An award-nominated documentary and narrative audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. History doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it, and so with The Life and Times of Video Games journalist and historian Richard Moss draws those through lines to tell fascinating stories about the past that link right back to the present.
PAX Panel: Shareware Downunder
I was on a panel about shareware games at PAX Australia in October, with Halloween Harry / Alien Carnage co-creator John Passfield, indie developer and bookshop owner Terry Burdak, and ACMI games curator Arieh Offman. This is the full audio from that panel.
You can find a PDF of my slides from the panel at this Dropbox link. I've also got John's slides in PowerPoint format (so you can play the videos yourself) and Terry's in another PDF.
As for where to find us and the things we talked about:
My new book, Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the Internet, has a website hereYou can find out more about John's past work at the Play It Again website and his personal site. Terry's games studio and shop are located in Melbourne's inner north. You can check out their games and buy some things at https://www.paperhousegames.com/If you live in or are ever visiting Melbourne, be sure to visit ACMI and stop by the free Story of the Moving Image exhibition. And you can find us all on social media. I'm @MossRC on Twitter and @email@example.com on the Fediverse (Mastodon et al); John is @JohnPassfield on Twitter and @firstname.lastname@example.org on the Fediverse; Terry is @PaperHouseGames on Twitter and Instagram; and Arieh is @OffmanArieh.Special thanks to Helen Stuckey for conceiving and organising the panel
And here's the original panel description:
Remembering a time when the shareware demo ruled PC gaming, this panel discusses the impact and legacy of shareware on the local gaming landscape. Featuring author of "Shareware Heroes: The renegades who redefined gaming at the dawn of the Internet" Richard Moss, game designer John Passfield, whose Apogee-published game Halloween Harry / Alien Carnage (1993) topped the charts just before shareware legends id Software made it irrelevant with Doom, and shareware devotee in their youth, indie developer Terry Burdak (Paper House). Panel chaired by Arieh Offman, ACMI's Curator of Videogames for Play it Again: Preserving Australian videogame history of the 1990s project.
Soundbite: Home of the Underdogs founder Sarinee Achavanuntakul on abandonware vs piracy
The founder of influential old website The Home of the Underdogs discusses the difference between "abandonware" and piracy, and explains why the former needs to exist.
If Monks Had Macs
To wrap up the year I wanted to revisit one of my old favourites: a story I made for my other (currently-inactive) podcast about one of the strangest and most thought-provoking programs ever created. This is the story of If Monks Had Macs.
The Tomb Raider grid (remastered)
To celebrate the 25th birthday of my favourite game franchise, I thought I'd pull out the old Tomb Raider grid episodes from Season 1 and merge them into one. I also put some time into cleaning up the audio, though it'll still sound rough compared to newer episodes — given the lower-fidelity recordings I was using then.
MobyGames, the IMDB of Video Games
There was no encyclopaedia nor fleshed-out database of video games in 1999. There were barely even any reliable or comprehensive lists of video games. Not until Jim Leonard decided he needed to build one.
Interview: Kate Willaert
I speak to games historian and graphic designer Kate Willaert about her research and current projects, as well as her efforts to turn this work into a job.
We also voice our complaints about Google's Usenet archives, discuss the horrible world of YouTube publishing, the struggles of getting your work seen/read/heard as a content creator today, the value of a good hook for getting people interested in history, how to structure a historical narrative, our font choices for writing draft scripts, and much, much more.
Interview conducted 1 May 2021
Kate has talked lots about her Carmen Sandiego research, both on Twitter and her blog. Here's one example.
Tetris: The Games People Play, a graphic novel about the history of Tetris
The intro to Kate's (eventually) 50-part video series on playable female protagonists
MobyGames tag for female protagonists (excludes games with multiple playable characters)
Hardcore Gaming 101 feature on 1980s video game heroines
The rules governing her 50-part playable female protagonists series are laid out in the intro video and this article
Atari Compendium's collection of scanned magazines
The Internet Archive's Magazine Rack
The Usenet archives on Google Groups are now mixed in with the other groups and not easily browsable, but search still works
The UTZOO-Wiseman archives on archive.org are a great resource for Usenet posts
American Radio History
Kate's Moonlander article
Kate's YouTube channel
I didn't go into specifics on the many significant games made in 1973, so here are several off the top of my head:
Maze, arguably the first first-person shooter
Spasim, one of the earliest 3D games
Airfight/Airace, the first computer flight combat sim (covered on this show in ep2)
Empire (the PLATO one)
David Ahl's 101 BASIC Computer Games collection/book
Kate's article/video on the origin of the term "gamer"
Kate's Moonlander article has good info and sources for the electro-mechanical Lunar Lander game, but those of you looking for more detail may appreciate this article that contextualises its place in early coin-op game history (the article is about Nutting Associates, but Lunar Lander is mentioned at the end)
Kate's best social media posts are highlighted in her newsletter. Two specific ones we mentioned:
The "City Boy Mario" Twitter thread
The Comic Sans Twitter thread
As of August 9th, 2021, the best of these threads are available in an ebook that's part of a video game StoryBundle along with a bunch of other cool games books. Check it out.
Here's an article with more info about the ideal number of characters per line
They Create Worlds book — publisher website | My Amazon affiliate link
They Create Worlds podcast
The Ultimate Guide to Video Game History by Steven Kent
We didn't talk about it, but the best big-picture, whole-industry history of games that I've read is Replay by Tristan Donovan
(And while we're linking to books, note that my first book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, is getting an Expanded Edition from Bitmap Books, and my second book, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet, is currently slated for Q2 2022 publication.)
Kate's Patreon page
Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Carey Clanton, Joel Webber, Scott Grant, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Seth Robinson, Wade Tregaskis, and Vivek Mohan.
To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email or Ko-Fi, if you're after something specific.)
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My new favorite gaming podcast. Great delivery, great writing, great editing, great story telling. I can’t wait to hear more.
The Realsound episode was great with high production value. Richard format was easy to understand. Digital sound in Macintosh helped paved the way forward to modern sound. It’s crazy the challenges they faced like only one sound could be played at a time, file sizes, and had to create new software. Great work Richard!