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Custer’s Revenge.

From Wikipedia…

Custer’s Revenge (also known as Westward Ho and The White Man Came) is a controversial video game made for the Atari 2600 by Mystique, a company that produced a number of adult video game titles for the system. The player character is based on General George Armstrong Custer. The game was first released on October 13, 1982, and has received significant criticism because of its crude simulation of a rape of a Native American woman.

Like a sophisticated rape would have been better?

In the game, the player controls the character of Custer, depicted as a man wearing nothing but a cavalry hat, boots and a bandana, sporting a visible erection. Custer has to overcome arrow attacks [is it just me or if people are firing arrows the very last thing I want is to be is cock out!] to reach the other side of the screen. His goal is to have sex with a naked Native American woman tied to a pole.

To be fair the graphics are so pants quite how one tells she is either Amerindian or indeed even a woman is beyond me.

Custer’s Revenge quickly gained notoriety upon its release. Sold in a sealed package labeled “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS” and selling for $49.95, it acknowledged that children might nonetheless see the game. The game’s literature stated “if the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing.” The makers elected to preview the game for women’s and Native American groups, an act which some thought was a publicity stunt.

Now I have via the magic of the emu played “Custer’s Revenge” (I had to try it – God curse me!) and it is dreadful. Fifty bucks for that back when that was a lot of money! But clearly the marketing was genius. It occurs to me that if the women’s and Native American groups hadn’t made such a fuss the game would have just died a death and would not be the most notorious thing ever set on silicon. I like old videogames. Around the same time (actually a year before) Warlords came out for the Atari VCS and that is a great game – to this day I play it and I can beat anyone of you at it even post-pub. It has things like game-play and tactics and stuff. The thing is Warlords is fun. Incidentally (and thirty years after my first go) that was coded by a woman. With like real tits and everything. Unlike the piss-poor low-rez object of “Custer’s Revenge”. Which is the point isn’t it? Who defines what is pornographic? “Custer’s Revenge” is only so if you think it so. That’s what I mean about the marketing genius. A dreadful game and not even pornographic (the graphics are crude in the sense of blocky rather than in the sense of obscene*) raised to the heights because it offended**. I would argue it was only bought (it has no other redeeming features) because people wanted to be naughty and they were told this was naughty. It wasn’t. It was merely dreadful.

I mean if you get off on visuals that blocky you are perma-banned from my Lego box.

I guess ultimately what I am trying to say was “Custer’s Revenge” was not incidentally obscene or even pornographic (it was sold in ’82 – video porn – possibly including Native Americans existed and they had curvaceous tits unlike the block lady) but was deliberately obscene because it had nothing else to offer and it was made so because it would be taken seriously becaause people who would object which was precisely what the company behind it ($50 in ’82 recall) wanted. If the feminist and Amerindian groups had just been “That’s a terrible game” and not an obscenity it would have been stetted (good games need tactics). But people always want an obscenity (“the Human Centipede”) and obscenity is always created by those that campaign against it.

I don’t think it is obscene (as such) myself. I have said it is a dreadful game but what really gets me is that games like that only exist because people think pr0n dodgy which means numpties will buy it because despite it being a truly dreadful game (and computer and video games are our greatest art-form if done right) it is given a surly dirtiness by the likes of Mary Whitehouse and that is the only reason it was ever saleable. As I said, Pr0n is entirely made by the prod-noses. It would generally be considered risible if it wasn’t vaguely banned. Although I don’t know! As Woody Allen put it, “Sex is only good if it is dirty”.

*A pornographic game that isn’t even obscene is truly shocking. It makes me think of the “Royal Nonsuch” in Huck Finn.

**And yes it was grotesquely offensive. Off course it was. It had to be because it wasn’t any good.


  1. Lynne says:

    Now you’ve gone and made me all nostalgic. Or it could be that I’m listening to Freddie Mercury’s Mother Love as I type this…

    Was never really into platform games. I enjoyed puzzle solving games like The Dig, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island and Myst. The closest I ever came to gaming pr0n was the invisible but audible bonking ghosts in 7th Guest.

  2. NickM says:

    Now that is interesting. I have never been a platformer. I never got them. The whole move one pixel to the left and then jump filled me with tedium. Now my wife likes them. She also enjoys Russian grammer. Me myself. Well, I had a flatmate who was a pure mathematician. He loved his proofs – bless. He was horrified when I did my physics type ones. “But it’s just not rigourous!” Quoth he. No but it’s fucking right and works. I like flight-sims because you need “feel” rather than 2D perfection. And anyway isn’t piloting a Sabre cooler than controlling an Italian plumber?

  3. JuliaM says:

    Ahh, ‘The Dig’! I loved that. I played all the ‘Gabriel Knight’ games too.

