RHIZOME: The Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs

In the 1990s, Theresa Duncan and collaborators created three videogames to demonstrate interactive storytelling via the digital sphere. RHIZOME is an online exhibition that brings these three videogames brings them back to life. The three games include Chop Suey (1995), Smarty (1996), and Zero Zero (1997). Each game has a linear intro, with Smarty and Zero Zero featuring outros too. The games follow a series of vignettes, interactions, and mini-games. While the games are geared toward young girls with its mysterious and glamorous depiction, the stories also teach stories about the complexities of life.

Chop Suey (1995)

Theresa Duncan and Monica Lynn Gesue met through work at the World Bank in Washington DC. The duo then transitioned to careers at Magnet Interactive in Georgetown. At Magnet, Duncan and Gesue were introduced to CD-ROMs, inspiring them to create a moving storybook for children. This first game would be dubbed “Chop Suey.” Chop Suey is geared towards the imagination of girls aged 7 to 12.

Chop Suey’s title page.
Chop Suey‘s main page/town.

Smarty (1996)

Unfortunately, Duncan and Gesue’s partnership faltered and the duo never created another game. Duncan teamed up with artist Jeremy Blake to create Smarty (1996) and Zero Zero (1997).  Like Chop Suey, Smarty also takes place in a small Midwestern town, utilizing diners, beauty salons, and hardware stores for its story. The music played in Waffle House inspired the music in Smarty.

Smarty‘s title page.
Smarty‘s main page/town. It’s noticeably a lot more spread out than Chop Suey.
Smarty’s credit page or outro.

Zero Zero (1997)

Branching off from the previous games, Zero Zero takes place in Paris, welcoming players to a world of bakeries, catacombs, and museums.

Zero Zero‘s title page invites players to a darker, more mysterious, game than the previous two.
Zero Zero’s main page/town. The main character in Zero Zero is the girl, climbing out of the chimney in the foreground of the image. Her name is Pinkee and the game follows her around Paris at night.
Zero Zero‘s outro/credits.

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