Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bots have gotten a bad rap lately. Fanboys use them to flood Rotten Tomatoes with negative reviews. Thirsty celebs use them to boost their social media followings. World governments use them to sway presidential elections. But those persistent lines of code can actually bring a little beauty into the world, whether they be generating fantasy worlds, making video game jargon sexy, or, in the latest case of a bot-gone-good, solving decades-old mysteries.

It goes like this: Back in 1990, ads appeared for a DOS game called StarTribes: Myth of the DragonLord that promised “incredible graphics,” a “futuristic role-playing adventure of epic proportions,” and, most impressively (for the time, at least), “dazzling clay animation characters.” The game was created by Spinnaker Software, a company best known for producing business applications, and despite promises that the game would be dropping “very soon,” it never materialized. Anyone intrigued by those bygone ads would never know what it was like to play as a terrifying clay monster (until ClayFighter dropped a few years later, of course).


A Twitter user by the name of @awesomonster recently happened upon a discovery when following the @gifs_bot account. This account, according to the Patreon page that originally shared the story, “randomly tweets out images from the GIFs Galore CD-ROM, a collection assembled and distributed by Walnut Creek CDROM way back in 1992.” And, though one of the GIFS it tweeted out (seen above) appeared to be from cult CD-i game Laser Lords, it was credited as being from StarTribes. Further examination revealed more screenshots from the lost game that helped reveal how what we now know as Laser Lords was actually an evolution of StarTribes.


One of the coolest things about the internet for a pre-YouTube generation raised on gaming magazines is the ability to watch, play, or at least learn about the games we once obsessed over in print. StarTribes ads may have only popped up in a few magazines, but in those days that’s all it took to ramp up anticipation for those who viewed every new game as an honest-to-goodness event.


Never let anyone say bots don’t have a purpose.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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