this in the video game, but is a lot more malevolent each time.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Lawson, subverted. Seems like a villain at first, but as it turns out he's just a nice guy who becomes crazy when it comes to his estranged dad. He even takes the group out for drinks after the game's done.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The menus that display when Abed interacts with Hilda. On the first display of possible actions Abed can do with her is "I will wear your skin." One of her leveled-up actions is "Kickpunch" and another is "Spacetime RPG".
- At one point Lawson types in a Long List of parameters for the game program, including such items as "God Mode", "Testicular Fortitude", "Intestinal Fortitude", "Giraffe Mode", and "Nuclear Wraith".
- Speaking of Hilda's list of topics. the gaming references go beyond 8-bit.
- The 'legally-binding agreement' that Cornelius attempts to get Gilbert to sign in order to claim the inheritance while simultaneously preventing him from ever making any claims of paternity on Cornelius' part appears to originate from a point pre-Emancipation, given how those 'bound to service for a term of years' and 'Indians' are not classed as a 'whole' person.
- Friendship Moment: Pierce is surprised when the study group announce that they're going to cooperate with him to win the game. They point out that not only are they friends, it's kind of weird to be friends with someone for three years only to steal their family inheritance.
- Game Between Heirs: The main plotline of this episode. Pierce's father leaves his will in the form of a video game. Whoever wins the game gets the inheritance.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Abed going through Hilda's options looks like he's touching her rather large breasts.
- After losing their clothes in the poker game, for 8-bit graphics the nude avatars of Troy and Pierce look to be remarkably detailed in certain places.
- Gilligan Cut: Britta claim that women wouldn't use a violent approach to problem solving. The next building over the two other women of the study group are in the process of covering up their murder of a shopkeep.
- When the group respawn, Jeff gives a Rousing Speech over how they've gotten better at the game and that they're heroes. They instantly die to the hippies right outside the respawn point.
- Goddamned Bats: The Hippies.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Pierce does this to defeat Cornelius' final form. See Riding the Bomb.
- Hidden Depths: Lawson at first seems like a blind sycophant of Cornelius who's willing to cheat in order to get the inheritance. It's later revealed that he's just a son trying his best to impress his father, who alienated him even more than he did to Pierce.
- Honor Before Reason: Pierce's father explanation for why he recorded a death scene for his avatar.
- Hypocritical Humour: In the Black Caves:
Britta: I don't know what's more offensive, the actual racism or the insulting notion that it might somehow rub off on us. Look out! Jive Turkeys! Kill them before they start multiplying!
- Brick Joke example; upon discovering the secret entrance to the wizard's chamber, Britta pompously tells Jeff that women don't need to "hack and slash our way through life, because we're one with life." By the end of the game, she's enthusiastically hacking and slashing away at 'Jive Turkeys' and screaming "Die racism!" while firing an army of Abed's children at the limbs of a giant stone mecha-Cornelius Hawthorne.
- I Am Your Father: Lawson telling Pierce that he is his half-brother.
- Inside a Computer System: Where most of the episode's action takes place.
- It Will Never Catch On: Pierce's father apparently thought this about video games.
- Jerkass: Even if there weren't already copious amounts of evidence for the theory in his omnipresent racism, homophobia and arrogance, the fact alone that Cornelius Hawthorne invested thirty years and God-knows how many millions of dollars into a video game purely for the purpose of forcing his son to play it upon his death and risk losing his entire inheritance, apparently merely because Pierce once requested some money to invest in video games, should be all the proof anyone needs that Cornelius was a spiteful bastard of epic-scale proportions.
- Jerkass Has a Point: He may be be a racist homophobe, but Cornelius Hawthorne was right about investing money -- in some ways, at least. Although video games are a billion-dollar a year industry today, investing in video games in 1980 would have been a very bad idea. Even Troy states he had a point.
- Jive Turkey: As enemies, no less.
- Kill It with Fire
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: Abed and Hilda.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Annie accidentally steals a torch in the smithy, and Troy smashes all of the pots in the bar.
- Long-Lost Relative
- Lord British Postulate: Played With, the game was probably never meant to handle relations leading to hundreds of NPC kids building megaweapons to completely Sequence Break the game, but Cornelius does use Dynamic Difficulty to up his game, and ultimately falls to Pierce Riding the Bomb as a finisher.
- MacGyvering: Lawson demonstrates the item system by combining tree branches and a rock into throwing knives.
