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Why one dev set out in the '80s to make a game that self-destructs

Why one dev set out in the '80s to make a game that self-destructs

October 10, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

"I was looking for a way to make games more real. Less obsessive and more meaningful."

- Veteran game developer Tom Snyder.

Tom Snyder is probably best known these days as the polymath behind Tom Snyder Productions, the now-defunct company (later rebranded Soup2Nuts) which produced '90s-era cartoons like Home Movies and Dr. Katz. 

But Snyder also made games, and one of his most intriguing projects is brought to light in a recent Polygon featureSigourney Loves Peter, or as it was later rebranded and rereleased, Sub Mission: A Matter of Life and Death.

Release in the '80s on platforms like DOS and the Apple II, these games had a remarkable mechanic: if the player performed poorly enough, the games would "self-destruct" and void their own copyright protection schemes, preventing anyone from ever playing them again.

This is something many game developers talk about doing, but Snyder actually did it -- and managed to get Mindscape Interactive to publish the results, though the company wound up mandating that a few more "safety nets" be added to the game (and allowed unlucky players to buy another disc for $7 if they still wound up destroying their copy of the game.)

"While I was designing it, everyone was trying to talk me out of it," Snyder, now in his 60s, told Polygon. "Everyone. They said, 'You can't possibly sell a game like this.'"

The story of how he did just that, as well as his reasons for doing so, can be found over on Polygon.

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