Category: Blog

Introducing Obscuri-Tuesdays! Blog category

A modified screenshot from Delrina Daily Planner 3.0, a planner program for Windows 3.1. The planner page says "Obscuri-Tuesdays. New posts on Tuesday! For now! Begins on 8/25/20"

Modified screenshot from Delrina Daily Planner 3.0

Welcome back, and welcome to the start of something different for The Obscuritory!

For a long time, I’ve wanted to figure out a more stable writing schedule. One of the things I’ve always struggled with is working at a consistent pace. It’s been especially difficult this year, with new exciting sources of stress popping up every week. Part of the issue is that I tend to publish things as soon as I finish them, which leaves me on a constant treadmill to keep writing. At the same time, I recognize that as blog readers are waning in popularity and more people are going first to social media or YouTube, following a blog in 2020 is more difficult than it’s ever been, and it would help readers if I had a more reliable schedule.

So for the last couple weeks, I’ve been drafting a bunch of posts in advance instead! I have about a month’s worth of articles ready to go, which gives me a much longer runway to keep writing, or, if I need it, to take a break for a while. It also means I can set up a regular schedule, rather than just publishing posts as they’re completed.

From now on, new articles will be going up on Tuesday mornings! I’m calling this Obscuri-Tuesdays. (It was suggested that I do Thursdays instead so I could call it Obscursdays, but I like sharing them earlier in the week.) I hope that posting new articles at a regular time will make this blog a bit easier to follow!

This won’t be every week, but it will be on Tuesdays. I can’t promise that I’ll be able to keep up the pace of writing one article per week. Sometimes they take longer to write and research, or I’ll get sidetracked by other things in life. But I hope that taking a quick reset like this will help out in the long run. I’m proud to be able to do this blog on my own terms, and I’m excited about making it more consistent in a way that’ll be better for both me and you!

(On a side note, the fall is usually a slower period for this blog because I’m busy working on special events. Given that just about everything in the world has been canceled, I don’t think that’ll be an issue this year. Silver linings?)

The Obscuritory will continue tomorrow with an article about Mind Walker, a bizarre Amiga game by Bill Williams (Knights of the Crystallion) that takes place in the human brain. See you then – and see you on Tuesdays from here on out!

Learn about multimedia adventure games at virtual Mysterium 2020! Blog category

Stambul City from Spaceship Warlock

Stambul City from Spaceship Warlock

It’s been a quiet month over here. I’ve been a little burned out recently – life is really hard right now! – so I’ve been taking a break again. I’ve also decided to try something new by writing articles in advance, rather than publishing everything as it’s finished, to give myself a longer runway of regularly scheduled posts. Hopefully this will help me write more consistently while this country’s health crisis keeps unfolding. Things should pick up again in a few weeks.

. . .

In the meantime, there’s a fun event next happening next week! I’m talking at this year’s virtual Mysterium, the annual Myst fan convention. Mysterium is one of my favorite events, and I’m excited to be presenting this year.

Like every event, Mysterium has been forced to move online, but that’s given them a chance to put together an incredible event program featuring a reunion with most of the major players in the Myst franchise, including Presto Studios’ Michel Kripalani and Phil Saunders, developers for Myst III: Exile and The Journeyman Project!

As part of Mysterium 2020, I’m giving a talk about multimedia CD-ROM games from the Myst era called “Ages Before Myst”! It’ll be a crash course for the Myst community on the games, software, and technology that led up to Myst, featuring games I’ve discussed on this blog including Hell Cab, Spaceship Warlock, Enchanted Scepters, and more. Myst was a milestone game, but it didn’t come out of nowhere, and it’ll be fun to share some of this historical context with the community.

My talk will be Saturday, August 8 at 6:30pm EDT on YouTube. For a full list of the events Mysterium has in store this year, check the official schedule. See you then!

Streaming schedule for the near future Blog categoryStreaming category

Thanks to everyone who joined the stream last week. It was fun to have everyone unpacking Beyond the Wall of Stars together. The article is still in progress; look for that in the next few days.

