Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Obscuritory at Awesome Con! Blog category

Awesome Con logo, courtesy of Awesome Con

Time for some big crazy news: I’m hosting a panel at this year’s Awesome Con in Washington, DC!

Awesome Con is a comic and pop culture convention that has absolutely exploded since it started just two years ago. I’ve gone to both Awesome Cons held so far, and it has been exciting to watch a small artist exhibition grow into a juggernaut with over 50,000 attendees expected this year. As a longtime fan, I’m proud to be one of the panelists contributing to the growing gaming presence at this… well, awesome event.

Much like at MAGFest, I’ll be speaking about great obscure games and why they’re important to gaming culture and the pop culture landscape in general – especially in how they can breed positivity and inclusiveness. Expect to hear about some old favorites as well as other titles tailored to Awesome Con’s sensibilities. I strongly believe that obscure games can invigorate the future of gaming if we play and share them, and I’m ecstatic to spread the obscurity gospel at such a big venue.

(This isn’t a gaming-specific event, so I want this panel to be approachable by anyone interested in games. I’ll consciously avoid jargon and cultural inside jokes when possible.)

The panel, “Obscure Video Game Gems (and Why They Matter),” will be held on Saturday, May 30th, at 5:30pm in Room 102A.

Awesome Con is held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown DC, easily accessible through public transit. Get tickets before they run out! (If you need upselling, the Ponds from Doctor Who, George Takei, and William Shatner will also be there!)

I’ll be at Awesome Con all weekend, and I’ll probably show up in costume and enter a tournament at some point. Greatly looking forward to seeing all the shining, wonderful faces there. This is a fantastic event with a huge variety of content and a strong commitment to being a safe space for geekdom of all walks.

“The future – we’re there!” Rhizome talks Theresa Duncan and the new age of CD-ROM preservation Essay categoryMultimedia category

Panel discussion of Theresa Duncan's CD-ROMs with a scene from "Smarty" on-screen. (from left to right) Rhizome archivist Dragan Espenchied, Participant Inc. founder Lia Gangitano, game critic Jenn Frank, FEMICOM Museum founder Rachel Simone Weil.

(from left to right) Rhizome archivist Dragan Espenchied, Participant Inc. founder Lia Gangitano, game critic Jenn Frank, FEMICOM Museum founder Rachel Simone Weil

Theresa Duncan’s game Zero Zero ends with a fireworks show as the calendar rolls over to the year 1900. “The future,” the protagonist Pinkée cheers, “we’re there!”

FEMICOM Museum founder Rachel Simone Weil mentioned this quote when discussing Zero Zero‘s thematic pining for the future, but it also captures the revelatory feeling of Rhizome’s showcase event for the newly preserved Theresa Duncan CD-ROM games on April 16th in New York City. Their restoration is a watershed moment for gaming – for the revitalization of Duncan’s games, for the importance of diversity in gaming culture, and above all for the relevance and accessibility of the CD-ROM medium. After listening to the discussions and speaking one-on-one with archivist Dragan Espenschied, I left with impossible optimism for the future of these games and other forgotten digital works. » Read more about “The future – we’re there!” Rhizome talks Theresa Duncan and the new age of CD-ROM preservation

NYC dwellers: come to the Theresa Duncan re-launch party! Blog category

Screenshot from Smarty

Hey sports fans! Back in November, I posted about a crowdfunded preservation program for three CD-ROM games for young girls by artist Theresa Duncan. The Kickstarter was a success, and the games will be playable for free via browsers this Friday! I’ll be sure to share the link once they’re available. These are great and still highly important games that absolutely deserve their place in the gaming canon.

As part of the Kickstarter, I’m attending “The Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs,” the games’ premiere celebration at New York’s New Museum this Thursday. The evening will feature a panel discussion from Rhizome’s Dragan Espenschied, Lia Gangitano of Participant Inc., FEMICOM founder Rachel Simone Weil, and game critic Jenn Frank. I’m crazy stoked about this event, and I can’t wait to hear more about these games, the preservation process, and their place in feminist gaming history and broader culture. Expect a write-up afterwards…

If you’re in the NYC area and reading this blog, this is definitely an event you’d be interested in. Buy a ticket and come by! It’s a rare chance to learn about a very special slice from CD-ROM history.

Introducing the Resources page Blog category

The Journeyman Historical Log disc from The Journeyman Project

Playing obscure games can be difficult and exhausting. First you have to find a game, then buy or download a copy if it’s available, then figure out how to run it on a modern computer. That’s no small task. I’ve always taken for granted that I’m good with this, and part of it is certainly my background. I’m from a white middle-class family, and I’ve been immersed in the world of gaming for close to my entire life. I have always had the time, money, equipment, skills, and knowledge to dive into this stuff. Not everyone does.

People who can get into obscure games should be making it easier for everyone who can’t. We should all be pooling our resources to ensure that anyone can find, play, enjoy, and learn from obscurities.

In that spirit, I’ve put together a new Resources guide available at the top of the page. It contains tons of high-quality resources for finding and playing obscure games (with a strong focus on classic computer titles). I use these same materials for this blog and my research. I’ve divided the guide into three sections:

  • Discovering – learning about obscure games from lists, collections, reviews, and enthusiasts
  • Obtaining – getting ahold a copy, physical or digital
  • Playing – making the games run on your system

All three areas can be difficult for some people, and I hope that at least one person finds the resources I’ve put together useful. It was a lot of work, and I think it’s one of the most complete guides to obscure games out there.

I plan to continue updating this guide, so if there’s anything you think would be worthwhile to add, please drop me a line!

Fooblitzky Board category

Title screen from Fooblitzky

Deduction board games permanently live in the shadow of Clue, a masterclass of patient strategy. Knowledge matters more than action in Clue. You can’t organize any sort of power play, and you could feasibly win by watching other players and taking notes. The steady drip of new information allows anyone paying close attention or with sharp logical skills to stay on top.

Almost every game of deduction owes some debt to Clue, and Fooblitzky proudly wears that influence. Created by the complex logic puzzle lovers at legendary interactive fiction company Infocom, Fooblitzky is a shaggier beast than Clue, often crazy, cluttered, and confused where similar games are lean. With so many components to handle in a digital board game, Fooblitzky lives and dies off-board in players’ notepads. » Read more about Fooblitzky