Welcome to the Extraordinary Things wing of the Shacknews 2022 Hall of Fame class. We define "extraordinary thing" as something directly or indirectly related to video games that influenced or spoke to some facet of the industry. Some entiries include Further Reading sections where you'll find features and other stories that further illuminate this year's inductees.
When you're finished, use the Table of Contents at the bottom of the page to visit other areas of the Shacknews Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
In the 90s the idea of virtual reality was still in a conceptual stage and while you could argue it remains there today, we have come leaps and bounds since then. Case in point, BattleTech Pods and Virtual World game spaces. Essentially, folks could go to a space for an immersive experience somewhat akin to laser tag. Only instead of blasting targets on a suit as you ran around, you would hop in a large rectangular pod with a CRT monitor, a couple of joysticks and some LCD panels and switches and take control of a BattleTech mech or compete in a spaceship death race.
The pods featured modes that would allow younger or less experienced players to handle everything with some basic controls. However, more skilled players could take the immersive experience even further since the various switches and panels inside the pods were actually usable. The graphics were nothing fancy, just your standard early-to-mid-90s polygonal affair, but it was a unique gaming experience. In the long run, places like Virtual World ended up being too pricey and too much of a novelty to keep the lights on for the most part, but a handful of BattleTech locations specifically still exist today. It might not be the craze it once was, but you have to give them credit for how innovative they were at the time.
Config.sys. Autoexec.bat. Reading those filenames triggered fond memories or nightmarish visions of late nights struggling to run the latest games for MS-DOS—or perhaps both. In the era when Microsoft’s command line-driven OS was the most popular way to play PC games, mastery over config.sys and autoexec.bat, which told your computer which hardware to enable at launch, was critical to gaming bliss. Memory was limited, and every piece of active hardware consumed it. By copying your computer’s config.sys and autoexec.bat files to a floppy disk and editing each line to disable unnecessary hardware when your computer powered up, you could give games the resources they were starved for while keeping the master copies of your boot files intact.
Boot disks are no longer necessary, but they are more than an antiquated piece of media. Learning the intricacies of controlling hardware through text files shed light on how your gaming machine worked. Gleaning such valuable insight was a stepping stone that led many gamers into careers in computer science, perhaps even in the gaming industry.
The 90s were a golden era for fighting games, as audiences were introduced to Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and a slew of other fighting franchises that continue on to this day. Interplay wanted a piece of the pie by putting out a parody fighter called Clay Fighter. It was a hit and work soon began on a sequel. One of those sequels would be designed for the Nintendo 64 and would be titled Clay Fighter 63 1/3. The game itself was no good, but that's not what we're here to induct anyway.
No, we're here to induct Clay Fighter 63 1/3's marketing campaign. Interplay had already generated laughs for poking fun at its competitors with the original game and looked to go farther with 63 1/3, but instead, Interplay's new marketing campaign became more infamous. Clay Fighter 63 1/3's ads and magazine previews were one of the earliest examples of deceptive marketing, which included high-quality images that were not indicative of the final product. On top of that, it featured characters that never made it into the final product. It was one of the earliest and most egregious instances of "What you see is not what you get." With the rise of social media and the internet growing more into prominence, most consumers have become more conscious and wary of flimsy advertising.
While Clay Fighter 63 1/3's marketing is largely remembered as being one of the most misleading campaigns in gaming history, it's memorable more for (unintentionally?) building anticipation for the Blockbuster Video-exclusive Clay Fighter 33 1/3: Sculptor's Cut. This featured many of the cut characters that were originally shown off in various magazine stills, as well as other various refinements. Clay Fighter 63 1/3: Sculptor's Cut remains a collector's trophy, as only 20,000 were produced and were never sold in stores.
“It looks like you’re trying to write a Shacknews Hall of Fame entry. Would you like help?” How can you not love Clippy? This anthropomorphic paperclip, sporting nothing more than a pair of eyes and matching brows, not even a mouth, made its way into the hearts of people around the world when it debuted as an office assistant in Microsoft Office 97. Basically, Clippy would pop up to see if you needed any guidance in making a resume, essay, or any other number of digital documents.
Although Clippy is remembered fondly now, as an assistant it was a bit divisive. Some people got annoyed by its constant presence and others just found it to be useless. Microsoft finally sunsetted Clippy after Office 2003. Strangely enough, Clippy wasn’t even its real name, just an endearing moniker given to it by its adoring public. Its real name was Clippit, but let’s be real, that’s just not as catchy as Clippy.
IBM was working on artificial intelligence long before everyone was experimenting with AI art and ChatGPT. Deep Blue was a purpose-built IBM supercomputer that was designed to be a chess expert. After predecessor Deep Thought lost to chess champion Garry Kasparov, Deep Blue stepped up to battle in 1996.
Deep Blue became the first machine to defeat a chess champion, taking game one of the match with Kasparov. Ultimately, Deep Blue still lost the match against the chess master. Deep Blue has inspired a whole slew of AI experiments, with IBM Watson taking on Jeopardy! opponents and AlphaGo defeating human Go players.
