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At 29, She Was A Trailblazer. At 40, She Was Gone. Here’s Why You Should Know Her Name.

Theresa Duncan. It's a name you probably don't know. But as the gaming world continues to wrestle with the importance of women creating, playing, and appearing in video games, there was a woman who started working all this out a long, long time ago.

Back in the mid-1990s, computers were young and dumb.

Video games, too: They were almost all about violence. Successful gamemakers targeted the action straight at the blunt-force minds of so many young teenage boys. If girls liked a game, well, that was just a bonus.

Duncan wondered if they weren't missing something.

Why did video games have to be so dumb? How about some games that were truly creative? How about games with some emotional depth to them?


She decided to create games for kids who don't care about blood and noise. Like young girls. (Full disclosure: Not all boys like to kill either.)

And so Duncan and co-creator Monica Gesue set out to create a video game for 7- to 12-year-old girls.

In 1995, they released it.

Chop Suey

Chop Suey was imaginative, crazy, and fun. It was a hit. Duncan was right: Girls did love it. And it was declared CD-ROM of the Year 1995 by Entertainment Weekly.

Two more games followed.

Smarty (1996)

Zero Zero (1998)

After seeing her games safely into kids' hands, Duncan's attention turned to animation, with unique films like her "The History of Glamor." But even after such a brilliant first act, Duncan's career was cut short when she committed suicide in 2007, at 40.

Time passed.

Duncan's audience grew up. Old games like Chop Suey, Smarty, and Zero Zero can't run with today's hardware and operating systems, so the CD-ROMs have disappeared into drawers, closets, and landfills.

Rescue.

Rhizome, an Internet-based arts organization, is joining with University of Freiburg, Germany, to bring back Chop Suey, Smarty, and Zero Zero, this time online. Anyone will be able to spend some time in their wackadoodle universes. Rhizome recently completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money, and an exhibition of Duncan's work is planned at the New Museum.

Here's the Rhizome Kickstarter video:

The re-discovery of a pioneer.

Think about it. The 7- to 12-year-old girls who were in Duncan's audience in 1995 are now 26- to 31-year-old women. Millennials. These games are no doubt hiding in the back of many Millennial minds. You gotta wonder what effect they've had. Did you play these games when you were a kid?

Many people have never heard of Theresa Duncan, and it's time this gaming visionary is finally granted her rightful place in history.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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