Why Adult Swim’s Kingsway is Set in a Fake ’90s Operating System

If I’ve learned anything from the fringes of comedy in the past year or so, it’s that old-looking shit is apparently hilarious. Not monochrome or vintage, but trashy VHS tapes, pre-internet computers, glitchy edits, and archaic internet junk.

Adult Swim’s new PC game was announced today, complete with a VHS tape-style announcement video. The game itself is set inside a mock operating system reminiscent of the days where Minesweeper and Solitaire were the main digital pastimes.

Interest in VHS distortion hasn’t been this popular since people were searching it to genuinely remedy their failing home cinema systems, and the trend of retro computers is spiking.

retro computers trend graph

Buzz around pixel art has rocketed, indie games are the new mainstream titles. We’re in love with trash from the past.

This is a classic pattern: as soon as VHS tapes and Windows 98 stopped being a thing people actually use, they quickly became memes. Early backers like the Tumblr community, director Andrew DeYoung, and thousands of other digital art creators have been working on developing this aesthetic for years, but it’s now emerging from the shady side of the internet into mainstream consciousness.

Just look at Vic Berger, Super Deluxe, On Cinema, and now, a game from Adult Swim and Andrew Morrish, Kingsway:

Disguised as a Common Desktop Environment-style operating system, Kingsway is a permadeath RPG with its gameplay mechanics scattered around various windows, menus, and dialog boxes.

“Kingsway is the #1 operating system for daily tasks such as skeleton smashing and loot-organizing.”

The actual game is interesting, but not as interesting as the cultural effects that led up to its conception, and the reasons the aesthetic is popular in the first place.

Its game-within-an-environment setting is similar to other recent releases like Pony Island, and reminiscent of Frog Fractions 2, which was hidden inside another game as part of an ARG.

Are we sick of firing up our consoles of choice and being directly inside a game? Either way, playing a game within the rules and constraints of another game, operating system, or environment is an interesting way to keep things fresh, and symptomatic of the indie gaming community’s growing boredom with a straight-up retro aesthetic.

Kingsway will be released on PC later on in the year, but with the speed that trends rise and fall off the the face of the Earth, perhaps by then the next big thing will be making fun of the aesthetics of DVD players and Windows Vista.

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Space landscape-obsessed dreck penman. Appears on TechCrunch, The Next Web, and on Secret Cave in a far less restrained capacity.