"To Boldly Grow: Some Celluloid Bonsai (Part V)"
In Video and Computer Games...

Enterprise bonsai:
24th Century trees.
"Warp one?" "Make it so."

--- Hud Nordin

       Magical miniature landscapes have even appeared in assorted video and computer games and similar media,
spreading the aesthetic awareness to a different and sometimes younger audience.


Electric Arts, Inc.
"Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual"

     In this award-winning CD-ROM, "I've discovered two in Data's quarters and one in Picard's.  I think there may even be one in Troi's but I'm not sure if it's a real plant or some fake interplanetary type.  Are there any others I should watch for?"  (Originally brought to RJB's attention in posting to rec.arts.bonsai by Jim D. Robertson, September 27, 1995)



"Animal Crossing"
Gamecube video game

     "In the ... game, you can actually decorate your house with Bonsai.  I remember having a Mugo Pine and an Azalea!"  (Per edwardorino from Bloomington, IN in posting to bonsaitalk.com on August 11, 2005 and seconded by Misspeled_Name from Ohio on Sept. 5, 2005)  There are actually ten different trees you can use as indoor decoration only: Mugho, Pine, Ponderosa, Azalea, Hawthorn, Holly, Jasmine, Maple, Plum, and Quince.  The Maple is in a low brown hexagonal container, the soil mounded above the pot's edge.  The tree is a formal upright, perhaps equivalent to 12-15" in height, with oranhish-brown leaves on three main side branches and one or two at the top.  (Additional details per RJB's son Andrew.)


Ubisoft Entertainment

"Tom Clancey's Splinter Cell"
video game

     "There's a bonsai on a table inside the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar..." (Per malhomme from Austin, TX in posting to bonsaitalk.com on Apr. 2, 2005; confirmed by RJB's son Andrew.)

2002, 2003

Electric Arts, Inc.
"James Bond 007 TM nightfire TM"

interactive computer game
"unexpected guest," 3rd mission

     In a large ground-level room in the two-story Japanese house, there is what would be a very nice 3' tall straight-trunked slightly leaning juniper (?) with excellent taper and texture at the bottom of the trunk.  It is in a rounded-oval pot, olive green with wide corner feet on a redwood stand on the tatami mat.  In closeup inspection, the pot is actually twelve-sided with a lip and having mossy ground cover.  A square columnal paper lantern is on the tatami mat on each side of the tree, an island scene is on the paper screen behind the tree.  This is not a tokonoma.
      When James Bond is later scaling the outside of a high-rise building, through the window we see on the inside left facing away from the window two similar bonsai, each in a large olive oval pot with wide feet on the carpet.  It seems that there are identicle copies of these trees on each of the first through fourth floors, and also on the eighth (?) floor of this office building.  Entering that top floor and around the corner can be seen a shorter tree with a thin trunk and masses of five-petalled grayish flowers, in a similar pot but with more moss on the soil level.  This is the floor with the offices of Matthew and Mayhew.  Further around the corner are a pair of curved planters along the walls.  Each holds ferns and three of the same evergreen and two of the same flowering trees.  The planters appear to be teak on the upper half and marble tile on the lower.  The hallway then goes to the Meeting Room.  Release date 11/01/02.
  (Brought to RJB's attention by son Kenny.)


Rockstar Games, Inc.

"Max Payne 2"
video game

     "...they are mentioned ... near the end, and are also in the police cheifs office."  (Per spoonman from Victoria, Australia in posting to bonsaitalk.com on Sept. 6, 2004)


Electric Arts, Inc.

"The Sims 2"
life simulation/strategy computer game

     When playing as a family, inside the "Buy Mode" catalog, located inside the "Decorative" section under "Plants" there are two bonsai possibilities.  "Blue Sky" Bonsai Tree (costing 99 simoleons -- Sim currency).  "Description - From its origins in China over a millennia [sic] ago, the concept of growing miniature 'pun-sai' trees spread to Japan in the late 1100s.  There they became renowned as symbols of harmony and prized by the upper classes.  Nowadays, even the lowliest of citizens can appreciate these little tree's gnarly beauty."
      "Juniper" Bonsai Tree (costing 120 simoleons).  "Description - The ancient art of the bonsai tree lies in the representation of the larger, natural tree forms in a diminutive scale.  Bonsai, literally translated as 'potted tree', can be made from almost any type of tree, though juniper has long been heralded in the modern age as the most receptive to the bonsai 'training.'" (Brought to RJB's attention by son Andrew.)

2002, 2005

BioWare Corp.