- Manly Tears: Troy invokes this with "his and Abed's" child in The Tag.
Troy: He needs to see that a strong man can cry!
- Master Console: Lawson uses this to greatly increase his stats after the study group defeats him.
- Matrix Raining Code: When the game boots up.
- Medium Blending: Most of the action appears as 8-bit graphics from the game.
- Mercy Kill: Annie killing the blacksmith, who was on fire because she accidentally threw a torch at them. And hit him with an ax.
Annie: He was suffering!
Shirley: Yeah, from ax wounds!
- Mercy Rewarded: Abed and Hilda.
- M Preg: Troy seems disappointed when he realizes he can't have Abed's babies, unlike Hilda.
- Naked People Are Funny: Pierce and Troy lose their clothes in a poker game.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jeff's attempt to save Annie from a hippie ends up killing her.
- Also see Beware the Nice Ones.
- Britta also learns that there's no 'hug' button... the hard way, by accidentally killing Pierce.
- Noodle Incident: Cornelius once sat on Lawson in church just so he could see better.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Jeff thinks this.
- Not Worth Killing: The group offer two reasons for not turning on Pierce and trying to steal away his family fortune; the first is that he's been their friend for three years and it would be wrong and weird of them to steal his inheritance. The second is that, given he's just managed to literally dig himself into a hole in an attempt to figure out how to fight them, he wouldn't exactly be much of a challenge to defeat:
Abed: There wouldn't be a lot of sport in beating you; look at yourself.
The others: He's right. / Yeah, you really do suck.
- One-Winged Angel: After being defeated for the first time, Cornelius transforms into an enormous knight.
- Parents for a Day: The Tag has Troy and Abed finding a baby apparently abandoned in the study room.
- It does lead to Fridge Logic, though; not having been allowed at Greendale for months, why were they in the study room to begin with?
- It's possible that the tags don't follow a sequential order corresponding with the episodes; the tag didn't include any explicit references to the events of the video game. The incident with the baby might have been an old "side adventure" of Troy and Abed's, and merely shown with this episode because it went along thematically.
- Word of God is that the tag that was supposed to go in this episode had to be postponed because of issues with Chevy Chase.
- It does lead to Fridge Logic, though; not having been allowed at Greendale for months, why were they in the study room to begin with?
- The Power of Friendship:
Britta: We're fighting for friendship! And that means we can't possibly lose!
- Cornelius Hawthorne obviously didn't think much of this:
I see you've chosen teamwork; a coward's strategy.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: Abed's castle was made possible by his children slaving in the mines.
- The Rainman: Lampshaded when Abed chooses to stay behind with Hilda, Pierce complains that he is "playing the Rainman card."
- Rain of Arrows: Troy and Jeff fire a ton of arrows at Lawson, which have no effect.
- Rapid-Fire Typing
- Refuge in Audacity: The black caverns. To say there are Unfortunate Implications in those caves would be putting it lightly.
- Really, the entire videogame world revels in the audacity of Cornelius' racism, from the Desert of Laziness covered in sombreros and burritos to the Gay Island with a very... suggestive shape.
- Also, the way Annie and Shirley acquire weapons from the blacksmith.
- The fact that there's a skeleton of an Abed-baby that hung itself from forced labor.
- And let's not forget: Abed forced his enormous clone army of Abed-babies to do hard labor in MINES so that he could do whatever he wanted. Is that really Cornelius' fault, at that point?
- Not only that, but he also got his children to fight against Cornelius. Some of them being shot at his limbs rather recklessly to pick at them.
- Riding the Bomb: Pierce rides a bomb as the final attack on his father.
- Roaming Enemy: Lawson.
- Rousing Speech: Jeff gives one, which is subverted in that the entire group gets killed right after it. See Gilligan Cut.
- RPG Episode
- Running Gag: Gilbert keeps appearing out of nowhere and startling the study group.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules: Lawson cheats and almost steals the inheritance for himself, but refuses to agree to a degrading and racist non-disclosure contract that Cornelius wants him to sign first. Because of his Heel Face Turn, the group agree that he deserves the money in return for putting up with Cornelius' treatment of him all his life.
- Servant Race: Abed's children.
- Shame If Something Happened: Gilbert, with a lampshading from Pierce.
Gilbert: You're not supposed to cooperate; you're supposed to compete.
Jeff: Thanks for the advice, but I think we can choose how we want to play.
