The Obscuritory at ArchiveCon 2019 Blog category

Poster for ArchiveCon

Right on the heels of the charity stream, I have another event coming up! This weekend, I’m speaking at ArchiveCon, a new event in Baltimore hosted by the Maryland Institute College of Art Game Lab.

In coordination with MAGFest, ArchiveCon is hosting a series of talks on video game history, preservation, and culture, as well as a freeplay game area. I’ll be speaking alongside great folks from the Video Game History Foundation, the Museum of Play, the Library of Congress, PBS Kids, and the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation.

I’m giving a talk on Saturday, November 16th at 1:45pm about the history of Maxis and how their philosophy of curiosity in game design shaped the company. We’ve been asked to leave plenty of room for Q&A, so have your burning Maxis questions ready.

The event is totally free and open to the public. If you’re in Baltimore this weekend, say hello!

Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019 recap Blog category

Screenshot from Wrath of the Gods

Screenshot from Wrath of the Gods

The 2019 Charity Tea Party Marathon has come to an end, and two days later, I’m still blown away. Counting $175 in matching donations from employers, thanks to your generosity, we raised a grand total of $1799.89 for Trans Lifeline!

(UPDATE: One person donated $25 after the stream, raising the hotel to $1824.89!)

Back during the charity marathon in 2016, we raised $200. This year, I optimistically set our fundraising goal for $400 (which I bumped own from $500, thinking that would be too much). We raised over four times the original goal. That money is going to make a tangible difference in people’s lives, and because we beat the ambitious stretch goal of $1000, your donations also required me to play Murder Dog IV: Trial of the Murder Dog.

One other thing I’m proud of is that I made a point this year to take better care of myself. I took regular breaks for food and rest, and I managed to make it all the way to midnight in good health. It was still exhausting, but I was happy to treat myself better and, hopefully, set a positive example!

While I was recovering from the 15-hour marathon, I went back through your donations and the messages you left. I’m overwhelmed by your generosity and support, both for Trans Lifeline and for the event itself. Writing here can feel like broadcasting into the void sometimes, so it means a lot to see folks come together and support each other in a tiny space we’ve been able to carve out for being curious and genuine and drinking an astronomical amount of tea. (Over the course of the stream, I drank about one gallon of tea.)

Thanks again so much for watching and donating.

Just for fun, here’s a list of the hot beverages I drank during the stream. Maybe you want to try some!

Creep Clash Fighting category

Title screen from Creep Clash

The monsters of Necrovania are squabbling for power. Who among them will be crowned the new Great Lord of Necrovania, the “ghastliest ghoul,” to lead the undead into the land of the living on Halloween night? Will it be Pumpkin Pyre, the living jack-o’-lantern? Or perhaps Demon Spawn, the floating horned creature with his chest splayed open to the horror of all who see him? These monsters could’ve come out of a cute direct-to-video knockoff of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Alas, they’re stuck in this awful fighting game. » Read more about Creep Clash

Fact, fiction, and fear in Ghosts and Weird Adventure categoryEducational categoryMultimedia category

Screenshot from Ghosts

Ghosts and Weird: Truth is Stranger than Fiction aren’t exactly educational games. They’re more like those sketchy shows on the History Channel.

There’s plenty to learn in Ghosts and Weird, though not anything you’d hear from a more reputable source. Both these games, created by largely the same team led by producer-director Philip Nash, tell stories about alleged encounters with the paranormal – ghosts, ghouls, hauntings, psychic premonitions, alien visitations, and everything else spooky that somebody ever claimed happened to them. They take folklore, and they blow it out into a larger-than-life 3D world, like a gallery of supernatural curiosities.

This type of immersive encyclopedia was common for a short time in the mid-90s, when publishers were discovering new ways to present information on CD-ROMs, like the virtual museums in Eyewitness Virtual Reality. With The X-Files and the 1995 alien autopsy hoax frothing the public’s interest the supernatural, that made it great subject for a CD-ROM. But in the spirit of a dodgy cable TV documentary about aliens, these two games act like they’re serious informative programs. Is it still just spooky, or is it misinformation?

