How Macaulay Culkin Became a Gaming Renaissance Man
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Something weird has been happening in the realm of nerdy media stuff, and Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin is at the center of it. Despite long being away from any sort of public-facing activities, the former child star has been gradually emerging from a life of relative leisure and obscurity. While he did things like play in a band, star in a few friends’ media projects, and party a lot, now he runs a website. Now, that website seems to be producing video games. The first one is a real retro doozy.

If you’re a retro gaming enthusiast like I am, you’ll definitely be familiar with the Sega Genesis classic (I say this without a single shred of irony) ToeJam & Earl. An early roguelike before that genre was even coined (when some games were literally “like” the game Rogue), the original game was all about finding rocketship parts on Earth, avoiding wacky Earthling enemies, and vibing out to some 16-bit funk. A few misguided sequels later, and in 2019 we arrived back on Earth with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. It’s the fourth game, but the only sequel that rides on the same gameplay concepts of the original. But aside from being extremely funky and extremely fun, there’s something else that stands out about it.

When I first played the game (early, for review), I either missed it or didn’t notice it. The second time, I saw a “Bunny Ears” logo in the regular slideshow of video game logo screens. If you don’t know, “Bunny Ears” is actually the name of Macaulay Culkin’s website. Bunny Ears is a parody content site, sort of like Cracked, but more actively targeting Gwenyth Paltrow’s “Goop.” It’s a piss take on bizarre rich people habits, and it’s darkly hilarious. Since launching that website, Culkin has been making the media rounds, but in spaces only internet hang-outers would know.

For example, Culkin showed up on both the Angry Video Game Nerd and Red Letter Media YouTube channels. He actually did multiple videos for Red Letter Media, which is a bit more new and fresh compared to AVGN. It’s also movie-adjacent, which makes sense. Anyway, during the AVGN episode, Culkin was actually wearing a ToeJam & Earl shirt and has since declared himself a big fan of the game, even using it as part of his anti-Oscars Twitter comedy “show.” As it turns out, he’s more than just a fan of the series. He helped make it happen.

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Not long after I noticed the Bunny Ears logo, HumaNature Studios (developer of ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove) shot out a press release announcing that Macaulay Culkin is an executive producer on the game. So not only is he a fan of the series, but he helped the newest one get made. Not long after that, Back in the Groove updated, and the “Bunny Ears” logo dramatically changed, not only in style but also changing to “Bunny Ears Games.” Effectively, in announcing his executive producer status, Culkin also seems to have launched a new production brand specifically for video games.

This is mostly just a cool observation! There’s a whole lot of writing out there about what child actors have to deal with and, in Culkin’s case, he himself has written on the subject as well. Since making his media rounds lately, he’s talked about what he’s been up to in-between then and now, and it’s neat to see that sort of trajectory lead to a new burst of passion projects. Especially since one of them ended up being a new ToeJam & Earl game, which hopefully helps get more eyeballs and hands on the game beyond retro fans and Kickstarter backers.

After Back in the Groove, what could be next? Presumably this isn’t just a one-off, considering the new logo and everything. Will Culkin and his team help bring back more classic IP, or something else entirely? I hope we find out soon.

Lucas White
Lucas White

Writing Team Lead
Date: 03/12/2019

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