generally) apportioned randomly, there's no guarantee that the mutations one winds up with will have any rhyme or reason to them. A Gamma World mutant could possess a remarkably wide range of abilities, none of them tying in to an obvious "theme" that a player or referee can easily latch on to and say, "Oh, so that's what these guys are like."
What's amusing is that the rulebook actually offers plenty of helpful advice in how to "make sense" of random mutations, if only one is willing to look. No, the rulebook doesn't have a section specifically dedicated to this topic, but the creature descriptions can serve much the same purpose. Take, for example, arks, who are intelligent dog men. Their mutations include telekinesis, weather manipulation, and life leech. None of those mutations really "go together" nor do any of them suggest that arks would "fear large winged creatures" or "consider human hands a great delicacy." What Ward and co-author Gary Jaquet did was treat the mutations as "add-ons" to the basic idea of vicious humanoid dogs. Rather than trying to use the mutations as explanatory of the creatures that possessed them, they were descriptive. Of course, for this to work, one already has to have a basic idea to which the mutations can be added. The random tables don't replace imagination but rather serve as an aid to it.
What I've discovered, though, is that players frequently dislike random tables for one of two contradictory reasons. The first and most prevalent is that randomization takes power out of their hands by giving them something they didn't expect. "I wanted to play a magic-user but I rolled an 8 for Intelligence." "I wanted a mutant with mental blast but I got hostility field instead." The second reason is that random tables don't do enough creative heavy lifting, forcing the player to try and make sense of a mutant that has plant control, precognition, telepathy, and total healing without any help or hints on how to do so. Games that make regular use of random tables for key elements are thus viewed with some suspicion, even before the appearance of Hoops make it even easier to dismiss it as "silly."
As I've now said at some length over the course of many posts, I don't think Gamma World is any more inherently silly than any other RPG. What it is, however, is fairly demanding on the imaginations of referees and players alike. I think Gamma World is so often treated as a joke because it's so much easier to do so than it is to try and make some sense of the often-bizarre elements it generates through the use of random tables (not to mention the equally bizarre elements it simply presents straightforwardly). Looked at this way, I feel a lot less annoyed at the subsequent history of the game than I originally had, but I'm more ... disappointed? ... that so few gamers have seen Gamma World for what it can be: a real workout for the imagination -- not to mention a lot of fun.