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September 7, 2021 10:36 AM   Subscribe

While doing research for Video Dames, a video documentary series on female protagonists in video games, Kotaku writer Kate Willaert found an article that would lead her into a rabbit hole of excess and outrageousness - resulting in her creating a history of one of the most offensive video games to be made. (SLKotaku)

Points of interest include Ed Wood's career as a pornographer, the use of "Swedish" as an euphemism, and planning a pivot from porn to children's media, among others.
posted by NoxAeternum (23 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite


 
If you are not already familiar with said offensive video game, please know that they are not kidding when they call it "one of the most offensive video games to be made." Don't let the fact that it was made in 1982 with 1977 technology fool you. I'm not going to describe it or even name it here, but the article does both.
posted by Ampersand692 at 10:55 AM on September 7 [4 favorites]


Oh, so this isn't about "Leisure Suite Larry"?
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:01 AM on September 7 [13 favorites]


Do I get a No-Prize for correctly guessing what game this (well-written, well-researched, informative) article was going to be about?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:32 AM on September 7 [9 favorites]


US society was disturbed by Sweden's healthy approach to sexuality and then produced... THAT. There's a lesson in there somewhere.
posted by LindsayIrene at 11:36 AM on September 7 [31 favorites]


At least one other adult game designer thought so. Alan Roberts was the creator of X-Man, an adult Atari game not to be confused with the Marvel comics property.

That was an awkward christmas.
posted by adept256 at 12:33 PM on September 7 [19 favorites]


And to think it all started with a Pong.
posted by y2karl at 12:55 PM on September 7


Huh, I had heard about this in the 80s (probably from Byte or Video Games Mag, writing about the controversy in retrospect) but I was always under the impression that it was a text adventure for PCs, like Zork. TIL that it was a shitty action game for the 2600.
posted by anhedonic at 1:05 PM on September 7


I actually played this game one time back in the early '80s. My friend's family owned a video rental store that also rented video games (Atari 2600 and Mattel Intellivision at that time), and he brought it home one weekend along with some other cartridges. We booted it up, tried it for about two minutes, then went back to some of the other games he'd borrowed instead. I don't remember much more than the stupid 8-bit graphic of Custer with a massive boner, and how it just seemed all sorts of wrong, even to a couple of nerdy teens.
posted by briank at 1:21 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


This is just, like, forensic in its thoroughness. It makes me happy to see people doing this kind of historiography, especially about such a niche-y topic.
posted by box at 1:58 PM on September 7 [11 favorites]


The game was Custer's Revenge (Wikipedia link). Warning: rape and racism.

Per the article: Custer’s Revenge starred General George Armstrong Custer, a celebrated Civil War hero whose poor decision-making in later battles with the Lakota resulted in a less-than-heroic death that was inexplicably mythologized as “Custer’s Last Stand.” However, in this game Custer is alive and mostly nude, with a crudely rendered erection. On the opposite side of the screen stands a Native American woman tied to a post. Your objective is to guide Custer past various obstacles so he can reach the woman and get his titular “revenge.”
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:08 PM on September 7


Perhaps inspired by the speech synthesis of the Texas Instruments Speak & Spell handheld computer released several years earlier, AMI was even brainstorming ideas for a handheld electronic game that “talks dirty to the user.”
Anyone who remembers the quality of Speak & Spell can only think this would lead to the development of some very specific fetishes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:16 PM on September 7 [9 favorites]


Leisure Suit Larry is, by comparison, a paragon of virtue and near sainthood.
posted by Jacen at 3:51 PM on September 7 [4 favorites]


"Anyone who remembers the quality of Speak & Spell can only think this would lead to the development of some very specific fetishes."


YOUARERIGHT!
posted by etherist at 3:54 PM on September 7 [4 favorites]


Back in the 80’s, at an Apple Developers Conference, there was a large room set up with computers, for attendees to use to check their email. I was in there checking my email and I overheard this guy go up to someone in charge and loudly ask if the machines had CDROM drives. Yes… He asked if he could use one to demo a new product to some interested parties. The person in charge said ok, but only for 15 minutes. People had email to check. After I got my email checked I got up and noticed a big crowd hovering over a computer and this guy loudly proclaiming and pointing at the screen. I walked over and took a look. It was some adult graphic in both ways adventure game. He had the all male crowd interested. That was when CDROMS were going to change the world. Education! But as we all know, it’s porn that drives technology, ever since the introduction of VHS tapes.
posted by njohnson23 at 4:05 PM on September 7 [2 favorites]


When ricochet biscuit's Speak & Spell video got to "nine", this immediately played in my head.
posted by xedrik at 4:09 PM on September 7 [3 favorites]


By the end of the Atari 2600’s lifespan, the console featured only 10 playable human women. Sadly, Joel H. Martin’s nude female protagonists accounted for more than half of them.

Yowzers. What a great article.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:18 PM on September 7 [5 favorites]


Previously, a bad-video-game podcast learns a valuable lesson (genuinely, I think) when it invites a Native American to discuss Custer’s Revenge on Thanksgiving.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:41 PM on September 7 [4 favorites]


I just read the story. Wow.

Speaking as a former i-team reporter: If only journalists brought this level of digging to their coverage of the Trump Administration.
posted by martin q blank at 5:49 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


A good point was made in the Previously: this game gets way too much attention these days for what it was at the time.

It got a ton of negative publicity, but was a terrible game, hard to find and sold poorly, like most third-party 2600 games around the time of the crash.

If you were a kid (or even an adult) who didn't follow industry news, I doubt you'd even have heard of it.

I will say the article is excellent and a good read, though. Just don't mark this as some sort of milestone in videogame history, just a strange side note.
posted by Ampersand692 at 7:43 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


But as we all know, it’s porn that drives technology, ever since the introduction of VHS tapes

No, it's just that every time a new technology for depicting things is invented, the first use it gets put to is to depict naked women. Though for some reason this didn't apply in the case of cave painting, SFAIK.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 8:54 AM on September 8


Sorry to be boring, but: the story is about an attempt to bring porn to the 2600 that a) wasn't much of a success, and b) occurred just as the 2600's popularity was ending. So if anything it's only a counterexample to any notions about porn driving technology. (A thesis I'm a little skeptical of to start with.)

The 2600's popularity was driven by Space Invaders, or Missile Command, or something.
posted by floppyroofing at 2:02 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


every time a new technology for depicting things is invented, the first use it gets put to is to depict naked women. Though for some reason this didn't apply in the case of cave painting, SFAIK.

Have you seen "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"? It's a Werner Herzog documentary on and in Chauvet Cave in France. (If at all possible, see it in 3D)
Most of the art, painted 32,000 years ago, is of animals - in fact, these cave paintings have helped settle the debate over whether extinct species of cave lions had manes (they did not).
One of the few human figures is the lower half of a naked woman.

In other words, the cave features cat pictures and nudes - just like every other human communication technology. :)
posted by cheshyre at 5:20 PM on September 8 [5 favorites]


Women Against pornography (WAP), and others marched outside the Hilton while holding signs and chanting.

Well that is an acronym that has certainly evolved.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:40 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]


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