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February 3, 2012 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Mountain Dew, Gamma World - and cake! GeekDad's Ethan Gilsdorf uncovers a long-lost pile of loot - silent Super 8 footage of a 1981 Friday night D&D session. JJ Abrams couldn't have faked it this good. (SLYT-sorta)
posted by obiwanwasabi (35 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm amazed I'm not in this movie. I mean, I am in it, just in a different town.
posted by chavenet at 3:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


On the flip side: Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Porn Stars [NSFW]
posted by chavenet at 3:49 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Instead of the film projector noise, he really should've overdubbed some Rush.
posted by item at 3:52 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Man, I owned Gamma World but never found anyone who was willing to play it with me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:58 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This makes me nostalgic for that episode of Freaks and Geeks where Daniel played D&D with the Sam and Bill and Neal.
posted by mhum at 4:16 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have been 10 years old at the time of that video, and my 10 year old self would have killed to hang out with such cool 15 year olds.
posted by bswinburn at 4:47 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um, in that maxim link cavenet just posted, am I correct to understand that the porn stars are playing THAC0? Now that's surprising.
posted by Tesseractive at 4:54 PM on February 3, 2012


i just came in here to say "THAC0".
posted by radiosilents at 4:54 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knew someone in the comments would recognize the module. G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King for those playing along at home.
posted by khaibit at 5:14 PM on February 3, 2012


Hall of the Fire Giant King! Where you meet Obmi the mad dwarf! And Eclavdra the drow priestess! These guys were playing hard core!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed I'm not in this movie. I mean, I am in it, just in a different town.
posted by chavenet


That's what I came here to say. I am pretty sure I had that one guy's glasses and that other guy's 12 shirt.

That could seriously be DJ, Hutch, Buck and I settling in for a 35 hour D&D marathon. As the article states, "at least there was a Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide. We knew what we needed to roll to succeed or survive. Rulebooks and the possibility of predicting outcomes offered comfort."

And I failed the saving throw. I am going to be nostalgic for a few hundred rounds, at least.
posted by sciatica at 5:49 PM on February 3, 2012


I had that guy's glasses, too -- in fact, as a blurry film still, it could have been mistaken for me, except that at that time I would have been playing AD&D, Gamma World, or Traveller in NJ, not NH.
posted by fings at 5:53 PM on February 3, 2012


I have the original A1-4 series, which leads to the G1-3 series, which leads to the D1-3 series and ends with the Q1 series. It is my dream to someday run this whole campaign, though the odds of this happening are increasingly slim.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:57 PM on February 3, 2012


Umm. Things to consider -

1) No label on the 2-liter bottle... no anachronism =or= trademarked logo that needed to be removed. And did anyone actually see a football team logo with those Seahawks jerseys? And jerseys? I had a Sea Hawks t-shirt (my dad had regular business trips to Seattle). I didn't know anyone who wore a jersey in junior high.
2) There's a scene where a kid is sitting next to a table lamp, but the shadow is sharp and short right behind his head. Overhead fluorescents generally weren't that intense, unless that's a 15w bulb or something in the table lamp.
3) Trouble keeping focus for group shots under incandescents - OK, sure, wide aperture, narrow depth of field (but this is Super 8? Tiny little frame, deep depth of field? )
4) Crystal clear close-up shot of a pencil eraser, a full-frame close-up of a d12, and you can read what's on the DM screen, despite it being dark and the camera moving and panning. None of the faces were that sharp and well lit, none of them.
5) The film leader is vignetted. The white part with the red lines. The part the camera didn't expose, but was exposed at the factory as part of the manufacturing process. Being exposed to daylight, leaders generally don't get vignetted, unless he was recording the projected video to film, rather than paying for a transfer and applying movie-projector-sound-effects, which is how =absolutely everyone putting super 8 film online does it=. Maybe he paid extra for the vignetting from the film transfer company?

I'm overly paranoid, I know. But still. They couldn't get the well lit group shots in focus, but the wobbling pencil eraser was? You couldn't tell what soda they were drinking, but you could identify the module they were playing? Did they even make a Super-8 camera with a macro lens? Google says "No," but maybe they used a diopter filter or something.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:39 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would a kid in Jersey be wearing a Seahawks jersey? Also, the label on the pop was turned away from the camera.

I looked for the beans but the only thing I saw on plates were pieces of cake. I did like how Gamma World was so radioactive it made it hard to keep the shot in focus.
posted by mwhybark at 6:52 PM on February 3, 2012


Good point, probably a 1981 Eagles jersey. No? Hmm... a Giants jersey? The Jets? Nope.

Seahawks? Pretty close.

A modern NFL "Throwback" jersey (the one on this site honoring Reggie White, who joined the team in '85?) Yup.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I really tried. I just don't buy it. There's no way this movie was made anytime close to when it is alleged to have been. There's just too many outright nostalgia shots of things we'd have never known, at the time, that we'd even need or want to feel nostalgic about, then. It's just not. Believable.
posted by newdaddy at 7:37 PM on February 3, 2012


And did anyone actually see a football team logo with those Seahawks jerseys?

