For Computer Games Let’s Hear it for the Underdogs (And Another Long Tail?)

Here is a CDB “web good dog” nod to “Home of the Underdogs” a site devoted to preserving “underrated” computer games many, but not all of the being “ambandonware” or titles no longer available:

Home of the Underdogs is a non-profit site dedicated to the preservation and promotion of underrated PC games (and a few non-PC games) of all ages: good games that deserve a second chance after dismal sales or critical reviews that we feel are unwarranted. By nature, our criteria for choosing games to be honored here are subjective.

Home of the Underdogs, while not an abandonware site per se (since our aim is to pay tribute to all underdogs, both new and old), supports the abandonware idea. We believe that providing games that have been abandoned by their publishers, while technically illegal, is a valuable service to the gaming community because these games are in danger of disappearing into obscurity, and their copyright holders no longer derive any revenues from them. For more information on our stance on abandonware, please read this section of our FAQ.

One of the larger goals behind Home of the Underdogs is to make it a friendly and dynamic community of classic game collectors, oldies lovers, game designers, and anyone else interested in the history of PC computer games; to be a place for sharing nostalgia, ideas, and information on underrated games.

It has also caught my eye since a visit months ago, is that they are using BitTorrent for their downloads and the Underdog has a one-download-at-a-time policy.

The reason I have used and linked to it goes back to the mid 1990s, when, as just an instructional technology puppy, I pitched the idea of having our faculty review software games for their potential to teaching and learning, thus our “Shall We Teach with a Game?” site which listed the reviews of 8 different titles, from the old Sim____ line SimCity, SimEarth, SimLife, SimHealth, to Hidden Agenda, Myst, Cosmology of Kyoto, and Gadget. This is some oooooooold software (SimHealth and Hidden Agenda were DOS programs, others were for Windows 3.1 and maybe Mac OS 7.

There were some interesting outcomes to the experience. One I remember the most has to do with the lesson that there are many more ways to use a technology than what the creator of it initially designed (the corollary for learning objects: an object designer is the wrong person to define its potential use, use is in the eye of the beholder). This came from a language teacher who had reviewed Myst came up with a way to use it for her Spanish students:

How would you use this program in your class? Identify a specific application for part of your curriculum (if possible).

And then the story of Hidden Agenda, how the references we had hung on the web outlived the software company that published it, yet it thrives today… see “The Long After Life of Simulation Software: Hidden Agenda”

Spanish – Ask advanced students to take a specific segment (i.e. dock to library and secret room) and write instructions out in Spanish – as well as what they saw. The opportunities are endless. Spanish 101 students can learn words and directions and they can be asked to follow directions and they will then have to say where they ended up.

Every few months I get an email from someone who is looking for these games (who knows why) and I have to let them know that we are not the distributors or even owners of the software (in fact, we do not even have the software anymore ourselves).

And that is where the Home of the Under Dogs fits in nicely- not only do they have background, information, and even solutions to these classic games, they offer downloads for most of the games. I especially like their aim at preservation of content, as the people who once owned these titles simply discard web references, information at their whim, neglecting the internet fact that there are niches of audiences out there for old or “underrated” computer games (this is a long tail phenomena, eh?).

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.