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.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
UPDATE (11/8): Here’s a rough schedule for what I’ll be playing all day:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
This post is fairly late, but hopefully you still have an opportunity to participate in the Lost Histories Jam!
When we talk about the history of games, there tends to be a focus on famous milestone games, people, and companies. But gaming history is so much more than a list of greatest hits, and this week is a chance to fill in some of the gaps from our own experiences. From now through Saturday, February 16 [UPDATE: extended to Sunday], Emilie Reed is running a writing jam about lost video game history, specifically personal histories, the ways that we’ve interacted with games that aren’t reflected in conventional stories of video game history. Quoting Reed:
Just think about it, what was something specific to the way that you played or experienced videogames that you feel like hardly anyone ever talks about? How can the community-based, experiential, specific, overlooked and personal enrich the common-knowledge history of videogames?
I’m extremely late posting this with only 3 1/2 days to go before the end of the writing jam, but that might be enough time for you to collect some thoughts about how your own experiences can inform the history of video games.
Even if you can’t enter, you can read along as folks add their entries to the Submissions page. I’ve already submitted mine, a rambling, stream-of-consciousness essay about the Mario fangame community where I spent my teenage years, viewed from the lens of a series of really bad games I helped make. It was awkward to write something so personal, but I think it’s worth opening a window to that and examining it.
Take some time on Saturday morning to write about something unique in your personal history with games and submit it to the writing jam! (I’m sure if you go over the deadline that’s okay!)
“True Weird Stories from Video Game History” at Super MAGFest 2019. (from left to right: me, Frank Cifaldi, Rachel Simone Weil, Kelsey Lewin) Photo credit: AtariSpot
It’s been a few days since Super MAGFest 2019. While I’d usually wait to talk about the event until panel videos are available, I want to recap the weekend while it’s still fresh.
This year was incredible. The video game history panel track was a huge success. We put on 11 unique, insightful panels on a wide range of topics, and they brought in big audiences. (Three panels, including our midnight panel on weird game history, were standing room only!) Our panelists represented a variety of perspectives, experiences, and interests, and I’m proud of the voices we showcased.
I was amazed by the synchronicity between the panels. They were in dialogue with each other – referencing shared ideas like “evocative objects,” preservation through play, and, surprisingly, the Nancy Drew games. They made a strong case for the importance of archives. They challenged the social and cultural assumptions behind how we tell the story of video games and questioned the value of nostalgia. One of our panelists literally challenged the audience to a fight. And the history topics fit neatly into the rest of the MAGES educational panel section; they felt right at home alongside psych research, musicology, and art history.
One goal with the panel track was to foster a gaming history community, where historians, archivists, and fans could interact and learn from each other. This was just one panel track over three days, but it felt like we started something. The response from both the panelists and audiences has been outstanding.
Thank you so much to everyone who attended, and thanks to all our panelists – Carly Kocurek, Kelsey Lewin, Anne Ladyem McDivitt, Kevin Bunch, Florencia Pierri, Michael Hughes, Rachel Simone Weil, Jeremy Parish, Bob Mackey, Chris Sims, Andrew Borman, Beth Lathrop, Campbell Parker, and Frank Cifaldi. It was a pleasure and an honor to meet and to work with all of you. Just typing out everyone’s names like that is ridiculous. This was an amazing event.
Videos of every panel should be available in the next few months as MAGFest gradually uploads everything.
UPDATE: The videos are up! I’ve embedded the playlist below, starting with Carly Kocurek’s panel.