Capitalism Simulation category

Title screen from Capitalism Plus

The tutorial for Capitalism takes an hour and a half to complete.

Capitalism isn’t merely a game about running a business. It’s a game in which you manage a massive corporation down to the smallest details, down to every statistic for measuring brand loyalty and product quality. The micromanagement in this game is so far beyond useful that it feels like it’s just trying to show off how complicated it is.

The game does seem to be faithful to the subject matter, because the endless stream of statistics and relentless pursuit of profit pretty much captures the capitalism experience. » Read more about Capitalism

The dystopian information network of Perihelion: The Prophecy Essay category

The NetStation interface from Perihelion: The Prophecy. The terminal readout lists commands that can be typed in, such as help, talk, ask, analyze, and read.

I don’t usually get to talk about games from a librarian perspective, so please indulge me with this one!

Perihelion: The Prophecy, a role-playing game for the Amiga from 1994, is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk wasteland, built atop the ruins of a technologically advanced society that has long since faded from memory in a nuclear war. Although this chaos-riddled civilization continues to research new technology, notably a new field of genetics that bridges the gap between science and religion to engineer cyborgs and artificial life, there still doesn’t appear to be much in the way of meaningful infrastructure that hasn’t just been repurposed from the old world.

One thing they’ve managed to get working is a crude version of the internet called the NetWork. This might be the most plausibly dystopian part of this whole society. » Read more about The dystopian information network of Perihelion: The Prophecy

Koji the Frog Arcade categoryMacintosh category

Title screen from Koji the Frog

What did Koji the Frog do to deserve this? All Koji wants to do is eat bugs, and not only does he have to deal with angry bees and cars and lightning strikes, but there’s a gopher underground who’s trying to blow up Koji with dynamite! The gopher can’t sleep through Koji’s incessant hopping, so I understand being annoyed by that, but dynamite seems like a disproportionate response.

Koji seems reassuringly chill about this. He carries the same blank expression throughout the game. Even when he wins, to express his enthusiasm, he holds up a sign that says “Ribbit!”, like a Looney Tunes character. Maybe he’ll get eaten by a snake. It’s all good. He’s Koji the Frog.

Screenshot from Koji the Frog

Koji’s gonna fall right into that snake’s mouth and enter a world of pain

Besides the unrelenting misfortune that poor Koji has to endure if he wants a meal, the interesting part of Koji the Frog is how Koji moves around. His tongue can stretch out pretty far, but he still has to jump to catch bugs out of the air. Koji’s hop has a wide arc, which can be tricky to line up with the bugs in motion, so you have to lean into his momentum. Plus there’s the gopher, who will blow you up if you stand still for too long (maybe as a homage to the gopher from Caddyshack?). These minor variations – his limited range, his big hops, the homicidal gopher – add a nice twist to this cute, simple game. Otherwise, it gets by on how utterly terrific Koji the Frog himself is.

I expected that developer Marco Carra, operating under the name Slimyfrog Software, would have exclusively made frog-related games, but most of the other titles in the Slimyfrog catalog are desktop utilities, educational tools, or novelty programs (like EarthQuake, a program that shakes the screen around). That means Koji the Frog shoulders the responsibility of being the only frog software produced by Slimyfrog Software. I am happy to confirm that it is certifiably froggy.

A note on versions

The screenshots in this article might look different than the version of Koji the Frog you can find online. Most copies on the internet are version 2.0.1. These screenshots were taken from version 1.0.1, which was included on the demo disc for MacAddict issue #1.

Below the Root Platform category

Title screen from Below the Root

Below the Root is based on a series of children’s fantasy novels by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and without having read the books, I can’t speak to it as a literary adaptation. What I can say is that the game, co-designed by Snyder, is clearly drawing on rich source material, and the Green-Sky Trilogy is a perfect setting for a game with lots of exploration.

In the world of Green-Sky, the people live up in the trees, in harmony with nature. Relevant to the game, the people in Green-Sky wear these cape-like garments called “shubas” that they use to glide through the air, which are very fun to control. As fun as it is to glide through the treetops, though, the thing that makes Below the Root greater than its parts is how pleasant it is, and how it puts kindness, peace, and connectedness at the forefront. » Read more about Below the Root

Mirage Multimedia category

Title screen from Mirage

Multimedia CD-ROM games – live-action games in particular – can have a bad reputation because it’s easy to dismiss them. They can be weird and obtuse, often told in a way that’s intentionally fragmented, and they’re rarely given the dignity of being appreciated on their own terms. Corny live-action games get lumped into the same category as multimedia art like Puppet Motel. They’re treated as these bizarre anachronistic objects that don’t deserve respect or patience. Yet these sorts of games, which seem the most confusing at first, can be the most rewarding if you give them a chance.

The tragedy of the surreal Western game Mirage is that it justifies those gut reactions. It’s the kind of nightmare fiasco that you’d imagine if you assumed the worst from the genre. » Read more about Mirage

Pandora’s Box Puzzle category

Title screen from Pandora's Box

Here’s a odd thing: back in 1996, Microsoft hired Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, to design puzzle games for Windows 95. Pandora’s Box was one of the games Pajitnov worked on with Microsoft, and it marks a surprising step away from the Tetris-style games that had characterized his work up to this point. Instead, it’s a visual puzzle game, defined by an almost archaic sense of wonder. » Read more about Pandora’s Box

battalion Action categoryArcade category

Title screen from battalion

The poor citizens of this town are not ready for the destruction you’re about to unleash. You, the most adorable monster.

Andy Johnson, the creator of battalion, said he wanted to make a game that was like kids playing with toy monsters in a model city, “the kind of game that Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) would love to play.” In the spirit of Godzilla, or specifically Mechagodzilla, you are a giant monster, inflicting havoc on a random suburban town that’s woefully underprepared to deal with a 50-foot-tall killer robot. battalion is like a cutesy, tiny monster movie, fit into the constraints of a niche computer platform. » Read more about battalion

Game history panels at Super MAGFest 2020 Blog category

Super MAGFest 2020 logo

I’ve been posting a lot of updates and announcements this month because I’ve been busy on special projects… and here’s a big one!

I’m excited to announce that the video game history panel track is coming back to Super MAGFest 2020! Super MAGFest will be held January 2-5, 2020 in National Harbor, MD.

The game history panels were a big success at MAGFest this year, and we’re bringing together another incredible lineup of historians, archivists, and curators to talk about their work. Come learn about the untold corners of gaming history! » Read more about Game history panels at Super MAGFest 2020

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!

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