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‘Pesterminator,’ the shit video game that advertised Western Exterminator
10:42 am



The 1990 video game Pesterminator: The Western Exterminator is not as Burroughsian as one could hope. In fact, it’s not Burroughsian at all; it’s a disappointment in every way. The box promises nine infernal levels, the perfect number for a Dantesque descent into a rat-infested hell, but in fact the game only contains eight, one of which is the moon. Yes, the moon, from which Ronnie the Super Rat is “radiating the Earth with his powerful PEST BEAM,” causing our planet’s rats and bugs to rise up and demand what’s theirs. Do you really want to interfere with Ronnie’s project? I, for one, incline to the view that these noble species deserve their turn at the top of the food chain.

The hero of Pesterminator is the Western Exterminator mascot, the stern-looking, long-nosed person with the top hat and the hammer who overlooks L.A.‘s Hollywood Freeway and is variously known as Kernel Kleenup, Inspector Holmes, Mr. Little and the Little Man. Though he’s probably best known in the states where Western Exterminator has offices (California, Nevada, Arizona), I once saw a Kernel Kleenup figurine in a Philadelphia warehouse, and Van Halen fans will recognize his image from 1984 tour merch.

The game was produced by Color Dreams, a notorious manufacturer of unlicensed cartridges for the Nintendo Entertainment System whose subsidiary Wisdom Tree later produced many of your favorite Bible-themed video games. As an irate video game reviewer says on YouTube:

Games like Pesterminator are so horrible that they make you wonder why they were ever made at all. Who in their right mind would want to waste their time on such a futile endeavor? Color Dreams made it? Huh—well, that explains everything. They always seem to waste everybody’s time making shit, but this game is really dreadful, even for them.

“ANOTHER FINE AMERICAN MADE GAME,” the copy on the box boasts:

When you’re bugged by nasty pests, it’s time to call Kernel Kleanup [sic], the familiar character from Western Exterminator. Ronnie, the super rat, and his friends are pushing for a hostile takeover and their territories cover Houses, Office Buildings, Warehouses, Hotels, Swamps, and even the Moon. Watch out bugs, PESTERMINATOR has a big surprise waiting for you!

In the early days of the home video game console, one of the fun things that used to happen was this: you would visit your schoolmate at his mom’s condo and he would spend an hour or two “showing you how to play” his favorite games, after which it would be time for you to move on to a different activity or go home. Today, you can relive those precious moments by watching someone else play Pesterminator below. Let’s hope Ronnie and his army of plague-carriers annihilate the human race this time!

H/T Ben McKean

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Guess Wu? The Wu-Tang remix of a classic board game
03:15 pm



It’s quite common to come across specialized chess sets—the original Star Trek cast versus the Next Generation gang, Yankees vs. Mets, Cannonball Run, what have you. And we’ve all seen a million versions of Monopoly—actually, a million seems conservative.

Yes, it’s long past time for the remixers to branch out. Where’s our Game of Thrones version of Stratego? Or an Iron Chef take on Candy-Land? You could do a lot of satirical stuff with The Game of Life, I reckon.

Noisey has gotten off to a good start in this direction with its recently announced hip-hop adaptation of the classic game Guess Who? (Actually, I never heard of Guess Who? until today, but I’m assured it’s a classic game.) Noisey’s version is called Guess Wu? and you don’t need to be a molecular rocket surgeon to figure out that they replaced all the generic personages from that game with the dozens of colorful folks who populate the Wu-Tang Clan universe. And it’s high time, too.

The big flaw of the original Guess Who? is that the faces on the game cards were a bunch of generic (white) middle Americans that nobody playing the game gave a hoot about, but if you switch in America’s most inventive and idiosyncratic collective of top-selling hip-hop artists, well—now the game suddenly works again! When you ask, “Did this Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated rapper almost became the voice of the horse in a reboot of Mr. Ed?” everyone at the table will instantly recognize that story to involve Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Come to think of it, Ol’ Dirty Bastard would be the answer to most of the weird Wu-Tang shit I have rattling around in my head.

Noisey says they’re considering doing a giveaway, so stay tuned.

What song could be more appopriate for this post than “Back in the Game,” off of 2001’s Iron Flag?


