Most gaming sites have names like "Dungeon Monkeys" or "Narrative Pomposity" or something, so you may have wondered where the name "Death Cookie" came from. You also may not have wondered this, but you're about to find out anyway. Although we didn't actually buy the domain name until something like 2000, the name goes all the way back to the late 90s, when 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, but we found them amusing.
Since there are adults today who don't remember dial-up, it's important to understand that in the early days of widespread internet access, things worked differently than they do today. We didn't have social media, share buttons, Wikipedia, or even Google. In those days, if we wanted information we had to type a search string into Yahoo or Alta Vista or ArkJeeves and click links until we found something useful. Most of the time you didn't find what you were looking for (either nobody had made website for it yet, the site hadn't been indexed by the search engines, or you got a dead link because whoever had made the link had left their school or job and the account it was hosted on had been deleted), but you often found some really weird shit.
When you found something you wanted to share, how it got shared depended in part on the nature of the content and who you wanted to share it with. For "so-and-so might like this" sites or sites you wanted to send to someone in another town, you shot the link to the person (or people) in an email or posted it on a message board. So, for example, the first person in our gaming group to stumble across RPG.net probably sent out group email or posted it to one of the 7,000 message boards my friends and I ran on our college's mainframe system.
For the really good stuff, you saved it to share face to face. Back in those days, most social gatherings with a computer handy eventually turned into a game of "let me show you this site." Everyone crowded around our comically gigantic monitors with tiny screens and we'd read an "Ate My Balls" page or watch the hamster dance or keep punching movies names into the Oracle of Bacon trying to find someone with a (non-infinite) number higher than 4 (we finally succeeded after about 4 hours with Tetsuo II: Body Hammer). Even electronic memes were transmitted through person-to-person contact rather than electronically because the internet was still new and we didn't know how to use it yet.
Somewhere around this time, Leighton and I (and sometimes Dale) started writing QAGS. While we often worked diligently on the text, we also got distracted a lot. Part of this was because we worked in my apartment, which was right next to our college campus and people would randomly drop by when they were bored or visiting our friends Ray and Stacy downstairs. This often led to us looking at dumb web pages. Also, sometimes we just got burnt out and slaphappy from writing and started searching for dumb web pages. Since most pages were static, they provided limited enjoyment--"Mr. T Ate My Balls" is really only funny once--so you only went back to them if they came up in conversation and someone had never seen them, but at some point someone found the glorious exception: The Chick Publications website.
As anyone who's read Waxman's Warriors or my review of the Dark Dungeons movie knows, I have what is probably an unhealthy fascination with Jack Chick and his work, so 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 would be entirely comfortable admitting: dramatic readings of Jack Chick tracts (the snooty little angel who said "His name's not in the book, Lord" had a Monty Python voice). Dark Dungeons was mandatory, but other favorites included DOOM TOWN and Hi There! Even though those got read multiple times, I'm pretty sure we made it through everything they had available (this was before every tract was online) at least once.
Once we'd finished with QAGS, we decided that we should use our website (such as it was) to do one of those fancy "E-zines," which is what we called blogs back then. Even though we had no plans of getting a domain name (or even any 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 remember, then got bored and started reading Jack Chick tracts. One of them was called "The Death Cookie." In Chick-land, the title refers to the communion wafer eaten by the filthy Papists during their pagan rituals, but we thought it would be a good name for a gaming site. I remember a discussion about how that had nothing to do with gaming and probably was just a funny combination of words and in fact not a good name for a gaming site. I don't remember what was said during that discussion (I'm reasonably sure I was pro-Death Cookie), but the URL of this page makes it clear that we somehow convinced ourselves that "The Death Cookie" was a perfectly reasonable name for a gaming site. 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 with. Maybe that will count for something when he gets judged by that giant glowing faceless Jesus.