And can you believe Christopher Lee is here?! » Read more about Fact, fiction, and fear in Ghosts and Weird

Guest appearance on the Bad Game Hall of Fame Podcast Blog category

Here’s a quick plug! This week, I stopped by the Bad Game Hall of Fame Podcast to talk about my favorite bad game, Gooch Grundy’s X-Decathlon. It’s a wild misfire attempt at a comedy-sports game that’s even funnier because it tries so hard to be funny.

Bad Game Hall of Fame is a blog that revisits games with bad reputations and gives them another shot, with a closer look at their history and the reasons they’re disliked. It’s part of Game & Love, a network of queer game bloggers, streamers, and video creators. There’s lovely folks over there!

It was fun talking with Cass about Gooch Grundy! The Bad Game Hall of Fame’s mission has a lot in common with The Obscuritory, so it was great to help celebrate the fun side of bad games with them.

Extreme Rock Climbing Sports category

Title screen from Extreme Rock Climbing

Niche sports should get to be games too! The extreme sports game boom in the late 90s and early 2000s turned skateboarding into its own genre, and that opened the door, however briefly and unsuccessfully, for more games based on smaller solo sports, like Wakeboarding Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray. And why not? They’re athletic challenges that emphasize personal growth and achievement, which is a perfect fit for a style of game where you practice something over and over until you finally nail it in record time.

What sport is better suited for that than rock climbing? It’s a literal representation of that struggle to improve yourself and surmount an obstacle, in this case a giant wall or a cliff. Given the popularity of the sport, it’s surprising that more games haven’t explored rock climbing outside of a few motion-controlled sports titles like Kinect Sports Rivals and Wii Fit U or something intentionally silly like the slapstick control scheme in GIRP. At the moment the extreme sports genre exploded in 1999, there was at least one climbing game. Alongside other games in the Extreme series like Extreme Rodeo, Head Games Publishing released the small and surprisingly clever Extreme Rock Climbing.

But how do you translate the physical challenge and dexterity of rock climbing into a computer game? To find out, we need some help from a delicious, energy-boosting PowerBar®. » Read more about Extreme Rock Climbing

Join The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019 for Trans Lifeline! Blog categoryStreaming category

The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019 banner

Tea icons by Pixture

It’s happening again!

On November 9, I’m hosting The Obscuritory Charity Tea Party Marathon 2019, an all-day stream to raise money for Trans Lifeline.

Trans Lifeline is a non-profit organization that provides microgrants for trans people to cover the costs of name changes and updating IDs to affirm their gender, as well as running a support hotline by and for trans people. It’s a great cause, and it will be great to stream for y’all to raise money for them!

The last time I did a charity stream, I said I’d go for 24 hours, and I did not make it. So I’ll just say that I’m starting on November 9 at 10am EST, and we’ll go from there.

In keeping with the mission of The Obscuritory, I’ll be streaming weird old games and software. But this time, I’m going to try to play a few games at length. I haven’t settled on what we’ll be playing, but it will include a full playthrough of Wrath of the Gods, an extra-cheesy educational live-action adventure game that I want to share with as many people as possible. There will probably be some bonuses too, to be determined.

As the name of the stream promises, I’ll be drinking lots of tea over the course of the day. Bring your own tea too, and we can talk about how great tea is! It’ll be a relaxing, silly, and hopefully thoughtful time.

See you on twitch.tv/obscuritory on November 9! Sign up here for a reminder on Twitch.


