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!

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 of my coworkers couldn’t donate during the stream but pitched in another $25, raising the total 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

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