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A lifetime ago

Have we ever polled the RPS omni-opinion about Carmageddon? It appears not. The discovery that the ‘Carmageddon’ tag did not exist on this humble website before now is startling. It’s not a game I’d ever hold up as essential, classic, important, with lessons unlearned by those that followed… but it’s formative. It’s a game that occurred at the right time, when technology was crude and gaming awareness cruder: a quiet little thrill of transgression, noisy at the time but not ultimately beaten down enough by tabloid terror or by popularism enough to stop feeling, well, a little bit special. Our secret. The game about driving over people, – far more unashamedly than GTA ever has been. Points for pedestrians, in the guise of competitive racing. Ours.

I can’t imagine playing it now, and I’m fairly sure I don’t retain any real respect for it. But I remember what it once meant, or at least seemed to. Protest. Naughtiness. Contained, cartoon viciousness. Late-night laughter with friends. It was ours. It perhaps can’t happen again – the pressure to be either commercial or outlandishly peer-impressive is now far too high to allow something so boorishly ordinary to become a sensation anew. I admire this modder-man for trying to bring it back, but I suspect he doesn’t know how lucky he was to be slapped down by Square-Enix.

I lost track of the paper trail, but with the Eidos acquisition came rights to Carmageddon too. Apparently, that must be protected, despite the license slumbering for over a decade. Whether it’s because some executive still earnestly believes this is a salable property or it’s just the mad legal stipulation that any possible unlicensed use of an IP must be protected in order to help ensure ongoing ownership doesn’t matter. Thanks to the sinister flexing of lawyer robo-muscle, a planned open-source remake is only able to happen under a different came: C1.

Says the wannabe re-animator, “Obviously this is all a bit silly given we’re talking about a game thats 13 years old and you can’t buy anymore, but still, its a cease-and-desist letter.”

He’s right, on both counts. His plan is to release it under a different name entirely, Square Enix having improbably even laid claim to code they perceive as infringing their calcified trademark.

I hope he doesn’t attempt to do only that. Carmageddon is done: it was a milestone in its strange way, a light that burns brighter because some nations tried to replace its pedestrians’ red blood with green vagueness, not because of what the game itself actually had. It happened. We fought the censorious fools and we won. We did it. We don’t need it anymore. This guy doesn’t have to spend his time making a remake for an audience with a fixed expectancy. If he has the wherewithal, the time, the energy to make a game off his own back, he can do anything. I hope he seizes this obstacle to an antique to go somewhere different, somewhere new and amazing.

This was Carmageddon:

This was Carmageddon 2:

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Who am I?

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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