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1995’s notable un-games: ‘Cosmology of Kyoto,’ ‘I Have No Mouth…’ and ‘Chop Suey’

I was looking something up online when I fell upon these really excellent gameplay videos by Bruno de Figueiredo (AKA “dieubussy,” AKA the Eastern Mind guy).

And I was really gladdened to see the videos because, not only do they illustrate PC games that are harder to obtain and get running, but these games are also absolutely essential non-games. All three titles are contemplative by anyone’s standards, but they feel especially slow now.

I love Chop Suey and Cosmology of Kyoto, two goalless, meandering works of edutainment from 1995. Both feature hand-drawn art and a lot of dialogue as you click through Macromedia stills.

Chop Suey, a game narrated by David Sedaris (maybe not in this clip, though, but generally, yes):

Cosmology of Kyoto, known best for being the game Roger Ebert called “art”:

And then there’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (also 1995!), which is unplayable in a wholly different way. It’s inscrutable enough as it is; weirder, though, for years it could only be purchased directly from Harlan Ellison himself, I think. Here’s its painfully expository intro:

What other un-games have you played and enjoyed (or non-enjoyed, as the case often is)? Seaman, Electroplankton, The Path...?

20 responses to “1995’s notable un-games: ‘Cosmology of Kyoto,’ ‘I Have No Mouth…’ and ‘Chop Suey’” »

  1. VoxExMachina says:

    I had a disc for a game called, I believe “Bar-Min-Ski” which was a retrospective of works by an artist (Tim (?) Barminski,) which was full of weird images and navigation modes. It wasn’t really a game, but as a kid I approached it as one.

    Also, the Monty Python game was pretty abstract.

    • Jenn Frank says:

      Bill? Barminski?

      Bonus points for the Monty Python game since—if we’re thinking of the same one—it came out in 1995! Voila!

      • VoxExMachina says:

        Bill Barminski sounds right.

        Miss you Jenn!

      • Jenn Frank says:

        San Francisco Alexei?!

      • VoxExMachina says:

        Hmm, it’s not letting me reply to your last comment, but yes! San Francisco Alexei. Actually, more accurately, Santa Cruz Alexei for now, since I moved down here for grad school. I’ve been reading your blog for ages. It’s excellent!

      • Jenn Frank says:

        Yeah, it only nests threads thisfar.

        Man! Grad school, congrats! I’ve always wanted to visit the boardwalk there. edit: The Santa Cruz boardwalk, although a “grad school boardwalk” would also be excellent.

      • VoxExMachina says:

        Oh neat, I can just keep replying and it’ll sort threads correctly. Anyway, yeah, grad school. I’m at the Digital Arts and New Media program at SC, and it’s pretty swell. Drop me a line in my actual for human beings use e-mail address, voxexmachina (at) gmail (dot) com.

        Let me know how things have been!

  2. Kevin says:

    Best example that comes to mind is The Manhole. Didn’t play the PC one, but rather the VIS port (which was the exact same thing) so I had crummy controls to fight with as well, but I recall a friend and I going through that game for some awful reason for about an hour once, as we came to the conclusion that after a certain age, that game is really kind of creepy. There was also this octopus guarding a treasure chest that I’ve never been able to re-locate in that game since that day. Sometimes I question if it truly existed, or if it were part of a fevered dream shared by both of us.

    I also used to play a lot of Mario Paint, though I can’t actually remember what I was even making on it.

    • Jenn Frank says:

      Nice example, mister. The wikipedia entry for Manhole cites two more “endless” adventures, neither of which I’d ever heard of: Spelunx and Cosmic Osmo. Both Cyan, pre-Myst.

      If Mario Paint counts, the Game Boy Camera counts, too, right?

      • Kevin says:

        I do recall loving the hell out of the game boy camera in high school, but I haven’t touched it since. This is kind of a travesty, because even if the resolution was terrible, it was so much fun to take pictures of people and throw them into the minigames. I also printed a few out on the game boy printer, which I can only imagine the paper for is no longer any good.

        Oh! And I also loved the Birdman mode in Pilotwings 64, wherein all you did was fly around as you pleased and took pictures if you felt like it. I used to just throw that on and fly around aimlessly for hours when I had nothing else to do in middle school. I kind of did that in most modes in that game, but that was the only one where there was actually no goal to achieve.

  3. Alex says:

    I think I regret namedropping I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream in that blog post I once wrote.

    I probably should not create a positive judgment for games based on Wikipedia articles.

  4. Jake says:

    My younger sister and I were talking yesterday about the weird, vaguely educational games she had when she was really young, so those are the only examples currently coming to mind. Pantsylvania, Slater and Charlie Go Camping, JumpStart First Grade (which is only really notable because it featured a Pog-collecting minigame several years after pogs had gone out of style), and some Diva Starz game. In retrospect, my sister had seriously strange games.

    Oh – the whole SimWhatever line. Those count, right? And Animal Crossing?

    Okay, trying to think of games in this category is fun. If Endless Ocean counts, so does the plane minigame from WiiSports Resort, right? You would not believe how many hours I’ve spent flying over Wuhu Island.

    There’s some sort of slalom-tricks-racing game in SkiFree, I’m sure, but for me it was all about making dogs pee and setting trees on fire.

    Last one for now: Cross Country, USA. Like SkiFree, I’m sure there was some kind of game in there. I also think it was supposed to be educational. All I can remember is the boring delightfully boring simulation stuff. Nothing beats cruising along, listening to some radio host ramble about the history of the rutabaga while wondering picking up hitchhikers.

    Electroplankton is so awful. I hate it like poison.

    • Jenn Frank says:

      Sacrilege! Electroplankton is amazing!

      I was playing SkiFree yesterday! The game ends tragically when the abominable snowman comes out of nowhere and chomps you. I think I outran him only once, but it was one of those bittersweet, delaying-the-inevitable things.

  5. Eastern Mind was also a “goalless, meandering works of edutainment from 1995”, designed by Osamu Sato, creator of LSD Dream Emulator. You can see video here:

    While we’re at it, I’ve got another video channel with videos from Alice, L-Zone and both versions of Gadget among others that might interest you.

    Thank you Jenn for shedding some light into my otherwise obscure web exertions.

  6. (I forgot the URL for the alternate video channel:

    videos—my apologies)

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