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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.

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

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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less