Barneysplat! memories

“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family …”

Are you punching yourself yet?

Growing up in the early 1990s, it was impossible to avoid exposure to Barney & Friends, an annoying, cloying children’s TV show on PBS.

As a teen, I encountered the show enough to develop a hatred of it: saccharine songs that would lodge in your head; giggly, dopey-voiced dinosaur characters; a “one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away.”

(The latter is something that has always irked me. Contrast Barney with a program like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, where Fred Rogers dealt slowly and deliberately with negative behaviors, emotions like anger or fear, and problems like war or divorce)

It’s no surprise, then, that Barney spawned a backlash. Barney bashing, anti-Barney humor and parodies pervaded every form of media from television to magazines to BBSes.

These reactions were so natural at the time that, when my junior high drama class was broken up into groups and told to write short plays, I immediately wrote an opus titled ‘Sniper: In Search Of Barney’. The protagonist, Dick, is a former member of the Barney cast who wants to get revenge on the purple dinosaur.

Of course the story is sanitized because it was a school project. Though Dick wants to kill Barney, he’s inept and constantly fails. I couldn’t give the script a proper violent ending; instead Barney and Dick make up and sing a lame variation of the “I love you, you love me” song.

The premise of my old script isn’t too far removed from that of Barneysplat!, a delightfully demented and thoroughly-misspelled BBS door game created by fellow teen Austin Seraphin in 1993.

The game gives players the chance to try to kill Barney, Baby Bop, and a cast of four kids; or to get them drunk or stoned.

The zaniness and political incorrectness of the game certainly appealed to me, and I can remember playing this game on some BBSes. But it wasn’t my usual sort of game — it didn’t involve much strategy, and there was no multiplayer competition (aside from a high scores list). So while I played it some, I lost interest after a while.

But revisiting the game 20 years later, it still makes me laugh. In fact, it’s worth downloading the game’s ZIP files just to read Seraphin’s documentation, peppered with misspellings and all sorts of random asides. For example, this passage from the end of the FAQ section is classic:

Q. I think this FAQ is going too long and is too pointless.
A. Agreed. Bye, all!


PS School sucks. Just thought I'd you know... say that... TRIGONOMETRY
TAKEN IN MY LIFE!... just had to... uh say that.

Or the disclaimer section:

I won't be liable for Peanuts (ddi you know you can get a little high by
smoking Peanut shells?)!  I hearby say Bye bye blue sky to all
liabilities of this game.  If you use it, it's your risk.  I don't need
a lawsuit now, I never have and never will want or need one.  If you are
a lawyer, isn't this unprofessional? YEAH? Good. I like it this way.
really? Yes. Hey, Ever talk to yourself?  Yeah, all the time...  Well,
anyway, if this causes a user to flip out because they are a nazi, and
invite Adolph, Schlemging, and Auschwitz over to your house and if they
do various things to your brain, spinal chord, body, arms, legs, feet,
and money, Don't blame me...

Want to play?

Want to try playing BarneySplat right now? Some BBSes still host the game. Here are a few. You will need a telnet client like SyncTerm.

What do you remember?

Leave a comment and share your own BarneySplat memories. Or, if you need to get it off your chest, feel free to rant about Barney & Friends.

ALSO: Read my interview with Austin Seraphin.

Share your thoughts!