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(lightly cross-posted)

I'm doing a lot of moving and shifting in the house right now, which led me to a box in the back of a room that's in the back of the house that was filled with bunches of mid-1990s CD-ROM PC games--oy (vey)! Yeah, talk about my PC gaming sins revealed. The three that really stood out -- because I'd kept the completely oversized boxes that they came in, always a questionable packaging choice from the mid-1990s multimedia powers-that-be -- were the CD-ROM PC game from Sting, All This Time; the CD-ROM game from Prince, Interactive; and the CD-ROM PC game where you scored points by buying and editing together songs and video clips into music videos, Total Distortion.

I'm trying to figure out how to explain these to gamers not old enough to have ever seen them. Basically, you have to understand that everything was way slower and data storage was way smaller. Anything really big -- like a 20 MB video file (!) -- you could only access from the CD-ROM.

Even still, that didn't excuse some of the lamer moments in these games. In some ways, All This Time was Sting's home movies, and either you're into that or you aren't. But at least Sting was there throughout the game, playing songs and talking. The same would never be said of Prince and Interactive, which was this strange slide show with trippy-dippy music and silly puzzles, and with a pretty but completely miscellaneous young woman dancer who was there allegedly to help you through the CD-ROM's "adventure," materializing now and then in little isolated videoclips that would overlay onto the surreally cosmic representations of rooms in Paisley Park. OK, I'm making it sound way more interesting than it was. There was a performance clip of Prince at the beginning, and then you were "flown" to Paisley Park Studios. Once you got through the silly puzzles in all of the various rooms, your big prize was -- another Prince music video! (Now you might ask, couldn't you have just figured out which file that was on the CD-ROM and just watched it without going through the hazy game--? I'll never tell!) The sad thing is that there really was some solid Prince information within the game, with Prince noted as actually being the writer of various 1980s songs by bands in his realm (The Time, Vanity 6, Appollonia 6), an authorship that's still not noted on the CDs that these songs are actually on--!

Total Distortion is even more difficult to explain. Imagine if YouTube was made up solely of video clips that were rarely longer than ten seconds. Someone sends you this generic-sounding song and tells you that you'll get money if you'll make up a "music video" to it using the video clips--which range from brief video loops of models "dancing" to shots of traffic signs flying through the air to images of concrete. I refuse to go into the part where you're living in a rocket ship on some weird random planet and can play minigames buried in books on your bookshelf or create entertainingly weird and gross sandwiches in the kitchen when you're not out on the planet getting valuable video footage (the more footage of the weird planet in your video, the more valuable they are and the more you'll get paid), because that would mean talking about the vague "guitar hero" aspect where you fight various aliens and get past them to other areas of the planet by solving silly puzzles but most importantly by playing guitar chords! I can't even say this game was of its time. It was weird then--and comes off as even weirder now. I didn't even tell you about the three precious little music channel producers you're trying to sell your videos to--and I'm going to keep it that way. Let's just say, you get feedback on your vids. %##&**!

So anybody else have these--or some of the other CD-ROM PC games that came from rock stars? I remember there was one from Kiss. I think the Rolling Stones had one. I swear Journey had one, too. Queensrÿche?

Oh--and did anybody else have Treasure Quest?! That game drove me nuts! I came thisclose to never being able to look at Terry Farrell again--!

And another thing that occurred to me--all the other really big mid-1990s bands and artists did one of these things. I wonder why Madonna didn't. Um, unless I'm forgetting something--?