Hello New Yorker readers!

Posted on July 10th, 2013 by Frank Cifaldi

That spike in traffic can only mean one thing: someone really cool (or at least popular) has linked to us. In this case, it was Simon Parkin’s excellent article on Desert Bus, the parody mini-game that would have been a part of Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors for the Sega CD, 3DO and PC.

I played a pretty miniscule role in the story of the game’s transformation from a canceled project few remembered into something that has earned over a million dollars for charity, so I’m always flattered when I’m recognized as a part of it — even if the part I played was “guy who torrented it on the internet.”

That said, the only reason I had the opportunity to do so — perhaps the only reason the game is playable at all — is because people believe in what we’re doing and offer their help. The history of video games is still young and fragile enough that we’re losing valuable documentation, oral history and, yes, entire games because there are so few of us around being watch dogs and making sure this stuff is safe and accessible 100 years from now.

Smoke and Mirrors is a rare exception among unpublished games in that it is immediately accessible and interesting — Desert Bus is hilarious, and the entire game is a lost piece of Penn & Teller’s career (not to mention Deborah Harry and Lou Reed!). Most of the unpublished games we’ve conserved over the years at Lost Levels have not received anywhere near this level of attention, but as far as we’re concerned, that’s okay. Conserving this stuff now is not for our benefit: it’s for the benefit of future historians. Video games are part of an art form that is still in its infancy, and when future generations look back on them, we have no way of knowing what they’ll consider important. So our motto is “save it all.”

If you’ve worked on a game that didn’t make it out the door, have some information we might find useful, or just like what we’re doing and want to help, my email is here and my Twitter is here. And if you want to see what we’re up to behind the scenes — or you’re just curious about weird and obscure video games that were canceled before they were released — we’re mostly active on our Facebook group these days.

Thanks,

Frank


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