The fashion style of ubiquitous, widespread, officially licensed gear hadn't taken off in 1981. And the late 70s were pretty renown for off-brand and no-brand knockoffs. Probably just a generic "football jersey" from Sears.

but you could identify the module they were playing

Yes. It's Hall of the Fire Giant King, as I said above.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:41 PM on February 3, 2012


1981 Sears Catalog. Nope.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2012


Jesus Christ, calm the fuck down. Sears wasn't the only place to buy Sears-like items.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, but it was generally preferred.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:13 PM on February 3, 2012


Quick, someone start an Architects and Engineers for Gamma World Truth wiki.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:43 PM on February 3, 2012


Slap*Happy, please don't make me dig through old photos looking me wearing that shirt. It will undo the therapy.

Was there a kmart catalog?
posted by sciatica at 9:18 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


80s Computer Show
posted by Artw at 11:00 PM on February 3, 2012


Guys, the economics of this guy faking the video make no sense. It'd have been terribly expensive to hire a bunch of kids, make them up, get all the right gear synthesized etc, for a blog post.

Jeez.
posted by effugas at 11:01 PM on February 3, 2012


Don't take this the wrong way, but the fact that you're seeing a number on a shirt and immediately grasping for the appropriate NFL team is teleology in action, with some false pattern recognition to boot. There's no reason not to believe it's just a shirt with an number on it. I mean, the shirt I think you're talking about has no logo or insignia, and it just looks like a normal shirt, not any of the polymer jerseys you are linking to.

While I'm willing to be wrong, I don't see anything credible to support this being a fake. I mean, it's a game about rolling dice and there is no sound, what *else* are you going to film? If there's any interesting conversation going on, you can't capture it, so you need to focus on everything else - dice, books, screens, drinks, and friends. I have boxes full of photos that are basically the same stuff, except from the 1990s.
posted by absalom at 11:08 PM on February 3, 2012


On the one hand, WotC would really like older players to buy D&D from them again. Currently, most of the D&D being played is not the official, current edition -- it's Pathfinder, older editions and a few small press clones. The stated goal of 5th Edition is to get this fractured community behind one version of the game.

The timing is suspicious. Ethan Gilsdorf has been writing about gamer-geek culture for a couple of years, but those years were less convenient for WotC marketing purposes. Hasbro (WotC's parent) *has* been marketing the game more aggressively (PR-driven news), but might not care enough to pay for sophisticated viral marketing -- D&D is a tiny property to them. Some of the details require some knowledge to fake, such as the modules (a game session in 81 would be less likely to use G1-2-3, and would have the individual tournament modules, which they do). At the same time the fact that every shot of a book is blurred enough to obscure details that might give the game up to collectors, while keeping them recogizeable, makes it *intriguing.*

I think the most likely explanation is that he had the movie lying around, was contacted, engaged in some brainstorming that led to this, and may end up being a go-to contact to talk about the game in his market segment. In any event, it's not crazy to doubt that this came about entirely due to luck and love.
posted by mobunited at 12:04 AM on February 4, 2012


I kept waiting for the demon to show up, summoned by a chance roll of e dice. At least JJ Abrams would know how to end this film PROPERLY.
posted by happyroach at 1:16 AM on February 4, 2012


mobunited,

OK, I admit, that is in fact a vaguely plausible tale that solves the economic problem. Also, the way the ending jitters didn't feel too great.
posted by effugas at 1:34 AM on February 4, 2012


(I still think it's real, though.)
posted by effugas at 1:38 AM on February 4, 2012


the hairstyles, the clothes, the mountain dew cans, the lamp, everything you see in that video looks 1981 to me

especially the pop bottle - look at it around 59 seconds in - it's clearly got a plastic orange lining around the bottom

unless it's different in your neck of the woods, they stopped making them that way in the late 80's/early 90s

so that bottle - which would have been a 64 oz bottle, NOT a two liter, doesn't throw the video into question, but actually proves its authenticity

also, there were generic football shirts around back then
posted by pyramid termite at 7:04 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am pretty sure I had that one guy's glasses and that other guy's 12 shirt.

The peace sign guy? I had his haircut.

Instead of the film projector noise, he really should've overdubbed some Rush.

I tried that. Surprise, surprise, Tom Sawyer makes a pretty good soundtrack.

I suppose the whole thing could be faked, but that seems like a lot of effort for a little return. It's a damn good one if it is. More likely, it's a case of old footage being snazzied up here and there with modern software.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:40 AM on February 4, 2012


I wore generic football shirts around this time, that bottle is old, and I think this fake. It just feels wrong.

I suppose the whole thing could be faked, but that seems like a lot of effort for a little return.

We're talking about it and it fired up mass nostalgia. Labor of love stuff.
posted by codswallop at 4:15 PM on February 4, 2012


Yeah, those early 80's PET bottles had a glued-on opaque base (because the bottom of the bottle was round, not with the little molded-in supports as today)*. Also, the bottle cap is metal, and the label is a rectangle glued to one side, rather than the plastic slipcover used today. The bottle certainly is period-correct.


* My late grandfather, a farmer, used these ripped-off bottoms of soda bottles as planters to start seedlings. They were sturdy, free, and had built-in drainage holes!
posted by Robin Kestrel at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're talking about it and it fired up mass nostalgia. Labor of love stuff.

I guess so. Congrats to the artist(s) who made this clip if it was produced solely to evoke Gen Xer nostalgia; it's better than any episode of Freaks & Geeks. If it's a viral ad, then I'm not sure who is the target. I'm not rushing out to buy games again on account of the warm fuzzies.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2012


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