  4. mark says:

    Are people called lynne allowed to play video games?

  5. NickM says:

    Unless that is a terribly clever ref that utterly escapes me I see no reason why Lynnes, or Nicks or Marks or Helmuts or Mahmouds or Viyjays ought not to participate in pixellated faux-death. Our culture (and I love this) celebrates sex without conception as much as killing without dying.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    I’m not going to tell you about how my last girlfriend introduced me to a platform game on the Spectrum I’d never played before (Fred, if you’re interested), because it was a ridiculously long time ago and I’ll spend the rest of the evening feeling very depressed indeed. (No, it wasn’t that long ago – we played it on an emulator – but still… too long.)

    But yes, obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. I recall seeing adverts for “adult” games in the back of Sinclair User, for the ZX81. Even as a spotty, hormonal, barely-a-teenager, I couldn’t imagine how anyone would get off on 1-bit, 64×48 resolution pr0n. It still baffles me. I mean, yes, it was cynical marketing of undoubtedly crap games. But someone must have bought the things.

  7. zack says:

    I’m with Lynne, I LOVED the old Lucas Arts adventure games (and the Myst series, which were by a different company) – If you can ever get your hands on Loom, I think it’s worth a shot. That said, Sega was my favorite game company, back when they were making consoles. Sonic, Phantasy Star (the Genesis Games, never got to play Phantasy Star Online), Shenmue, Panzer Dragoon, Astal, Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, etc. All great games.

    Getting to the point of the post though, I don’t really have a problem with (some of) these moral crusades; I mean, yes, I think that many of these things (like video game violence) are over blown, but in general I think a society needs to have moral standards to keep itself on it’s own two feet; culture matters, and values provide the skeleton of a culture. Look at the culture of inner cities and look at the results that is produces; or look at the culture of the Islamic world, and look at the results that culture produces.

    You can go on about how a game like Custers Revenge is not obscene or doesn’t matter because the graphics aren’t very good, and the gameplay is crap (and you’re right, it is), but I think that you’re missing a point – that if this went by without comment, it would send a signal that this stuff was OK. One of the biggest things that the Guillani administration in NY proved is that the Broken Windows theorem was correct – that cultural signals matter.

    Now, this is not to say that I think that things like porn should be banned – besides the fact that you’ll never get rid of it entirely, attempts to do so would require such a tremendous growth of government that I’m against it. That said, I do think that it is a sign of a healthy society that private citizens publicly promote morality.

  8. zack says:

    Also, this just the idea that we on the side of limited government should just ignore these moral issues/crusades is, I think, counter productive. If we’re not out there advocating OUR Values, values that promote independence, individuality, hard work, honesty, etc., then we are in effect seceding that ground to the statist left. If we want to have limited government, we need to promote the moral framework that limited government requires to succeed.

  9. Tim Newman says:

    First and only adult computer game I played was Leisure Suit Larry. That was hilarious.

  10. I was always crap at adventure games, indeed I still am, and never liked shoot em ups so platform games got my attention then, but they are essentially limited. Now I like strategy games but still haven’t found anything to beat Civ 3 – although the cut down version on the DS isn’t too bad – and quicker!

  11. NickM says:

    Say to Thorin, “Carry me”.

    You have too interesting a point for this awful thread. But it is one that shall be returned to.

  12. David Gillies says:

    I managed to find the first two Broken Sword games from Revolution Software available for ScummVM on my Mac. That was nostalgic. And the Barrington Pheloung music was brilliant.

  13. Sam Duncan says:

    Zack, Nick: Absolutely. The big problem with the Thatcher administration (apart from it not really walking the walk that it talked) was that the moralistic side was seen as contradictory to the limited government side. Largey because it was: instead of promoting the idea that the state can only get out of your hair if you take responsibility for yourself, they reduced the size of directly economic government and increased that of moral hectoring, almost as if to compensate. Which isn’t really the right idea at all.

  14. Sam Duncan says:

    Oh, and…

    “And anyway isn’t piloting a Sabre cooler than controlling an Italian plumber?”

    Yes. Yes it is. Do not get me started on How Mario Wasn’t All That.

  15. JuliaM says:

    “Say to Thorin, “Carry me”.”


    Don’t think we ever finished that one!

  16. JuliaM says:

    “I managed to find the first two Broken Sword games from Revolution Software available for ScummVM on my Mac.”

    Two Christmases ago, in Apple’s free giveaway, they had a ‘Broken Sword’ conversion for the iPad. Every bit as good as the PC original.

  17. Tim Newman says:

    Broken Sword for the iPad?! I’ve gotta get me a copy of that…

  18. On a (sort of) related topic is this from Mr Eastwood.

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