Deep Blue was truly an extraordinary thing to behold back in the 1990s, and we are honored to welcome this technological marvel into the Shacknews Hall of Fame as part of our class of 2022.
While we often consume video games using various means of technology nowadays, there have always been alternate ways to dabble with the world of gaming. For example, card games as well as tabletop games. Arguably, no tabletop series is more iconic and easily recognizable than Dungeons & Dragons, a game that has enjoyed some remarkable staying power in the years since it was first published back in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules.
Not only is D&D the long-standing leader of the tabletop genre, it continues to be referenced and recognized in various other popular media with one notable example being the show Stranger Things. If you’ve played one or more tabletop games in your life, chances are there are elements within them that have been directly influenced by D&D such as the use of dice and the d20 system published in the 3rd edition of D&D back in 2000, and a player to help lead the game under the role of Dungeon Master (DM).
PC gamers who grew up in the ‘90s and 2000s have fond memories of packing their beige towers, chunky CRT monitors, and a crate full of peripherals and driving to a meeting place—usually a friend’s house, but sometimes the garage of a mutual acquaintance or a conference room in a hotel—and unpacking their gaming rigs for a night of multiplayer mayhem. Connecting to local area networks in a room full of friends was a treat, especially in the days before broadband connections were ubiquitous. Unlike consoles such as the Nintendo 64, you didn’t have to share screen real estate with your buddies. You were on your system, with your configuration, playing games your way, with your best friends across the desk or across the room.
The option to connect via local area networks faded as online gaming became the dominant way to play PC Games, but there’s nothing stopping you from making time to meet up with friends in the same room, with your gaming machine, to relish one of the best social experiences gaming has to offer.
It feels like just yesterday, Wizards of the Coast released one of the most popular tabletop card games ever created into the wild… Magic: The Gathering. Following the game’s initial release nearly a decade ago in 1993, the game has steadily risen in popularity with over 35 million MTG players reported as of December 2018. This should come as no surprise, especially with the rules and ways Magic: The Gathering can be played staying fresh and evolving alongside the game over the years.
Wizards of the Coast has also found new ways to reach even more players over the years, drawing in new players and creating fresh incentive for older players to jump back in with unique offerings outside the physical card game including a free-to-play online variant called Magic: The Gathering Arena. Regardless of where and how you play, at its core Magic: The Gathering revolves around using a deck full of land, spell, and creature cards to steadily reduce your opponent’s “life total” from 20 to 0.
There are alternative ways to win outside of this including emptying your opponent’s deck as a player will also lose if they no longer have cards to draw from. Additionally, there are different types of decks that can be created in Magic: The Gathering based around different card colors, each sporting its own distinct approach. For example, there are blue-based decks, red, black, green, white, colorless, and mixed decks with multiple colors and colorless cards included.
To draw a card to play such as a creature or spell, you’ll first need to use land to create the necessary amount of mana. Using land or mana consists of “tapping” the card by rotating it 90 degrees to reflect the card has been used. At the start of the next turn, cards will untap allowing them to be used again.
As you might be able to tell from this brief description of the game alone, Magic: The Gathering is a card game that can be increasingly complex and intricate. Given the sheer number of cards that have been released over the years as well, there’s no shortage of ways for players to experiment and approach matches with other Magic: The Gathering players. While the meta for the game is constantly shifting, one thing that’s unlikely to ever change is the raw appeal Magic: The Gathering has as one of the most unique, addictive card games ever created.
Back before digital content was readily available on the internet, game companies were looking for inventive ways to enter into the new age. Digital magazines that came on CD-ROMs were somewhat of a stepping stone between print media and the internet as we know it now. PlayStation Underground was launched in March of 1997 and featured game demos for PS consoles as well as interviews with the folks behind the biggest upcoming games. Since most consoles at the time had only limited internet capabilities, if any, Sony making a monthly CD magazine to deliver the newest demos was a pretty brilliant idea. The final issue of Underground hit shelves in 2002, but the moniker would come back as part of the PlayStation’s internal blog as a show where the staff would check out and play the latest games, in a sense coming full circle from its beginnings as an internet forebear.
Founded in August 1996, a mere two months after the release of Quake, QuakeCon was started by 30 people who posted up at a Best Western hotel in Garland, Texas. Those pioneers took a break from playing Doom and Quake to stare in amazement when John Carmack, a co-founder of id and one of the chief architects behind the FPS staples, strode into the room and held court for nearly an hour.
QuakeCon grew year by year. Every summer, attendees converge on a hotel in the Dallas area, traveling with their computers and setting up in the BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) area for a weekend of fun, friends, gaming, and junk food. QuakeCon holds special meaning for Shacknews, which started as a Quake fan site dedicated to news about the series and a place to download the latest updates and read through id’s patch notes. For many players, QuakeCon is the place where many friends meet up each year to reminisce about good times, play their favorite golden oldies, and create new gaming experiences and memories.
