Revisiting Obscurity (working title) #1

I was the outcast among outcasts when I was a kid. I wasn't playing Mario or Sonic, I was playing Wolfenstein and digging through shareware compilations. It was awkward at the time, but it's left me with a decade full of offbeat, obscure gems (and garbage) that have long been forgotten.

So, I decided to blog about as many of these "classics" as I could. Both in the interest of revisiting/discovering them, and in the interest of raising awareness of them. I'm going to start by running through the entirety (compatibility willing) of the Game Empire trilogy, one of my favorite shareware compilations. I might do a handful of games per post, or just a couple, depending on how much I have to say about each title. I'm also going to skip card games and "famous" games, although I will touch on some fairly well-known ones. The games will be chosen at random.

After I burn through Game Empire, I plan to keep going with other PC obscurities, but that's going to take a while.

Don't be alarmed... between clones, broken games, card games and famous games, I'd be surprised if there are even 50 games per volume worth covering... not that that isn't still a LOT of games.

Let's get cracking then, shall we?

Game #1: Sledrider (1997) by BOCC Software

1997, huh? Wow. Okay. I'd have pegged it at 1993. I don't remember this one, and it's clear as to why: It's basically a bland mix of Toobin' and SkiFree with none of the polish of either. Not a great start to this project, but you gotta take the crap with the cream. Not much to say about this one.

Game #2: Starfire (1992) by Silver Lightning Software

Ah, here we go. I remember this. It was a pretty fun, if generic, shmup. After playing it again just now, I can honestly say that it is indeed a game I have played. Woof. Okay, it's not horrible, but the controls are really rough, and the horrendous sound actually made me nauseated. The game itself is the usual "shoot a fleet of abstract ships and grab powerups". There's just nothing here worth seeking out.

Game #3: Pong Kombat (1994) Stefan Gagne

And to round out this first entry, we have a personal favorite of mine that I may have cheated the randomized system to put on this list, because I needed a positive note to end on.

This one is a little more well-known. Pong Kombat is exactly what it says: Mortal Kombat-style Pong. It had a weirdly full feature set for a joke game, with secrets, specials, fatalities, even the pit stage in glorious early-90s pre-rendered CG. It's surprisingly fun, too, inspiring a couple fan sequels (that I've never played). I'm still waiting for my $1.34 and a plastic cup, though.

---

So that's three games down. Let me know how I can improve this in future installments, or if I should even bother continuing. Any particular obscure favorites I should look at? Even if I did this daily I'd have years of material, but I haven't played everything. I'm not completely married to just doing summaries, either, if you have any suggestions as to how I could change it up some. Maybe the occasional gameplay video.

5 Comments

Incident One: Video Thing

(Note: Check here for an intro and explanation.)

Everything can be traced back to the "How To Build A Bomb" series of videos. This contained the first incident, and although it was pulled down within seconds of being uploaded, Episode 11 made it's way into the hands of certain collectors. It fetches an ungodly amount of money in private (and insanely illegal) auctions. It is, as far as I can tell, the first conclusive evidence of otherworldly phenomena.

The only reason I can relay these events to you is because of an unnamed Matt Kessler who made me swear that I would keep his name out of it and instead use the pseudonym "Sue Pwallet". He found this video, as well as thousands of documents recording similar incidents, in a hard drive stuck in a vent behind Jeff Gerstmann's desk.

While I obviously can't just show you guys the video, I can at least describe the contents.

----

"It's a pawdcast", Jeff says in a fake drawl as the video starts. He's standing in the middle of the office, pointing at the area where the Bombcast is recorded. Clearly the tail end of an inside joke that they didn't bother to trim.

Ryan walks into frame with a silly grin. "Hey! So here's episode 11 of How to Build a Bomb! Today we're going to look at what a day at the office is like when the cameras aren't rolling."

From this point, the video switches from a handheld camera to something more like a surveillance camera (with sound). There's a lot of idle chatter amongst the crew, and long stretches of silence while work gets done. A little weird, but I like that they don't pretend that it's all zany fun writing about games. Brad is missing, buying food as is later apparent.

