Every season of House of Cards has a unique cameo – a video game. Frank Underwood, the protagonist (can we call him that?), frequently uses video games as a stress buster. Previous seasons of the Netflix original show have shown Frank playing Call of Duty and Monument Valley.
The following article includes minor spoilers from all seasons of House of Cards.
The video games included in the show act as a subtle indicator of the mood of the show. We have seen Frank playing Call of Duty when he is in a particularly aggressive phase, as he guns down everybody in his path to the White House. However, he had to stash his console away at the end of Season 1 — being the Vice President kept him too busy.
The next major video game cameo was Monument Valley, in Season 3. And this was a much bigger cameo and actually had an effect on the plot — plain old product placement, which House of Cards is full of, this ain’t. Not only did Frank play the game on his iPad, he also later spoke about it with Remy Danton, his then Chief of Staff. He mentioned how he moved away from his standard first person shooters such as Call of Duty after reading a review of the game by the author Thomas Yates and even went so far as to hire Thomas to write a non-fictional account on Frank’s America Works program. The author plays a significant role and it all started with Monument Valley.
So, as you can see, House of Cards takes its video games quite seriously. And for the latest season (my take on it can be found here) features Agar.io. So just what is Agar.io? It’s a massive multi-player game in which every player is a small cell in the beginning of the game and the goal is to get bigger by eating cells smaller than you (basically, other users), while ensuring you don’t get eaten by a cell bigger than you. Frank points out that the aim is quite similar to politics and the presidential campaign in particular.
While first released as a web game, it has been released on Steam and on mobile platforms such as iOS and Android by Miniclip. The House of Cards production team approached Miniclip about including the game in the show. Here’s what a representative of Miniclip told Kotaku.
We received a call from the House of Cards production team, out of the blue. They already knew about the game and wanted to include it in the show, and naturally we were delighted to be a part of it. We worked closely with the HoC production team: we made a special build of the game that had the Obama skins taken out so that it better fit the HoC universe.
When we learned that House of Cards wanted to include the game in the show, we were blown away. Agar.io has been incredibly popular since it launched last year, and this latest news really underlines it as a cultural phenomenon. The game joins a very prestigious club of titles that have been played by Frank Underwood – we hope this will lead to plenty of new fans discovering Agar.io and joining the millions around the world that already play and love it.
Once again, the production team of House of Cards made a great choice for the video game cameo, something that actually blended with the mood of the show. I can’t wait to see what they choose for the next season.