Category: Blog

Spring check-in Blog category

As you might’ve noticed, The Obscuritory continues to be in a bit of a quiet period, which I wanted to address briefly!

Like last year, I’ve been continuing to take things slowly. Now that I work professionally in video game history, I’m deliberately making more time for myself, my friends, and my other hobbies, which naturally means that posts will be less frequent here. But the other very good reason this blog has been less active is because I’ve been quietly working on a huge game history project, which I’m not ready to talk about yet! In previous “things are slow here” posts, I’ve alluded to a secret project I’ve been chipping away at; it’s going full-steam now, and that’s taking most of my energy for writing and research. I’m still a long way from being able to share anything about it, so thanks for being patient while I’m keeping busy out-of-sight. I promise it’s going to be extremely cool — once it’s ready.

In the meantime, I’m still making a commitment to post here at least once a month! I have a draft in progress that I need to finish (maybe this weekend?), plus plenty of other ideas in the queue for future posts. I’m also active on Twitter if you want to hear more about my work with the Video Game History Foundation and, recently, a lot of thoughts about Deep Space Nine. But either way, you’ll hear more from me… at some point!

Updates to the Resources pages Blog category

Screenshot from Museum Madness, showing several tape cassette players on the table. A placard reads "Museum tour on tape, batteries included."

Screenshot from Museum Madness

The Resources section is one of my favorite parts of The Obscuritory. Researching and playing old games can be difficult if you’re not well-immersed in that world, and I love being able to share some of my favorite reference resources and tools for others to use.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the Resources pages, so this weekend, I went through and added about three dozen new links that I’ve been collecting for the last couple years! Here are a few of my favorites…

The CRPG Addict

The author of The CRPG Addict is attempting to play every computer role-playing game chronologically, starting in 1975. The blog is exceedingly thorough as he works his way through every year.

FMV World

Interactive movie-style games, old and new, are cataloged here with almost clinical accuracy. Records for each game include release information, platform, and cast and crew.

The Interactive Fiction Archive

Run by the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, the IF Archive is a long-running directory of interaction fiction games, tools, discussion and community history.

Kliktopia

Kliktopia is a project that tries to collect as many freeware games made with the suite of Clickteam game creation programs — Klik & Play, Click & Create, The Games Factory, and Multimedia Fusion — that were popular in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Lemon 64

One of the largest and longest-running Commodore 64 fansites, Lemon 64 benefits from over 20 years of user-submitted screenshots and reviews for its large collection of information on Commodore 64 games.

PSX DataCenter

PSX DataCenter is the definitive index of games for the original PlayStation console. The site includes release date information, serial numbers, and technical specifics for every edition of every PlayStation game in all publishing regions.

The Rarest Gamer

The Rarest Gamer shares videos, with no commentary, of unusual, unknown games from the 90s and early 2000s. There’s a particular focus on tiny homemade games and ephemeral games.

SuperKids

During the educational game boom in the 90s, SuperKids was a notable source for educational games reviews, as well as an index of educational games organized by subject.

I hope these are useful! I’m so happy that in the 14 years since I started The Obscuritory, there’s more and more great resources, like curated collections and tools for working with old software, that people can use to get into historical games.

Undo game history in the Undo Jam! Blog category

Logo for the Undo Jam, showing a bald man gasping, the Undo icon in Kid Pix.

One of the best things about February is Emilie Reed’s writing jam, an annual event where writers get to explore a unique angle on game criticism and history. Every year, Reed selects a new prompt — like lost game histories, making lists, or speculation about the future of games — and lets everyone go wild with it. It’s a great exercise that helps me get out of my head and write without inhibitions, expectations, or proofreading. Even if I’m not completely satisfied with the results, it gets me jazzed about writing again after a long and (always) unproductive winter.

This year’s prompt is “undo”: going back into video game history and undoing one thing, then seeing how it plays out in the future. It’s basically a chance to write about an alternate history of video games. What would happen if you could change one minor event? How would it ripple out throughout game history and video game culture?

I’m sharing this here to encourage people to participate! I’m still adjusting to my new job at the Video Game History Foundation, so The Obscuritory will be going through another slow phase. But in the meantime, there’s lots of fun to be had with game history, and this jam is a great opportunity. I’m working on a submission that might be one of my first at-length pieces about Nintendo, which is fun and different for me since I usually steer elsewhere in my writing. It’s probably going to be a mess, but that’s the point of a writing jam! Shake off the dust! Let the words flow through you!

Submissions are open through Sunday. I can’t wait to see what everyone submits!

Joining the Video Game History Foundation Blog category

Video Game History Foundation logo

Folks, it’s time for some big news…

I am overjoyed to share that I’m joining the Video Game History Foundation as their new library director!