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
For the rich nerd who has everything: 1d20 carved out of woolly mammoth ivory
10:14 am



So you own all the manuals and modules and miniatures, yet still your D&D tabletop feels incomplete. Might we suggest one thing that’s sure to make you the coolest dungeon master on the block: a twenty-sided die carved out of real Pleistocene-era woolly mammoth ivory.

Woolly mammoths, huge elephant-related beasts, roamed the earth until disappearing from their mainland range at the end of the Pleistocene era, some 10,000 years ago. From time-to-time, well-preserved specimens of mammoths are discovered in the frozen bogs of the far North. So well-preserved, in fact, that 250,000-year-old woolly mammoth meat was reportedly served at the 47th Annual Explorer’s Club Dinner to a bunch of rich 1950s nerds.

Apparently the Artisan Dice company was able to get their hands on some of of these rare, well-preserved mammoth remains—specifically the tusks. From this (apparently very foul-smelling) ivory they have created a line of twenty-sided-dice for use in the role-playing game of your choice. Though their site doesn’t mention how they were able to obtain such historically significant remains to carve into RPG accessories, we’re taking their word for it that this is the real deal and that there are no preservationist directives banning the repurposing of mammoth ivory.

According to their site:

Mammoth ivory has some very unique characteristics hiding within its aged and flaky bark. The inner layers polish to an brilliant luster that showcase a wonderful grain in the form of a subtle cross hatch pattern, and distinctively heavy weight along with a crisp sound when rolled as a die. On top of all that, it produces one hell of a stink when worked. It’s by far one of the worst smells in the shop. Enduring that pungent aroma is well worth the results though as mammoth ivory makes some of the best dice on the planet.

The company made a run of two-dozen dice which were presented in an Eastern Aromatic Cedar box with a Black Walnut insert and priced at a meager $248.00 EACH.

They sold out of this run within 24 hours of making them available.

But never fear wealthy role-playing game and dead mammal enthusiasts, Artisan Dice promises to be preparing a second run and are currently taking pre-orders.

The mammoths didn’t make their saving throw against extinction, but their power and majesty lives on—possibly in your parents’ den—with these exquisite dice.

You know you want a 1d20 from ca. 20k B.C.

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘MANOS: The Hands of Fate’—the video game!
01:53 pm



Pop culture is so strange. Things catch on and end up in places that couldn’t have been foreseen at the time of creation or release. Think of Ed Wood’s career, gleefully cherished by film buffs, then turned into an object of derision in movies like It Came From Hollywood but THEN transformed into an occasion for authentic poignancy by Tim Burton.

Or consider MANOS: The Hands of Fate, a schlocky occult/horror movie from 1966 that hardly made any waves when it came out (it failed to recoup its $19,000 budget).
It was directed by Harold P. Warren, an insurance and fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas. He starred in it as well. It played only at the Capri Theater in El Paso and a few drive-ins in West Texas and New Mexico.

In the movie, a vacationing family loses their way on a road trip and ends up trapped at a lodge in which a polygamous pagan cult has taken up residence. It’s worth reading Wikipedia’s account of the movie’s demerits: “The film is infamous for its technical deficiencies, especially its significant editing and continuity flaws; its soundtrack and visuals not being synchronized; tedious pacing; abysmal acting; and several scenes that are seemingly inexplicable or disconnected from the overall plot, such as a couple making out in a car or The Master’s wives breaking out in catfights.”

In 1993 Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran an episode about MANOS, and it’s become one of their most popular episodes: On this vote taken on a MST3K message board, the episode in which the gang riffs on MANOS clocked in as the second-best MST3K episode of all time, behind only the deliriously funny Space Mutiny episode.

In 2012 FreakZone Games released a Nintendo-ish adaptation of the game—it’s in the familiar Mario Bros. style and uses set pieces from the movie. It’s not every schlocky horror movie that gets transformed into a video game FIFTY years later, but if you get lucky, even weird things like that can happen. This year saw the release of MANOS: The Hands of Fate—Director’s Cut, an improved version of the game with cut screens—you can buy it here.
Here’s some gameplay from the 2012 version:

The full movie of MANOS: The Hands of Fate:

And the MST3K treatment of MANOS:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Dallas Cowboys merchandise by feminist conceptual artist Jenny Holzer
12:09 pm



“BOREDOM MAKES YOU DO CRAZY THINGS” cap, originally $19.99, now $10
The craziest things happen and then you find out about them years later. Like how Jenny Holzer has done artwork for the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes. Jenny Holzer—the conceptual artist whose work consists entirely of cryptic slogans—works for the Dallas Cowboys. The relationship started several years ago but I only learned about it through an article published yesterday by Hyperallergic.