UPDATE (11/8): Here’s a rough schedule for what I’ll be playing all day:

10:00am Alien Logic, a surreal RPG set on an alien world. Alien Logic was based on a tabletop ruleset from 1984 called SkyRealms of Jorune, where humans and aliens co-exist on a distant planet thousands years after the collapse of human colonies. I haven’t played Alien Logic apart from testing it for the stream, so this will be a fun one to explore together!
1:00pm Treasure Quest, a puzzle-adventure game starring Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine) that came with a grand prize of $1 million. Treasure Quest is a methodical puzzle game that can take months to work through, which makes it a bad choice for a streaming marathon, but I want to play it for a little bit because I want to share the unusual story behind this game.
1:30pm Enigma, a marble game with over 2000 dense, challenging levels. It’s a doozy, and fitting the chill stream, we’ll play some of the slow-paced Meditation levels, which are more about patience than puzzles.
2:30pm Ballistics, the fastest racing game ever made. Ballistics is faster than you can possibly believe, and I’m gonna try to play it without getting sick.
4:00pm Wrath of the Gods, an FMV adventure through Greek mythology. This is the main event of the day. We’re gonna play through the entire game! Wrath of the Gods is so corny and earnest, and I want to share this goofy thing with as many people as possible.
9:00pm Roly-Polys Nanakorobi Yaoki! By request, I’ll be playing a bit of this recently unearthed game by Osamu Sato, creator of Eastern Mind and LSD: Dream Emulator. I know there’s some Sato fans on here, so I’ve been waiting to play this one for the first time for the stream.
10:00pm The Journeyman Project, a utopian time travel adventure. If you haven’t seen this one, you’re in for a treat. The Journeyman Project is a stone cold classic and one of my favorite games, and it seems like a great, upbeat way to end the day.
??? …and a mystery game! If we raise our goal of $400 for the stream, I’ll play a mystery educational game that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been made available online yet. What could it be? Don’t you want to donate to help trans lives to find out?!

I might mix in a few more games for variety’s sake, but this is the general schedule. See you there!

Marble Drop Puzzle category

Box art for Marble Drop, courtesy of MobyGames.

When I read picture books as a kid, my favorite part was following the illustrations. If there was a cross-section drawing of a house, I would trace my finger up the staircases and through the doorways. That’s probably why I loved illustrated mazes, or the busy scenery in hidden object books, or puzzle books where you had to untangle a bunch of strings, because it’s fun to follow a winding path and see where it goes.

Marble Drop taps into that same sort of fun. It gets you to follow the path that a bunch of marbles are about to take through a complicated maze of gizmos. You don’t even have to finish solving it correctly to enjoy it! » Read more about Marble Drop

When a re-release gets unreleased Essay category

Registration reminder screen from Barrack

The registration reminder screen from Barrack. There’s no way to register it anymore though

One of the post tags on this blog is “still sold,” which I use to indicate games that are still commercially available in some form. Usually, the games were re-released on a digital platform like GOG.com, or they’ve been ported to mobile. Occasionally, they’re still sold through the original developer’s website. It’s worth supporting developers and publishers who go through the effort to make old games available and working on modern platforms, even in cases where the rights might have been snatched up by some larger publisher.

From time to time, I’ve gone back to older posts to add the “still sold” tag them, like Lighthouse: The Dark Being, which was officially re-released a few years ago. But there’s also an alarming movement in the other direction – games that go back out of release. » Read more about When a re-release gets unreleased

Boom Arcade categoryMacintosh category

Title screen from Boom

What do you get when you combine Bomberman and Doom? Chances are, it looks like Boom, a game that certainly does not infringe on intellectual property.

This was a shareware game that was sold for $15, not a free fangame. And despite whatever risk it opened up for the developer Factor Software, Boom doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s basically Bomberman with Doom characters. It even calls the games out by name. You play as a space marine in a green suit of armor who fights aliens – not demons – that look like human soldiers. One of the enemies named Thick Lizzy is almost identical to the fireball-throwing imps from Doom, except that it’s named Thick Lizzy. Technically speaking, these weren’t actually characters from Doom, which must have given the developers just enough of a cover to call it a parody if they needed to. The likelihood is that since the game was for the Macintosh and it was distributed through shareware CDs and the late-90s internet, nobody’s lawyers knew or cared about Boom, and under the cover of obscurity, Factor Software got to see what it would be like to map one franchise over the other. » Read more about Boom

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