The Video Game History Foundation is a non-profit organization in Oakland, CA dedicated to preserving video game history. Since 2017, the VGHF team has been tackling the biggest questions in game preservation, working with everyone from private collectors to major developers to help save archival materials that tell the story of video games. The VGHF has built an extensive collection of video game-related items — including magazines, press kits, development documents, and source code — that’s currently in their office in Oakland, and as library director, my job will be to transform that collection into a world-class video game history research library.

I’ve been a supporter of the Video Game History Foundation for years, because they’re helping bridge the gap between the game industry, researchers, and the community to help fix the future of video game history preservation. I am proud to bring my years of professional experience in libraries and archives to the cause. It is a privilege and a challenge, and I’m ready for it.

The Obscuritory has been instrumental in getting me to this point. Every project, every panel, every article, whether it was a massive essay about SimRefinery or a random late-night post about Aaargh! Condor, has prepared me to become a professional video game preservationist. If you’ve been to any of the events I’ve mentioned on this blog, you might’ve seen me on panels with VGHF co-directors Frank Cifaldi and Kelsey Lewin. Well, we’re in business together now! We met in person doing panels together at MAGFest, and our paths have been on a collision course ever since then.

So what does this mean for The Obscuritory? Well, not a whole lot is actually changing. I’ll still be writing about weird old games and doing history research. It’s possible that bigger history or preservation projects might now happen under (or in conjunction with) the Video Game History Foundation, but I’m still going to be exploring CD-ROMs and incessantly writing about Maxis Software on here. Realistically, the biggest change I can imagine is that working full-time on video game history might burn me out on games and push me into non-gaming hobbies for a while. I’ve been getting back into playing trombone again. Maybe I’ll join a ska band?

I feel like I always end announcement posts like this by thanking everyone for reading, but seriously, sincerely, thank you. For the 13 years I’ve been running The Obscuritory, it’s grown from a lark I ran out of my dorm room at 2am to a full-fledged career in a field that didn’t exist when I started. Your support has encouraged me to take this seriously, and now, I get to help build something that’s going to change how we tell the history of video games.

I’ve always prided myself on defining my own life’s meaning. Today, it feels like those years of taking my own path have paid off. I can’t wait to see what we do next.

Pre-order The Boxes of Hock Wah Yeo! Blog category

The cover of the book The Boxes of Hock Wah Yeo, showing the teal, pyramid-shaped boxed for <em>Spectre</em>.

Image courtesy of Colpa Press.

Earlier this year, I published an article about the work of Hock Wah Yeo, a graphic designer who created some of the most unconventional computer game box designs of the 90s. The article got a lot of attention, including from Gizmodo and Kotaku. It was great to see so much interest in Yeo’s work.

And now, his work is becoming a book! Colpa Press is publishing The Boxes of Hock Wah Yeo, an art book featuring some of Yeo’s iconic design work. The book also includes early development sketches of Yeo’s box designs, as well as an essay about his work by designer Chris Hamamoto. The book itself is a bit of an art object too; look at the exposed notebook-style binding!

Colpa Press is a small-run art book publisher, which previously handled the re-release of Osamu Sato’s The Art of Computer Designing. Only 100 copies of The Boxes of Hock Wah Yeo will be printed, so if you want a copy, pre-order it now!

One of the most rewarding parts of doing this blog is seeing games and designers coming to light again, so it’s especially exciting to see Yeo’s work back in prominence!

Talking game copyright on the Video Game History Hour Blog category

Video Game History Hour logo

Last month, the Copyright Office issued a new ruling that could have a big impact on how libraries, museums, and archives preserve software. But unless you’re enmeshed in the complicated world of game and software copyright policy, it’s a little confusing to unpack, assuming you even heard the news at all!

This week, I stopped by the Video Game History Hour podcast, along with Kendra Albert from the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic, to explore what U.S. copyright law means for game preservation! We cover a wide range of topics, from the recent changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to an obscure part of copyright law called Section 108 and how it applies to video games. Do you know what the Copyright Office’s current definition of a “game” is? It might surprise you!

This is my second time joining Frank Cifaldi and Kelsey Lewin on the Video Game History Hour. I love being able to talk about these issues with the gaming community. There’s so much interesting game preservation work that’s happening out-of-view in Zoom meetings and policy groups, and it’s great to shine a light on the effort that goes into these incremental changes that’ll make game and software preservation more accessible.

And we’re back! Blog category

Hello there! It’s been a while, huh?

After a couple of chaotic months, I’m finally in a place where I’m able to start writing again. I’ve recently settled into a new home, and while I still have weeks of unpacking and re-arranging ahead of me, I am relieved to have things situated once more. I’ve set up my writing desk in a beautiful well-lit corner of the room, and I feel ready to wind The Obscuritory back up.

