Decoder Ring

Custer’s Revenge

The story of the worst video game of all time.


Episode Notes

Trolling, in its simplest terms, is being deliberately offensive in order to provoke people. The word in its contemporary sense didn’t exist until the beginning of the modern internet, but the practice goes back much further. In this episode we look at a particularly pronounced example from the early days of the digital age: Custer’s Revenge, an outrageously racist and misogynistic video game that inspired a frenzy of protests, lawsuits, and bans before it was even in stores. This is the story of how one of the worst games ever made came to be, the activists who responded to it, and the even stranger story of how the game maker sought to capitalize on that response.

Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Rachelle Hampton, Slate writer and co-host of Slate’s ICYMI podcast; Kate Willaert, author of the Kotaku piece “Porno Hustlers of the Atari Age“ and creator of the Video Dames series on Youtube; Stuart Kesten, former president of American Multiple Industries; Jodi Byrd, associate professor at Cornell and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma; Dorchen Leidholdt, feminist and director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at the Sanctuary for Families; and Kristen Reilly, who helped organize feminist actions in New York City.


This episode was produced by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch.


About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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