In the late 1990s, developers of Shadow Warrior and Quake II—along with thousands of moviegoers—happened to go to theaters and watch Eraser, an action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in which the star wielded a futuristic gun capable of firing slugs that hit like trucks and left wispy blue trails in their wake.
Both development teams were inspired and incorporated the “railgun” into their respective games. Shadow Warrior and Quake II released in 1997, but id Software’s rendition was arguably the most popular. With a perfect visual kick and aural punch that complemented the spiraling blue trails of its slugs, Quake II’s railgun reduced Strogg enemies to giblets and could even blast its way through multiple foes at once. Facsimiles of the railgun have appeared in other FPS games, but the weapon became synonymous with the Quake franchise when it returned in 1999’s Quake III: Arena. Quake II and Quake III did not include sniper rifles, but thanks to the railgun, they didn’t need one.
The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge contained its own game, and a means of breathing new life into your old Sonic 2 and 3 carts. By slotting either of the aforementioned games into the slot on top, Sonic & Knuckles let you play through Sonic 2 and 3 with the titular echidna. That connectivity made Sonic & Knuckles both a game in itself and a sort of expansion set that put a new spin on two of the Sega Genesis’s titles.
With over a dozen entries, the Chessmaster series reigns supreme as the bestselling chess franchise in video games. If you’ve played any of them, the reason why becomes readily apparent. The box art of many editions tantalized players with the image of a sorcerer, painting a picture of the game unfolding as a sprawling campaign between armies—which is precisely what chess is, but that artwork captured the imagination.
That artwork opened the door; charming graphics, simple but inviting interfaces, and availability across numerous platforms and operating systems wooed consumers to play for over 20 years until the franchise went dark in 2008. The final entry as of our induction was Chessmaster Live, a version for Xbox 360. Owned by Ubisoft, Chessmaster seems like the perfect IP to appeal to a casual audience on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows 11 PCs.
The Simpsons has had its fill of video game parodies over the course of its 33 year (and counting) run. Season 7's "Marge Be Not Proud" stands out as an especially fun episode filled with gaming references, which wasn't as common in 1996 as it is today. Beyond the references to Mario, Sonic, and Donkey Kong, there was a fictional golfer named Lee Carvallo. For every kid who wanted Bonestorm, they usually wound up with Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge.
While Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge was a brilliant gag at the time, it has since an often-used reference across the internet. Meme culture has come to appreciate Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge. Its following is such that a young grad student named Aaron Demeter even made a playable version of the totally-made-up game.
Muppet Learning Keys & Kid’s Computer Keyboard was one of the most innovative computer peripherals to ship during the Commodore 64 and Apple II era of computer gaming. The keyboard included a software disk that contained some Muppet games like Muppet Slate, Muppet World Book, and Muppetville. The device also supported some other games from the Sesame Street franchise.
The peripheral device was a truly extraordinary thing that introduced a whole generation of children to the fun of computer games. The combination of educational content and an easier to use human interface device really created a never before seen user experience on personal computers. It is an absolute pleasure to induct Muppet Learning Keys & Kid's Computer Keyboard into our Shacknews Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2022.
South Park celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022, making the cultural phenomenon eligible for Shacknews Hall of Fame induction. While the franchise may not directly fall into our coverage space here, South Park has had countless classic gaming and technology moments. From recent episodes that have made fun of NFTs, to past episodes that poke fun at Nintendo consoles, Pokemon, or World of Warcraft, the cartoon series has had a lot to say about video games over the past two and a half decades.
The South Park franchise has been adapted to video games several times, with varying results, but today’s induction is a celebration of the show’s longevity. South Park’s rise to popularity was most certainly an extraordinary thing to behold back in the 1990s, and we can’t wait to see where the team at South Park Studios takes fans in the future.
There's a theme to some of this year's Extraordinary Thing entries and they involve movie adaptations that were heavily maligned at the time of their release. When Street Fighter: The Movie released in 1994, just three short years after the release of Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior, it was panned by critics and series fans. There were so many problems involving the movie's cast and its ridiculous plot and none of it felt like it had anything to do with the source material.
Having said all of that, in the years since it released, Street Fighter has found new life as one of those "so bad, it's good" movies. It's a such a sublimely terrible movie that it goes all the way back around to being fun. A big part of that is the great Raul Julia's performance as M. Bison. We'll have more to say about him elsewhere in this year's Hall of Fame class. Street Fighter's charm also comes from a blissful combination of horrendous acting and ridiculous dialogue. In one scene, there's a truck full of explosives heading towards one of Bison's facilities. Everyone is watching it rapidly approach through a security cam feed. When Zangief (played by Philadelphia-born bodybuilder Andrew Bryniarski) yells out "Quick! Change the channel!" there's nothing left to do but laugh.
Nobody here is saying Street Fighter is good. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's horrible. However, it was also the best encapsulation of that era in video game adaptations and firmly established that there was nowhere for future video game movies to go but up. (They mostly didn't for a very long time, but that's another story for another day.)
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