About thirty minutes in (the video is unedited... the first ultra-long Giant Bomb content, interestingly enough), I can see that something's not right. Vinny keeps glaring at Ryan. Not in a joking way; he seriously looks pissed. I jump as he loudly slams his fist onto his desk, stands up, and throws his chair at the wall. It bounces off, leaving a chip in the plaster.

"What the FUCK, Ryan?" is all I can make out. The rest of the argument is unintelligible beneath a low, droning hum that starts in.

Jeff collapses onto the floor while the fight continues. He begins rubbing his face on the carpet, hard enough to leave some terrible abrasions. At this point, I'm speechless. This makes no sense.

To add to the confusion, Brad returns to the office with some lunch. "IT'S HOT AND IT'S TASTY AND I SWEAR TO YOU THAT I WILL RIP YOU ALL APART IF YOU DO NOT EAT... RIGHT... NOW!", he screams.

The others mob him and tear into the sandwiches like wild dogs. Brad wipes his hands on his pants and proceeds to viciously scratch at the back of his neck, tearing flesh and exposing bone. He appears to be in unimaginable pain, but he just scratches harder and harder.

An hour in. Looking at the running time, the video seems to be nearing its conclusion, thankfully.

Without warning or reason, the damage is undone. No cuts, no sudden flashes or rewinds, just the nonexistence of what previously existed. Brad and Jeff are wound-free and calmly working, Vinny and Ryan are joking and laughing about Luchadeer. The hum is gone.

A tiny, bizarre sound plays from somewhere off-screen. End of video.

----

I played the last thirty seconds over and over, trying to make sense of that small sound. Finally, I slowed it down... It was a voice saying "ostensibly".

A portent of future events, I can only assume.

2 Comments

It's an intro... about a story... about a website... about video games.

Okay, so I haven't been able to get this dumb idea out of my head. Fanfics about real people have always made me slightly uncomfortable and disturbed, and if there's anything that I enjoy doing, it's making people slightly uncomfortable and disturbed. So what better thing to waste my (and, hopefully, your) time on than a collection of short and surreal horror/comedy stories about the Bomb Crew?

I can't promise that they'll be Worth Reading, but I do hope you take at least a Quick Look when I post each new chapter. If I had more talent, I'd do some sort of Video Thing, but I'd rather do this than go about my usual habit of just playing Random PC Games. Something something Endurance Run.

So here's the introduction, and I'll keep writing as inspiration strikes. I apologize in advance for this stupid thing.

--------------------

The internet is a big goddamn place. Imagine that every website takes up the same amount of space as a building. Google, YouTube, PornHub, etc. would be skyscrapers. 420yolo.com, catfancygifts.com, and so on would be average-sized houses. Mike's Duke 3D Maps and Wishbone Fan Page (under construction) would be a cardboard box in an alleyway.

Picture that, and try not to pee yourself.

Now, with the internet being so unfathomably huge, so bladder burstingly massive, what are the chances that an unassuming man what cracks wise about video games for a website the size of your local PetSmart would accidentally ingest the entire thing?

Pretty fucking low. Which is why that didn't happen. What DID happen takes a bit more explaining. You see, there's this website. Giantbomb.com. To your average Joe McGillicutty that comes across it, it's a weird and funny site about video games. That's Jeff Gerstmann's doing. He founded this site, and it's his job to maintain the facade of relative normalcy.

But I'm here today to tell you this: There's nothing about Giantbomb.com that even comes within the same zip code as "normalcy". What if I told you that one of the staff members, a Bradley Shoemaker, gave birth to himself just last week? Or that one Ryan Davis became a website two days prior?

"That's nonsense", you'd say. You'd be correct, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. That doesn't mean that a Mr. Vinny Caravella isn't occupying the same physical space as Danny DeVito as we speak.

Perhaps I should elaborate, starting with Jeff "Jeff Gerstmann" Gerstmann and the first "incident" following the launch of the website...

10 Comments