Hey, What's the Rumpus? The CD-ROMs of Theresa Duncan
May 11, 2015 9:00 PM   Subscribe

In December of last year, the NYC-based digital art nonprofit Rhizome successfully Kickstarted an online exhibition of cloud-emulated copies of the three CD-ROMs created by Theresa Duncan and based on young girls' everyday experiences. Last month, they were made available for play for a minimum of one year with probable extension. You can read about - and, thanks to embedding - play them at Rhizome itself and The Verge (or just play them right here). Note: you may have to wait in a queue. Also, you may have to wait a while for the computer running the game, which will be streamed to you, to start up.
posted by BiggerJ (9 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, and you will automatically be disconnected after three minutes of inactivity. If the emulator takes that long to start up - I haven't gotten past a black screen myself although it may just be my browser, my connection or NoScript ('temporarily allow all this page' may help) - clicking on the virtual screen occasionally may allow you to stay connected.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:05 PM on May 11, 2015

Just got it working (NoScript was causing the problem - 'temporarily allow all this page' was the answer, and going directly here simplify things) and discovered that Chop Suey runs on an emulated classic Mac. You'll need a decent connection to run these.
posted by BiggerJ at 9:09 PM on May 11, 2015

I don't think the delivery is super ideal (my connection is poor, so streaming is...an adventure), but I'm really glad these are being preserved and made available to a modern audience. They're really pretty fascinating artifacts of a more optimistic, experimental era that probably just came too soon.
posted by byanyothername at 9:32 PM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a KS backer. I'm glad the work was done, but I've been pretty disappointed with every aspect (never got the games to load, the rewards were pretty vague and it seems like I haven't received anything promised, and all communications were glib and unhelpful) since then. Hopefully they will find a way to actually deliver on their promise and not retreat into some opaque dissimulation about preservation versus what the KS actually set out to do.
posted by 99_ at 10:49 PM on May 11, 2015

I have a good connection, AdBlock disabled, and I was first in the queue, but these still aren't working for me. I see the loading screen, but then get a black box and nothing more. No love for Firefox, perhaps?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:00 AM on May 12, 2015

This sounds like a really aggressively awkward way to present an old game. Does anyone know why they're doing it this way instead of something easier to run? Copyright restrictions due to only having five discs or something?
posted by egypturnash at 7:22 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Verge article explains it pretty well:
Streaming the game also lets Espenschied add little touches that would be awkward or impossible in a downloadable version. When players select a title, they’re treated to the sight of Mac OS 7 booting up, then a mouse navigating to launch one of the games — they’re being emulated inside the operating system. It’s not the same as using an actual ‘90s computer, but it helps remind players how the original audience would have seen it.

And it can help contextualize the other differences. Espenscheid describes the little emulation window as a kind of theater, reminding people of the limits that helped shape the look and feel of the games — like their bright, flat-toned graphics. "They only had 256 colors, yeah? And they threw everything in Photoshop with 24-bit color, and then it was dithered down," he says. "So it’s easier then to understand that this was maybe not an artistic choice, but just a necessity, if you present it small. If it’s small, it looks old. If the fonts are not smooth, but if they’re blocky and pixely, it looks old. If the mouse cursor is just black and white. It looks old. ... It just enhances the perception of the piece."
Instead of using a Mac OS emulator, or actually porting and updating the games to run on modern hardware a la GOG, Rhizome opted for the streaming approach to ensure the experience is closer to what it was in 1995, and to work as more of a museum piece kind of deal. I think that's neat but, unfortunately, has some fatal hiccups. Hopefully, at some point, there's enough interest to just make them available for modern OSes, because there are a lot of issues with this delivery and it's a shame.

There may also be some legal ownership nightmare, as there often is with games made before...2010? Not a very forward thinking medium, games.
posted by byanyothername at 8:37 AM on May 12, 2015

It's a shame that emulating a classic Mac is such a runaround of building software, downloading illicit ROMs from dodgy sites, and then installing an OS from creaky old image files. It would be nice if systems of no commercial value could be held in trust rather than lying in copyright limbo. Data lives forever, childhood memories burn bright, but reliving those memories is made far harder than it should be.
posted by scruss at 10:30 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I first learned who Theresa Duncan was in a previous (contentious) FPP on Metafilter. All else aside, I was glad for it because it introduced me to her work. I'm happy to see these games released so people can experience them like they did when she first made them.

Thanks for this post--the release of these games is, as the article from The Verge says, a good antidote to Gamergate-esque misogyny.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:53 PM on May 12, 2015

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