It’s December 1998. The world is a simpler, kinder place. The internet is still young, and social media is thankfully many years away. My family doesn’t even have the internet yet, so I don’t even know what it’s used for at this point. It’s just a thing that I hear people talk about now and then.
Then one fateful day, my uncle introduces us all to the biggest phenomenon of the decade: Elf Bowling.
I don’t know about you, but this was a huge hit for basically my entire extended family that year. Probably even the year after, as well. It was copied onto many a 3.5 floppy to distribute among the various households. At every gathering, you can bet that someone was on a computer, bowling for elves. Was it mostly me? Probably. But keep in mind that Pokémon Red and Blue had released only a few months prior, so I would have likely still been obsessing over that.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Elf Bowling is a silly little game where you play as Santa Claus, and instead of bowling pins, there are elves standing down at the end of the lane. The lore implies that the elves are on strike due to unfavourable working conditions, and I guess Santa is wreaking holy vengeance by clobbering them with bowling balls?
While the bowling aspect is perfectly good, Elf Bowling’s true appeal lied in the humour. If the premise wasn’t silly enough alone, it’s packed to the brim with jokes and funny animations. The elves will constantly heckle Santa, even as he bowls them all down. Sometimes one will turn around and moon you. A frog occasionally hops across the lane, and if you’re quick, you can squash it with a bowling ball. There are all sort of random funny things that can happen, ensuring that players keep coming back in hopes of seeing something new.
I haven’t played Elf Bowling since… probably 1999. But I did check out the Wikipedia article briefly, and there are seven sequels! And a movie! I had no idea how deep this went, and obviously I’ve never played any of those sequels or watched said movie. I also have no plans to. Surprisingly, the legit Elf Bowling has not been ported to smartphones. What kind of world even is this?
It may take a little effort to unearth this relic, but I maintain that it’s a good way to kill a little time. Even moreso if you have a housemate of some description that’s willing to play with you. Even after the elves one-liners get old, competing for a high score is plenty of fun. I mean, it’s bowling. It’s always going to be a good time. The fun theme is just icing on the cake.