When the Dallas Cowboys moved into its expensive new stadium, called AT&T Stadium, for the 2009-2010 season, the Cowboys’ owner put on display a lot of splashy and expensive artworks by some grade-A artistic talents, including Trenton Doyle Hancock, Teresita Fernández, and Mel Bochner. One of the artists in the group was Jenny Holzer; she had adapted her Truisms series for the stadium’s massive new video screen, reputedly the fourth-largest in the world.

Jenny Holzer, “For Cowboys” (2012). Photo: Jean-Sébastien Stehli
Some site-specific art in a big football stadium is one thing, but having your work be available for sale as officially licensed Dallas Cowboys merchandise at the Dallas Cowboys online store is quite another. The Holzer items consist of four shirts and two caps, but there may have been others. A search on Google Images turned up a “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY” model that appears to be out of stock.

Since the 1980s, Holzer has been one of the more successful cross-over successes in terms of authentically confrontational art (whose work is also cool and reserved as fuck). Her canny deployment of koan-like, or if you prefer, fortune-cookie-ish messages in public settings, often scrolling LED displays or T-shirts, has a way of bringing uncompromisingly leftist ideas (insofar as there’s an agenda at all) into the everyday lives of Americans. For her part, as an artist probably should, Holzer rejects the label of feminist, but her work speaks for itself—especially when the work is saying things like “MOTHERS SHOULDN’T MAKE TOO MANY SACRIFICES” or “RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY,” the latter of which, interestingly, was one of the slogans she chose for her Cowboys clothing.

Holzer’s Cowboys apparel is decidedly more confrontational and provocative than Mel Bochner’s over-eager “Win!” shirts, also available in the Cowboys’ online store.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty badass. If you’re an artist and you can choose between putting art in MoMA and putting art in the sightlines of regular sports fans who don’t give art much or any thought, it can’t be close, to a true provocateur.


“PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE” T-shirt, originally $27.99, now $15

“EXPIRING FOR LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT STUPID” T-shirt, originally $24.99, now $10

“A SENSE OF TIMING IS THE MARK OF GENIUS” T-shirt, originally $27.99, now $15

“WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE” cap, originally $19.99, now $10


via Internet Magic.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Ennuigi’: Nintendo for pretentious existentialists
02:29 pm



English-speakers might say “existential despair,” among a number of different terms. Germans refer to Weltschmerz. As is often the case, the French have the perfect term to represent a somewhat intellectualized world-weariness that positively cries out for a pack of Gitanes. The term is ennui, and it’s so useful that we’ve incorporated it into our language. Using a French term gives the depression that extra bit of useless panache.

A game designer named Josh Millard has created the perfect Nintendo-style game to match that mood—it is called Ennuigi, and in it you can “spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother have made.”

Did I mention you can play it? Yes. You can play it.

Here is the complete list of controls:

left/right: walk around
up: ruminate
down: smoke

That’s right. You can walk left or right, but jumping? Jumping is not consistent with ennui!


Ennuigi in mid-rumination
Here’s Millard’s fuller description of the game:

This is a shot at a collection of ideas I had a few years ago, about looking critically at the universe of Super Mario Bros. in light of the total lack of explicit narrative in the original game in particular.  Who are these strange men?  What motivates them?  By what right do they wreak the havoc they do on this strange place?  What do they feel about where they are and what they’re doing?

And so, this is one lens through which to look at all that, with Luigi, the second brother, the also-ran, as a complicit onlooker, wandering now through some fractured, rotting liminal place in this strange world, reflecting on it all in scattered fragments.

The slow, tinny music is a perfect complement to this dreary, Beckettian video game.

via Internet Magic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Sexism,’ a disturbingly accurate board game from 1971
11:02 am



Sexism board game - 1971
Sexism. A board game from 1971
Sexism was a board game, conceived back in 1971 by Carolyn Houger, a resident of Seattle, Washington. With the creation of Sexism, Houger hoped to “bring out the humor in the Women’s Liberation movement.” The idea for the game came to Houger after her four-year-old daughter returned home after playing the card game “Old Maid” with her friends and made the statement, “wouldn’t it be terrible to be an old maid?