The Saturday streaming time seems to work well, so for the near future during the stay-at-home period, I’m going to try to stream every Saturday at 3pm EDT! I don’t have plans for a particular game this Saturday, but please stop by at twitch.tv/obscuritory!

As always, I’ll be drinking plenty of tea.

I’ll still be writing in the meantime – this isn’t a replacement for the blog! – but the streams are a great way to have a community gathering space while we’re all still isolated from each other. This is new for me, so I’ll update this post if plans change.

With the world on pause Blog category

For reasons that are hopefully understandable, The Obscuritory hasn’t been active this month. This is the first time I haven’t posted on the blog during a calendar month since 2015, so let’s talk for a little bit.

The coronavirus outbreak has been stressful, and as I’ve had to pour more energy into my job, I’ve been focusing less on anything else that feels like work. For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a break by helping a friend with a game development project, which has been a new fun set of challenges! I’ve also been getting back into Minecraft after eight years away from the game, because there’s something soothing about chipping away at a giant tunnel, like doing a coloring book. But in general, it’s been difficult to focus, and The Obscuritory has taken a necessary break while I take care of myself and regroup.

I’m eager to get back into it again, but things will probably be a little slower for a while, even slower than usual. I had plans for long-term research projects this year, and I’ll probably need to put those on the backburner for a while too. But I want to help make things less painful, and this blog is a minor thing I can do.

(I swear, there’s this dark historical adventure game I’ve been meaning to play for over a decade, Azrael’s Tear by Intelligent Games, and I finally started on it right before the United States went into emergency mode. It’s tough to get excited about dark, moody games right now, so I’ve put that one aside again for the time being. Look forward to that in another decade, I guess?)

Given that everyone is cooped up at home for a while, I’m going to try streaming unusual old games during this isolation period, just for the sake of having a positive social space. I know I could certainly use that too, and I already have a webcam and microphone for work, so why not? I’ll update on here with more information once I get that going, but please check on Tumblr and Twitch as well if you’re already following there.

Seriously, please be well, and be kind to yourself. We’ll get through this by looking out for each other and treating ourselves well. Nobody is just the sum of their productivity or their work or their output. Rest is good. And bread. Bread is good too.

UPDATE: This is short notice, but I’ll be streaming the 1992 choose-your-own-adventure story Beyond the Wall of Stars today at 5pm Eastern! I should probably make a dedicated post for a streaming schedule, but I’m adding this here for now. https://www.twitch.tv/obscuritory

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!

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.

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!

Seize the Day lives on as the Living Worlds app Blog category

Screenshot from Living Worlds for Android

May 2nd, 5:34pm in the Living Worlds app

Back in 2012, I posted about Seize the Day, a planner program for Windows 3.1 and Macintosh. The highlight of Seize the Day is the “Living Worlds” art gallery – a collection of beautiful animated pixel art landscapes that change over the course of the day. They’re stunning and contemplative. You can stare off into the distance and imagine an entire world as the sun rises and sets.

The only way to view Living Worlds has been either to visit an excellent online version by one of the original developers or to run the original planner program in an emulator. But Seize the Day was a program you’d visit every day as part of your personal digital space, and neither of those methods has the same effect. Now Living Worlds has officially returned in an appropriately personal format – a phone app.

With the support of the artist, Mark J. Ferrari, Seize the Day developers Ian Gilman and Joseph Huckaby have adapted Living Worlds for Android and iOS. It’s a faithful reproduction of the original art, complete with a few more nifty features, like swiping to travel through time. I can’t speak to the iOS version, but on Android, you can set Living Worlds as a live wallpaper, so you get a peek into the worlds whenever you open your phone. As a phone background, it’s finally back in the right format to check throughout the day!

You can follow the development of the app on Ian Gilman’s Medium page. He seems to be regularly adding features to it, including a series of fictional journals written by Ferrari about his landscapes. Seize the Day was fairly literary and wordy for planner software, so that’s a fitting direction to take it in.

This is a terrific reimagining of Seize the Day. It’s great to see it living on in a new form where it belongs!

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