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Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex and Other Absurd Celebrity Video Games

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Making a good video game is incredibly difficult. It requires loads of talent, creativity, hard work and time. In contrast, making a bad video game is rather easy. Hand the task off to an intern or, barring that, a hyper 6-year-old, then kick back, drink a half rack of Hamm’s and watch Gossip Girl.

Selling that bad video game, on the other hand, is tough. But it’s nothing a fat endorsement check to a celebrity won’t cure.

1. Steven Seagal is the Final Option

The title of this game is probably the most accurate phrase ever uttered. No matter what life throws at you, Steven Seagal should only be the Final Option in all circumstances. Seagal’s problem solving method relies exclusively on broken necks and crotch punching, which isn’t appropriate for all of life’s tribulations. After all, leaving a pile of spine-severed Gap employees seems a bit extreme just to return a cable knit sweater.


Back in 1993, video game developer TecMagik announced work on a Steven Seagal video game, touting their project as the first celebrity licensed video game. Plus the game would use the images of live actors as digitized sprites, ala Mortal Kombat, for that extra bit of realism. Strangely enough, their licensed action star doesn’t actually appear in the game besides the title screen. He's played by a look-a-like because TecMagik admitted the resolution of their “real life” graphics was so low you couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, the resolution is so low, they could have had Danny DeVito stand in and you wouldn’t know the difference. Actually, the way Steven looks these days you might not know the difference in real life either.

Despite the lack of his physical presence in the game, Seagal involved himself heavily in the production, shaping the game’s story. And what’s that story? Something about saving a woman’s son by walking through a munitions factory and murdering every lab technician and maintenance worker in your way.

That's right, as Steven Seagal you bring swift, yet merciless, death to civilians and wage slaves who patiently wait for you to judo chop them into oblivion. That company must have the most overworked HR department.

Even though Tecmagik crafted 18 levels of Steven Seagal is The Final Option, the game never saw release. Plenty of people seem to have played the unfinished game. You could blame the game’s failure on the economics of the game industry at the time or over-estimating the draw of the ever-puffying (or-as I call it-“The Puffening”) actor. However, I like to think Tecmagik simply couldn’t release the game because, due to undiluted badassery, once you inserted the cartridge, the game would throat punch your Super Nintendo until it exploded.

2. Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex

Slap on your Swatches and Snap Bracelets because we’re going back to 1986, the year Geraldo opened Capone’s vault (and found nothing but moonshine), Tom Cruise taught us all about the need for speed ,and a pushy little German lady kept telling the world how to have sex.


If you owned a Commodore 64, you had the opportunity to play Dr. Ruth's Game of Good Sex—perhaps the closest thing to sex avid Commodore 64 users ever achieved. And how saucy did Dr. Ruth’s game get? How about “multiple choice” saucy? Yep, the game with the provocative title (by 80’s standards) proved nothing more than a sex quiz. More people have learned about sex by taking a trip to the farm.

3. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City

“Be Like Mike”: it was the mantra for a generation, whether you watched basketball or not. Everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan. So naturally a video game allowing you to do exactly that must be a no-brainer. And thus EA’s Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City synthesized exactly what it’s like to “be like Mike” by letting you hurl flaming basketballs at zombies.


Huh?


Any Michael Jordan game could have offered up the ability to smash the glass and hang in the air longer than Baron Harkonnen (Dune reference, you’re welcome). However, the overachievers at EA thought it would make a much more interesting challenge to craft a Michael Jordan game that had very little to do with basketball. Besides murder by basketball, the only basketball-type activity in the game is every now and then a basketball hoop appears and Mike must take a quick break from bludgeoning the undead (or anyone trying to take your picture, really) for a slam dunk.

The combination of a basketball legend with a barely tangentially related to basketball concept made for an offering gamers found easy to refuse. Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City made the Top 10 list of Worst Games in the ever charitable Nintendo Power. Did I forget to mention the zombies have basketballs for heads?

4. Home Improvement

Kids, the most important part of making video games is not the graphics, the game play design or controls. No, all you need for a great game is a licensing deal. And it really doesn’t matter what license you get. Make a Pet Rock game or a 60 Minutes game (Morley Safer and Andy Rooney fight inside a dumpster to the death) or, in this case, Home Improvement. How do you transform a domestic comedy into a fun video game? Have Tim Allen chase dinosaurs with a nail gun. Wait, what? Look kid, it doesn’t have to make sense because making video games is hard and shut up and buy the game. The only one who found anything funny about this version of Home Improvement was Tim Allen, chuckling to himself as he cashed the licensing check.

5. Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks

This game proves that Chuck Norris can’t even take a walk without get hailed by a tickertape parade of blood and broken teeth. Chuck Norris walks toward a distant monastery while incredibly ill-informed thugs try to stand in his way. Said thugs almost spontaneously explode into pink mist. Or at least, they should in a Chuck Norris game. But it turns out Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks is so hard only Chuck Norris could beat it.


The reason for the heightened difficulty was the game actually did something a little revolutionary for the year 1983: it featured fighting combos. Almost a decade before Mortal Kombat, Chuck Norris Kung Fu Superkicks asked gamers to memorize complex joystick warping, button mashing sequences on their Atari 2600. And since Chuck Norris was little more than a loose collection of pixels on the screen, you never knew if you’d landed a combo with success. Of course, none of this matters if you’re Chuck Norris. When Chuck Norris loses in a video game, it’s the game that dies.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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