According to the folks over at Board Game Geek, the goal of Sexism is to move from the “doll house,” to the White House (flash-forward 44 years and we’re still waiting, but I digress). The first player to move into the White House, wins. Sexism is compelling on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start. Just take this game board square from Sexism called “Abortionist.” The square itself depicts a pregnant woman and a clothing hanger(!) with the following game instructions if you land on it:


The bill didn’t pass.

Go to the Maternity Ward

Laundry Service and Part-time You Know What!

Sexism encourages players to play as their opposite gender as it is known to produce “hilarious role-playing situations.” So, if you win as a “woman” the game will instruct the other players that, “You are now a person, and must be treated as such for 24 hours. Non-winners may be treated as usual.” If you play as a “man,” you are greeted by a cartoon of a large thumb pushing a woman down with the following message: “Congratulations, you’ve won — or have you?” Wow.
White House or Playboy Club game squares from Sexism
Decisions, decisions. White House or Playboy Club game squares from Sexism

When it comes to the cards that you might draw while playing Sexism,  playing as a woman you might draw a card that says “Go back two steps because you’re a woman. You’d just as well get used to this.” Whereas a man might draw a card that makes this incredible statement:

I staunchly defend motherhood, God and country. I’m against giving more money to ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) for each child. I’m against abortions. I’m against women earning as much as men. I’m against paying taxes for free child care centers. Go ahead three steps.

In an interview with Houger from 1972, she said that her intention wasn’t to create an “anti-male” game. In addition to enlightening folks to Women’s Lib, Houger had high hopes that the game would start a dialog about sexism, as well as help people understand that both men and women should be treated as “people.” Houger also said she wanted to highlight the fact that women can also be sexist, by “reinforcing sexism” with their actions or attitudes, especially when it comes to assigning gender-specific roles - a point that she makes rather directly on many of Sexism’s game squares.

More on Sexism after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A board game based on ‘The Shining’ actually exists! Download it for FREE!
09:21 am



The Shining boardgame, 1998
The Shining, the boardgame. 1998
Yes, you heard me right. A board game based on Stanley Kubrick’s mind-fucking film The Shining actually exists!
The Shining board game counters and pieces (front and back images)
The Shining board game counters and pieces (front and back images)
The two-player game was created back in 1998 along with assistance from Stephen King. Which makes this an extra cool find as King (as you probably know) wrote the 1977 novel on which the film is based. The prolific author even acted as the games very first tester. Best of all? You can download the game FOR FREE and put it together yourself.
The Shining board game pieces
The Shining board game pieces
The Shining boardgame gameplay with Jack Torrance and snowmobile
The Shining board game gameplay with Jack Torrance and snowmobile
As far as gameplay is concerned, it all starts with the news of the approaching winter storm, which in turn enables the ghosts that inhabit the Overlook Hotel to get to work scaring the shit out of The Torrances’. One player gets to be the Torrance family, while the other player is the House (or the Overlook Hotel). According to a detailed review of the game via a Stephen King fan site, The Torrance family members are able to “engage in mental attacks on the ghosts” and there are even “implements of destruction” available to use such as a snowmobile, an ax in the garage (because, of course), a mallet, and a knife in the Overlook’s kitchen. Aparently the game isn’t a long, drawn out affair and can be completed in a relatively short period of time. The only gripe that I read about was that if players do not monitor the Overlook’s boiler pressure closely enough, the entire hotel gets blown to kingdom come.
The Shining board game map one
The Shining board game map one
The Shining boardgame layout
The Shining board game map two
If this sounds like a good time to you (and it should because all work and no play will make you a very dull boy), you can download the game here.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Cold War dollhouses from the Socialist paradise of East Germany
12:20 pm



The Flickr user diepuppenstubensammlerin (the name means “the dollhouse collector”) has a remarkably wide-ranging and detailed series of galleries documenting dollhouses from Germany, with many of the sets pictured dating from the 1950s through the 1970s. The set pictured here came from a company called VEB Grünhainichen, if I understand correctly, and it was in East Germany, in fact on the border to what was then called Czechoslovakia.

