How the Death Cookie Got Its Name

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Most gaming sites have names like “Dungeon Monkeys” or “Narrative Pomposity,” so you may wonder where “Death Cookie” came from. Or maybe you don’t. You’re about to find out anyway. Although we didn’t buy the domain until around 2000, the name goes all the way back to the late 90s. Back then, both the Death Cookie and the Hex Games website were subdirectories of my Mindspring account. There was a little squiggle in the URL and everything. Like most early websites, they were both terrible.

The Before Times

Even though the internet has been around since the 1960s, it didn’t become a thing until the 9os. We called that thing “the web,” and it was very different from the internet we know today. Back then, web pages were king. We didn’t have social media, share buttons, Wikipedia, or even Google. We had search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista, but they weren’t very good. Aside from results of questionable relevance, they returned a lot of dead links. At the time, most websites were hosted on either work or school servers and tended to go away when the creator got fired or graduated.

Since AskJeeves wasn’t much help and we didn’t have a share button, websites went viral through word of mouth. When you found something you wanted to share, you sent your friends and email or posted it to a message board. When you found really good stuff, you saved it to share face to face. Back then, most social gatherings eventually turned into a game of “let me show you this site.” We’d crowd around our comically large monitors to marvel at “Ate My Balls” pages, watch the hamster dance, or try to outsmart the Oracle of Bacon*. The internet was young and weird and we didn’t know how to use it yet.

Chick dot Com

Around the same time, Leighton and I (and sometimes Dale) started writing QAGS. While we often worked diligently on the text, we also got distracted a lot. We worked in my apartment, which was right next to our college campus. That meant people would randomly drop by when they were bored or visiting our friends Ray and Stacy downstairs. This frequently led to dumb web page visits. Even without distractions, Leigthon and I  sometimes just got burnt out and goofed off on the internet. Since most pages were static, they provided limited enjoyment: “Mr. T Ate My Balls” is really only funny once. You didn’t revisit a page like that unless you wanted to show it to someone.  One day we found a glorious exception: The Chick Publications website.

Waxman's Warrior CoverIf you’ve read Waxman’s Warriors or my review of the Dark Dungeons movie, you already know I have what is probably an unhealthy fascination with Jack Chick and his work.  Unsurprisingly, I was especially happy to discover that the Chick website had many of his tracts available in HTML format. This led to a new web-based activity that happened more times than I’m entirely comfortable admitting: dramatic readings of Jack Chick tracts. The snooty little angel who said “His name’s not in the book, Lord” sounds like Eric Idle, if you were wondering. Dark Dungeons was mandatory, but other favorites included DOOM TOWN and Hi There!  I’m pretty sure we made it through everything they had available (this was before every tract was online) at least once.

Filthy Papists

When we finished QAGS, we decided that we should use our website (such as it was) to do one of those fancy “E-zines.” That’s what we called blogs back then. Even though we had no plans (or idea how) to get a domain name, we decided we needed a name for the magazine. We went through lots of terrible, terrible names that I don’t even remember. Then we got bored and started reading Jack Chick tracts.

One of the Chick tracts we read that night was called “The Death Cookie.” In Chick-land, the title refers to the communion wafer eaten by Catholics during their pagan rituals. We thought it would be a good name for a gaming site. Someone pointed out that the name was just a funny combination of words with no connection to gaming. We decided that didn’t matter. I’m not sure how or why. Alcohol may have been involved.

As most of you have probably guessed, this post was inspired by the death of Chick Publications founder Jack Chick last weekend. While the world is probably a better place without him around to spread his amoral and bigoted ideology, I’m thankful to Mr. Chick for the endless hours of entertainment that he’s unintentionally provided me and my friends. Maybe that will count for something when he gets judged by that giant glowing faceless Jesus.

 

*We just wanted to find someone with a non-infinite Bacon Number of 4. We eventually succeeded with an actor from Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. Even in an obscure Japanese movie, there were a lot of 3s. Most had shared a screen with an actor from 1941, which starred several Bacon Number 1 actors.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson is the co-creator of QAGS (the Quick Ass Game System) and the Operations Director of Hex Games. He has written, co-written, or otherwise contributed to numerous RPG supplements, including Spooky: The Definitive Guide to Horror Gaming, Sharktoberfest, and the ENnie Award-winning Hobomancer. He writes a (more-or-less) weekly gaming blog at www.deathcookie.com. For more about QAGS and other fine products from Hex Games, visit www.hexgames.com. Steve also publishes (mostly really dumb) books that aren’t about gaming through Brainfart Press. These include Obscure Early Bluesmen (Who Never Existed), a chapbook about not-so-famous blues musicians who happen to be completely made up; The Callipygian Grimoire: A Discordian Activity and Spell Book; and Dispatches From The MGT.: Curious Signs From The American Workplace. You can find out more at www.brainfartpress.com.

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