This past weekend on Fox the newest episode of the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons aired, and it was all about a fake game called Boblox, a not-subtle-at-all reference to the real-life Roblox. And it ended up being one of the season’s better episodes so far.
Anytime you talk about The Simpsons these days you inevitably have to deal with the comments about the show’s declining quality. And yes, it’s true that modern episodes often don’t compare to past classics. But this season (34!) and the last one have been pretty good, featuring some all-time fantastic episodes like “Pixelated And Afraid.” And while this newest Roblox-themed episode isn’t that good, it’s still a fun half-hour that feels like it was written by someone who has played (or talked to someone who has played Roblox) at least once.
After opening with a quick Assassin’s Creed parody, complete with hidden blades and dead historical figures, Bart is forced by Marge to play a nicer, less violent video game called Boblox. And in a nice touch, whenever the episode shows stuff happening in the game, it uses 3D CG animation that looks sharp and flat, just like Roblox. However, thanks to his parents being poor and not having a new PC, his old computer glitches when playing the game, letting the Simpsons sell a mohawk hair item over and over. Quickly this scam becomes a full-fledged operation utilizing kids at Springfield Elementary and the school’s similarly old, shitty PCs.
This is a fun enough setup and it’s clear that writer Ryan Koh is familiar with Roblox and also online video game culture. At one point we see two streamers summarizing an ongoing Boblox online war between Bart’s group and a different school using a similar in-game scam. The bit feels authentic and also ends with the great line of the two young kids asking their commenters to not leave anything racist below.
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But what really elevates this episode is when principal Skinner enters the picture. Desperate for money and wanting to turn the school into a performing arts school (to dodge test scores and grade evaluations) the typically good boy Skinner teams up with Bart. Together the two of them expand the scam. At one point Skinner uses his power as principal to even scare Martin Prince into keeping his mouth shut with the threat of an A- on his next report card. I always love when The Simpsons pair up Bart with Skinner, as you can tell Skinner both hates Bart and has a weird respect for him, and this episode shows that Bart also feels the same way toward Skinner.
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Oh and also, I know this was apparently a parody of The Wire, too. But I’ve never seen that show so I can’t say if the episode nailed that part or not. I’ll leave that up to you Wire fans out there to decide.
It’s interesting to see another animated FOX show tackling video games and succeeding. Just last month Bob’s Burgers did an entire episode dedicated to virtual reality gaming, how crappy it can be, and all the issues people put up with to play stuff like Beat Saber. Now all I need is The Great North to do an episode about mobile games or free-to-play looter shooters.