Alright, we confess. One of the things the Tor.com team does when not laboring over the site is watch funny video series. (See: “Space Olympics“) One of the most addictive of these series is one titled Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin? which masterfully captures the adolescent attitude that tends to crop up in video game fan culture under the guide of video game reviews. So much so that it can be hard to tell if they’re actually kidding…
The beautiful thing of it is that you don’t actually need to know anything about video games to enjoy the web series.
Each video stars siblings Ashley “Ash” Burch and Anthony Burch. Anthony is the straight man of the duo. He’s older, always trying to discuss the literary or metaphorical merits of a game, and always trying to get his sister to take something, anything, seriously. Ash is a commentary on the quintessential overstimulated, hyperactive, sugar-chomping, overly violent, unempathetic video game player. Ash embodies the worst traits of video game players and is purely illogical, so the interaction between her and Anthony tends to drive him hilariously, frustratingly crazy.
Their father, Papa Burch, and Anthony’s fiancé (now wife) Ashley Davis make occasional appearances, as well. Papa Burch is a malevolent force unto himself and tends to be responsible for most of HAWPs less-PC jokes. (In fact, if you’re not amused by potty humor, or potentially offensive/non-pc jokes, this series might not be for you.) You’ll occasionally spot him punching his daughter out, slam-dunking a baby, winning at Twilight-themed games, or casually mentioning that one time he forced Christopher Lloyd to do a Doc Brown impression. The man is a terror and somehow we love him all the more for it.
The universe of HAWP has its own internal logic and rules, where Ash’s intelligence and perceptions are inconsistent (as are the ethics and goals of everyone else.) in favor of the punchline. Those punchlines usually rely upon a handful of premises 1.) An understanding of the way these “characters” work. 2.) An understanding of gamer/sci-fi or fantasy references. 3.) Crude humor. 4.) A combination of all of these.
Most episodes clock in at a minute or less, with the jokes coming at you in rapid-fire style. (Some of jokes may work better than others, and the early episodes don’t reflect the format they’ve mastered now.)
Below is a sampler. Warning: aforementioned crude humor ahead! Maybe some NSFW. (Also references to Doctor Who, classic video games, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and yes, Batman Forever)
Overlooked Games of 2009
As an introduction to the series, this one is good because it presents the idea of Ash and Anthony actually reviewing video games. However, chaos ensues pretty quickly. (Putting the suffix “64” after anything, does make EVERYTHING better. Try it.)
Initially, this episode seems be about a game called Toonstruck, but quickly becomes about something else entirely. One of Papa Burch’s best moments.
Red Faction: Guerilla
This one might be one the funniest. It also talks about a cool science fiction game. Kind of.
One of the older in the series, the idea that Ash can’t understand a simple scientific concept is explored perfectly.
In this episode, Ash actually develops the ability to read people’s minds. Look for the Tom Baker reference.
Finally, our personal favorite. Ash wants there to be a theme park all about Nintendo games. If you had an N64 at any point in your life, you will love this.
Stubby the Rocket is the voice and mascot of Tor.com. Stubby the Rocket sometimes goes by Stubby Forever 64. DO A BARREL ROLLLL.