My time away from The Obscuritory has helped me realize what I enjoy so much about this blog, and it’s made me grateful for the thoughtful audience I’ve cultivated over the years. I am so glad to be able to write for my own curiosity, and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you appreciate this stuff for the same reasons too, and I’m glad you’re along for the ride.

The Obscuritory is something I’m proud to do on my own terms. Researching weird old games and writing about them is rewarding for me on a personal level, and as I’m getting back into the writing process, I want this blog to be a more satisfying, balanced part of my life, so I’ll be moving at a purposefully slower pace. It’ll be longer between posts, and I’ll be happier for it, and the fact that I can approach this at my own speed will never stop being a source of joy.

It might still be a few weeks before I can publish the next article, but honestly, I wanted to check in now so that I could keep up the once-a-month posting streak I’ve had going since 2015. In the meantime, there’s a lot of comments and emails to catch up on.

Thanks again for your patience while I’ve taken time off to get myself in order. Like I keep saying, there’s still so much I want to write about, and I’m excited to put virtual pen to virtual paper again. See you here shortly!

Checking in Blog category

The view of the Puget Sound from Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. A few boats are passing along the water

The Puget Sound, as seen from Olympic Sculpture Park.

Hello! I’m still here. I don’t like letting this blog go months without a check-in, so I wanted to pop in and say hello.

I’m continuing to deal with real-life stuff for a while, the biggest of which is that I’m in the process of moving, which is taking a lot of time and energy. I’m also chipping away at a big, sort-of-secret project behind the scenes, so I’m glad to have a little time to work on that quietly.

But I’m still here and I’m doing well! For the last two months, I’ve been catching up on the life I’ve missed since the start of the pandemic. I’ve been spending more time outdoors — having sold my soul to REI Co-op — and I even took an actual vacation to Seattle, which is just a lovely wonderful city that I can’t wait to go back to. It’s been good to have a readjusting period like this, and I highly recommend everyone take a little time to re-situate themselves now that we’re crawling out of the worst of the pandemic.

My hope is that I can resume normal Obscuritory activity sometime around August. The giant backlog of articles I want to write keeps getting longer, and pretty soon I’ll be in a place where I can get back to it at my own speed. Thanks for sticking around!

Talking Maxis Business Simulations on Ireland’s Newstalk! Blog category

Screenshot from SimCity. A river runs through a large city with a marina and a stadium.

Even while I’ve been taking a break, things are still happening. In fact, this week, I stopped by an Irish talk radio program, of all things!

On Friday morning, I joined Moncrieff on Ireland’s Newstalk radio to talk about Maxis, SimCity, and SimRefinery. This was totally unexpected — Irish talk radio?! — and it was a great experience! It’s always exciting to share the Thinking Tools story with a new audience.

(This was my first time doing live radio, and I think I like it? I just recently bought a new fancy microphone, and now I want to do more!)

You can listen to the segment, “When Sim City Got Serious,” on the Highlights from Moncrieff podcast, available on the Newstalk website or wherever you listen to podcasts.

With the world unpausing Blog category

One year ago, I wrote a post about how The Obscuritory was slowing down with the onset of the pandemic. Now I’m writing a post about the opposite — how the blog is slowing down again because the pandemic is approaching its end.

I’ve been fully vaccinated for a few weeks now, and the world is starting to open back up again for me. I’ve been spending more time with friends, going on adventures, and getting my life back in order, and that means that I’m spending less time in front of the computer than usual. I’m happy, excited, and grateful to get more of my life back.

But beyond that, I’m also hitting a transitional point in my life, and I need to figure out what comes next. You may have noticed the rate of new posts here has slowed down significantly since the start of the year, and that’s because I’ve been deliberately spending more time taking care of myself and trying to figure out where I’m headed personally and professionally. The pandemic has been a clarifying moment for me, and it’s helped me understand what I want to prioritize in my life. And part of that means focusing on the other parts of my life that have been atrophying.

The Obscuritory isn’t going anywhere, but it’s going to be quiet for a bit. Writing is one of the things that I’ve realized I value most in my life, and it’s not going away, but this is a point in my life when I need to put other things first for a while. I’m so thankful for everyone who’s continued to read and offer their support, and I’ll be back here soon.

Cunningham Falls in Maryland. The waterfall is running under a rocky crevice in a wooded area.

Cunningham Falls in Maryland

If you’re new to The Obscuritory, this is a good time to read some of the back issues! I recently did some re-organization and created a new tag, “recommended posts,” that features what I think are the best articles on this blog. If you’ve wanted to dive back into the blog, this is a great place to start.

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