The notion of children playing with dollhouses that have this kitschy wallpaper and kitchen tiles or tasteful/chintzy furniture of indubitably modern design. All you need is a Trabant driving by outside or the tones of the Klaus Renft Combo emanating from the hi-fi system and the picture is complete.

This all ties in vaguely with something we covered a couple of years ago, “Ostalgie,” which might be translated as “Eastalgia,” a coinage that refers to nostalgia for the old German Democratic Republic, or the DDR as it is known in German.

Helpfully, diepuppenstubensammlerin supplies a little explanation as to what we’re looking at:

VEB Holzspielwarenfabrik Grünhainichen
Die Fabrik wurde 1952 in Grünhainichen, damals DDR, als Volkseigener Betrieb durch die Verstaatlichung der Großhandelsfirma Cuno & Otto Dressel gegründet. Sie produzierte hochwertiges Holzspielzeug auf einem künstlerisch anspruchsvollen Niveau. 1966 wurde die Fabrik im Zuge der totalen Verstaatlichung aller Betriebe mit anderen Fabriken zu dem Kombinat VEB VERO zusammengeschlossen.”

Which basically means, the factory made wooden toys in Grünhainichen in the German Democratic Republic. The factory was founded in 1952 as the state-owned version of the company that had been known as Cuno & Otto Dressel. The factory produced high-quality wooden toys of a high artistic quality. In 1966, as part of the total nationalization of all businesses, the factory was combined with other factories to create the VEB VERO company.

If nothing else, acquring these dollhouses would enable children to stage their own versions of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul or any number of Rainer Werner Fassbinder classics. (Yes, Fassbinder mostly worked in West Germany, but the aesthetic of these toys fits either way…..)

Click on any image for a larger view.


More dollhouses after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Video game update scrambles race and penis length for avatars with hilarious results (NSFW)
03:59 pm



Rust is a survival video game for PC/Mac/Linux in which players have to do their best to cobble together the most rudimentary kind of life after an extreme bug-out bag scenario. Quoting the promotional text for the game, “The only aim here is to survive. To do this you will need to overcome struggles such as hunger, thirst and cold. Build a fire. Build a shelter. Kill animals for meat. Protect yourself from other players. Create alliances with other players and together form a town. Whatever it takes to survive.”

In initial versions of the game, every character was white, but in March the game developers introduced a broader racial palette in an update—the tricky thing being that race is randomly assigned to avatars based on a randomized agorithm based on the player’s Steam ID—and can never be changed again. On a blog post, lead developer on the game Garry Newman explained, “Everyone now has a pseudo unique skin tone and face. Just like in real life, you are who you are – you can’t change your skin colour or your face. It’s actually tied to your steamid.”

It’s a risky strategy when you consider that if a white supremacist broheim ends up having to play the game with a black guy as his on-screen surrogate, he might well just stop playing altogether. Of course, the gamble is that people’s desire to enjoy the game trumps their seldom-examined racial biases.

As Kotaku commented, “Multiplayer survival game Rust ... randomly generates players’ physical characteristics for them, imitating the screaming chaos of biology rather than letting players choose. It then ties that selection to players’ Steam ID (as opposed to a single session or server) so they can’t game the system. You work with what you’ve got. Earlier this year, the development team added skin tone to the mix, prompting some controversy and even in-game racism.”

Now this week Rust developers have added a fascinating new quirk—randomized penis length. Just as with skin color, penis length is a randomly generated outcome based on the Steam ID. On reddit an mp4 file was posted demonstrating some of the variance in physical build, both for the avatars’ full bodies and for their penises. It’s one of the funnier things I’ve seen lately—here’s a taste:

Forcing players to deal with their god-given (new) race or penis size is the kind of immersive mindfuck only video games can deliver. It may have been noticed that all of the avatars mentioned so far in Rust are male. The developers recently let it be known that they are “investigating a female model.” To their credit they are pushing for the opposite side of the female body type spectrum as Tomb Raider: “We really don’t want to make the female model unrealistic in the sense of her being aesthetically idealised. In the same way that our male models aren’t perfect specimens of the male body, neither should the female be. No huge boobs nor four-inch waists here.”

Indeed, in our all-too-familiar world in which women are objectified by default, it’s refreshing to see women’s bodies depicted in a realistic way—and to see men get the exact same kind of treatment.

Here’s a depiction of the Rust female bodies in development:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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