Originally published on: https://medium.com/bluemaximas-flashpoint/what-was-it-doing-there-5d471188c823
Imagine never being able to play the one game you enjoyed so much as a kid. The thought of a beloved game being lost would scare most gamers: Mario Kart gone without a trace, Sonic and Knuckles thought to be a fever dream. However impossible this may seem, for many this has become a scary reality. In the world of web games, the internet is an ever-changing place. A game can be played one minute and gone the next, leaving only mere mentions of it from a few people, stranded in an ancient forum, hosted on a potato.
Because web games can be lost so easily, there are a lot of people searching for their web game white whale. Enter the Hunters of Flashpoint. We aim to find what others consider lost: from Postopia breakfast bonanzas to games that are generally considered to carry curses. Hunters find the weirdest nonsense you thought was a fever dream. See, web games are fairly unique, in the sense that they can easily be put on multiple sites with little to no effort. As a result, many web games were hosted on thousands of different sites, plenty of which are carbon copies of each other. Such an effect is a double-edged sword. Flash developers have had their works stolen time and time again, which is bad for business. However, when that original site goes down because the creator decided that it just didn’t live up to their expectations, the game runs the risk of being lost to time. Luckily, some Iranian fellow has your back seeing as he stole the game 3 days after it went up.
With the nature of our work, some of the games we have found have some interesting stories behind them. One Hunter who goes by the online username of ‘Steviewonder’ curated the 28 Weeks Later movie tie-in game, not realizing we thought it lost. Another of Stevie’s stories happened during a time he was scouring open Dropbox accounts, where he found a lost game hidden in the files of a random person from another country. A version of the King.com Luxor game was found on a Chinese site, miraculously working with all assets. I myself am a fairly new face to the project, but even I have my stories. I was able to find South Park: Big Wheel Death Rally (screenshot in the thumbnail) on a site called joflash.hu, which is a Hungarian site that for some strange (but lucky!) reason was not using the broken embed every other site had used. The owner of joflash.hu had instead taken the .DCR and all its assets and ported them to their site, bypassing the problem everyone else who stole the game had when the embed died. Much more recently though for me was a game by the name of Pebbles Popstar, one of the lost Postopia games. This game turned up on a site that I won’t directly mention due to the fact it hosts copyrighted material. (I will say though it’s a Polish filesharing site themed around hamsters, which should be all the info you need.)
However, odd locations on the internet isn’t the only place lost games have turned up. Computerdude77 asked an unusual question to the Flashpoint staff one day: could games be extracted from an old Internet Explorer web-cache? Turns out, after some effort, yes, yes we could. Hearing this information, Computerdude77 took it upon himself to search through the web cache of his grandmother’s computer in hopes of finding some games he played as a kid. Boy, did we get lucky. Many a lost game was found, and a few games that were already in Flashpoint but incomplete were finished thanks to Computerdude77’s work.
Not all hunting goes smoothly though, and there have been more than a few blunders. One time I spent 3 days working on tracking down a game from the Flashpoint Lost Games list. Everywhere I looked for this game it was missing some assets or it hadn’t been copied properly. After 3 days I finally found a copy of it. I was so excited. I posted my findings in the Hunter Lounge, only to be told that the game had been found months ago and curated with a different name. Nobody had marked in on the sheet as found, so I had spent days looking for a game that was already rescued. But hey, those things happen when volunteering one’s own time to save history. These examples are why we need more folks to come together to help save the web games of our collective childhoods. Adobe ends support for Flash in 2020, and when that happens so much more will be lost. It is a race against time, and we need everyone.
If you would like to find out more about this strange and fantastic project, just check out the community spotlight for more info, or if you’re already sold head on over to the website or Discord Server!