"Jade Empire"
XBox video game
      At the top of Pirate's Island is Gao the Greater's tower.  On a floor in the back against the wall and about 15' back from the open balustrade is a bonsai.  It is in a long (equivalent to just a little more than 3') but narrow, light blue rectangular pot with indented center panels on each side.  This rests on a low bamboo or wooden table which slightly longer than the pot.  The 3'H tree is very large trunked -- planted to the left side, perhaps 1/3 of the left-to-right length of the pot and almost the entire front-to-back depth.  An informal upright deciduous of unknown species with long narrow leaves, its lower right branch extends just over the right-hand lip of the pot.  The soil seems to be raised in the middle along the long axis of the pot, almost resembling a baked loaf of bread in a pan.  The label "Bonsai Tree" appears in the lower right corner of the screen.
      When your character kicks once and totally shatters the tree, pot, and stand you receive one of the gems as a reward (such as the Aura of Calm gem or the Inferior Intuition).  Arrrgh, Boldly Grow!  (Brought to RJB's attention by son Andrew.)

2003, 2005


"Worms Forts Under Siege"
XBox video game
      In the "No Go Dojo" level, at least six similar bonsai are seen around the courtyard.  Each sits in a somewhat deep, thick-walled, light gray concrete-like rectangular container resting on a 6-piece flat brick-like "mat."  The trees do not have much detail in close-up, the thin brown curving trunks each going into three almost topiary-cut foliage pads of greenish splotches.  Each tree also has a 3-clawed surface root in the orangish-brown coarse soil mix.    (Brought to RJB's attention by son Andrew.)


Natsume Inc.
"Harvest Moon,
Another Wonderful Life"

Ninetendo Gamecube video game
      "A very well pruned and cared for bonsai" is what the caption reads.  Inside an elderly couple's home is a small tightly multi-layed conifer in a brown bowl pot.  The tree is in need of serious pruning to better define the top growth.  It rests on a two-level TV-stand-like piece of furniture against a wall and just away from a window.    (Brought to RJB's attention by son Andrew.)


Glu Mobile
"Bonsai Blast"
iPhone, Android, Facebook game
      "This puzzle game has ninety increasingly challenging levels set in a beautiful 'Zen garden' theme."
      It appears that the name is the most striking thing about this game -- but that is the main reason for mentioning this reference.

EA Redwood Shores
"Dead Space"
MS Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360 video game
      "I have had the pleasure of playing an awesome 1st person shooter called 'Dead Space' on PS3...  .. and lo and behold .. what do we find in the 'mall'..?  A bonsai shop... "  In the image included in this post we see a fat base of the trunk with foliage on two branches going up and on top.  The tree is in a large deep dark brown rectangular pot.  (Posted by Matt Jermy, 14 Feb, 2011, http://www.ausbonsai.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=6224&start=30#p85567.)


"Bonsai Barber"
Wii video game
      Per Wikipedia, "The game places players in the role of a barber who must groom and style the foliage of their plant, fruit and vegetable customers in similar manner to the art of bonsai pruning.  Using the Wii Remote, the player uses tools such as scissors, hair clippers, combs and hairspray to work on the requests of up to five customers per day and try to achieve a professional five star rated cut for each."
      Again, it appears that the name is the most striking thing about this game, with moving the hand-held Remote in a pruning action a distant second.  None of the reviews RJB has seen show anything remotely resembling a bonsai or even Ming Tree.  However, there seems to be some widespread appeal to this, such as even a Facebook page.  Strange mention of "bonn-zai" is better than no mention...  (Brought to RJB's attention by son Andrew.)   


"Bonsai Defense"
Mac or Windows video game
      "In Bonsai Defense, a free game made in the Unity3 engine for a college graduation thesis, the player takes control of a tree -- that, is becomes the bonsai -- fighting against the invading insects and parasites that are after your nectar.  Fruit grow on the branches of the tree, and are the 'towers' of the game, used for both attack and resource collection.  Money is replaced by an idea of juice, created by generators that take up valuable tower space that could be used instead for a turret.  Juice is used to power turrets though, so an over-abundance of weapons on your branches will merely lead to inefficiencies, as there will not be enough juice to power anything.
      "Also gone is the concept of fighting off a set number of 'waves' to progress to another level.  Progress is made by collecting nectar, produced by flowers, which like generators require their own fruit.  Nectar degenerates with time so allowing your supply to increase as the game progresses will require expanding your tree just to break the maintenance cost of nectar."  (Brought to RJB's attention by son Kenny and his friend Brandon.)

     Anyone who knows of additional video or computer depictions of bonsai is asked to please contact rjb@magiminiland.org.
Contributor acknowledgment will be posted.  Please include as many details as possible.  Thank you!

And, uh, a freebie, but that's about it...
(Not included in our tallies)

"Tanner in Bonsai Buster"


"As usual, Tanner wasn't paying attention during Master Chen's bonsai lesson.

"Now Tanner's tree is out of control -- sprouting branches with minds of their own.

"Help Tanner tame his bonasi [sic] tree -- by punching, kicking, whacking or cutting -- before the tree takes over the academy."

Celluloid Bonsai I
ABS Article, Part I

Celluloid Bonsai II
ABS Article, Part II

Celluloid Bonsai III
Other Sightings

Celluloid Bonsai IV

Celluloid Bonsai V
In Video and
Computer Games

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