Gilbert: I suppose we can.
Pierce: Is he being ominous? Why are you being ominous?!
- Ship Tease: Troy gets very jealous of Abed's 'relationship' with Hilda.
Abed: If you max out a character's trust and affection levels you gain access to a front-end scripting language. Watch. [Abed enters some commands, producing a Baby!Abed] She can make babies for me.
Troy: Oh -- and I can't?! [Despondent] I can't.
- Shock and Awe: Lawson acquires lightning powers by Level Grinding.
- Shoplift and Die
- Shout-Out: As this episode is an Affectionate Parody of 8-bit games, these are numerous.
- Jumping-in spawning and the rising door in Castle Hawkthorne from Mega Man. Hilda's long list of information includes the Robot Masters' weapons from 2.
- The red leaf and the fireworks going off from Super Mario Bros.
- Tails's tails and Sonic can be seen preserved in glass jars on top of the shelves in the secret chamber.
- Abed returning to save Hilda on his flashdrive.
- The game's crafting system is straight out of Minecraft
- "Annie, let's find the Tin Man's heart later."
- Cornelius going One-Winged Angel, then gasping for breath as he dies, is very similar to how Ganon dies in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Bonus points for including a Collapsing Lair.
- There are some Freeze-Frame Bonus examples in Hilda's command menu, including "I will wear your skin" and an outline of Video Game/Pokemon's MissingNo. glitch ("Old man trainer", "Fly on a bird", "Cinnabar Island", "Seal along the shore").
- Hilda's command menu also includes a simplified guide to the entire Biggoron sword trading sequence from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
- Special Edition Title: Introducing the cast's game avatars to the accompaniment of an 8-bit instrumental version of the theme song.
- Strawman Political: Several areas in-game, including the Gay Island and the Free Ride Ferry.
Cornelius: I see you've chosen teamwork, a coward's strategy.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Annie and Shirley's 'shopping' expedition:
Annie: Everybody go shopping? That's all we did!
[The blacksmith's hut catches fire]
Abed: Is that hut on fire?
Shirley: Oh my. What an unexplained tragedy.
- The Theme Park Version: Befitting its financier, the game constructs entire world maps around bigoted stereotypes of various minority groups - The Valley of Laziness, Gay Island, The Free Ride Ferry, and The Black Caves.
- Total Party Kill: Lawson does this to the group during his first attack on them.
- Tragic Villain: Lawson turns out to be this.
- True Final Boss: Cornelius. See One-Winged Angel.
- Try Not to Die: Jeff says this as part of a Rousing Speech.
- Unfortunate Implications: Given that it was designed by Pierce's father, who is even more prejudiced than him, it's only natural that the video game is filled with these.
- Verb This:
Lawson: I think I'll have that crystal.
Annie: I think you'll have this! [tries to attack him and electrocutes Britta instead]
- Video Game Caring Potential: Abed ends up falling in love with a program. It reciprocates.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential:
- Starts with an accidental theft, but quickly snowballs.
- The sheer level of detail that the NPCs have been programmed with seems to provide countless opportunities for this. They seem to feel pain and have a complex social system wherein, upon the death of her parents, Hilda will be forced to either be forcibly married to one of the male villagers or take her chances in the wilderness for survival:
Troy: ... What kind of game is this?
- You can have children in the game. Fine. You can also have thousands and thousands of children and put them to backbreaking menial labor as soon as they can walk.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment
- Virtual Ghost: Cornelius, despite being dead, interacts with the group through a program of himself.
- Welcome to Corneria: The reason Abed likes Hilda is because her behaviour is entirely predictable, unlike real people.
Abed: I've never felt this way before.
Pierce: Now, don't get weird, Abed...
- "Well Done, Son" Guy:
- Pierce once again gets the opportunity to tell his dead dad to suck it by piloting a nuclear bomb into him in the video game.
- Lawson turns out to be this. He puts up with all kinds of crap from Cornelius just so he could gain some recognition. He even turns down the inheritance at first when he finds out that Cornelius still refuses to see him as his son.
- A Winner Is You: The fireworks are disappointing, but winning the inheritance helps.
- With Friends Like These...: Lampshaded.
Jeff: He [Pierce] is still technically our friend!
Cornelius: Worst son ever! Hahaha!"
- Zerg Rush: The group's strategy for defeating the giant Cornelius involves using dozens of Abed and Hilda's children to hack away at his joints.