etro eventually gives way to parody. Think aboutit. The latest ‘80s movement is about to all aton its ace because no one can pop his pink polo shirt’s collar or much longer than a year beorerealizing how stupid it looks. The words “disco is back!”are a punch line, but 15 years ago, they sent people insearch o designer bell bottoms. The transition romserious high ashion to giggle-inducing is just part o the underlying cultural understanding that you can’tgo home again. Despite the cyclical nature o westernculture, entropy nds a home in too many hearts to letus repeat ourselves verbatim, and no throwback in theworld evades a comic gaze or very long.But what about when someone creates a throw-back complemented by a wink and a nudge? How canyou make un o retro when it’s already making un o itsel? Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel without a Pulse daredme to answer that very question when I put on myedora and popped the CD into my Xbox last October.I was able to get in touch with Wideload’s MattSoell, Stubbs’ creator, and talk game design, specicallyretro gaming. O course, the rst thing I ask him is whenStubbs the Zombie was born.“Wideload began lie in early 2003,” he tells me.“The initial incarnation consisted o three people - Al-exander Seropian, Mark Bernal and mysel. We had a loto conerence calls because we didn’t have oce spaceyet, and Alex was still spending a lot o time at hometending to his just-born rst child. We’d been kickinga bunch o ideas around but we hadn’t come up withanything we really liked yet. Ater one conerence callon a Saturday morning, during which we all shot downeach other’s ideas, I was pacing around trying to willa good idea into existence. Nothing was coming, so Igave up and took a shower. That’s when the raw ideaor Stubbs came to me. I seem to have most o my goodideas in the shower or in the car. Aspiring writers shoulddrive and bathe oten.”[...]“The Roaring Twenties were basically a big partyto which Stubbs was not invited, and the Great Depres-sion was the atermath in which Stubbs somehow gotstuck with the bill,” Soell says. “Just when he thinks hislie is nally turning around, someone blows a basket-ball-sized hole in his gut and buries him in the middleo nowhere. Twenty-odd years later, he wakes up in themiddle o a rich man’s city to discover that he’s still deadand some whiny little punks are eating hot dogs on hisgrave. It’s a pivotal moment or Stubbs, the point wherehe realizes that he’s doesn’t have to let people walk allover him anymore.”[...]Stubbs did what so ew games can: It let itscontent shine right next to its gameplay. But the retro/parody content didn’t just shine, it said something.“One o the underlying themes in Stubbs - which Ilited rom Poe’s ‘Masque o the Red Death’ - is the ideathat you can’t build a wall big enough to keep entropyout,” Soell says. “Andrew Monday doesn’t like povertyand decrepitude and unpleasantness, so he builds acity where luxury is a birthright and everyone can relaxbecause bad things only happen to lesser people inlesser cities. Then Stubbs shows up, and he’s not justpoor and decrepit and unpleasant ... he’s undead. Hestands in direct opposition to everything Punchbowl isabout. And he wears a really ugly tie.”A man with hubris meeting his nemesis isn’t a newtheme. Now, mash that into a zombie a movie wherethe zombie isn’t a conormist and you’re treading onunamiliar territory. “There are a lot o games aboutzombies attacking humanity, but in our game, the zom-bie is the hero,” Soell says. I no examples come to mind,think about the original Dawn o the Dead, whereeveryday mall-goers turned into brain-eating zombies.In Stubbs, the only non-conormist is a zombie; imagineJames Dean with green skin. However, or a reani-mated noggin-chomper to be the least zombie-likeperson in the world, Soell had to create a city ull o ‘50sautomatons. “Having made that one crucial inversion, itseemed natural to make a ew more. Instead o settingour grisly antihero in a gritty modern-day city, we puthim in a gleaming, sterile environment - the sort o citythat never really existed except in ights o ancy.”[...] I ask Matt what our next demon will be.“I don’t know what will be next. I you look back at the things that inspired that kind o public outcry,it seems like they bubble up rom subcultures thatare already stigmatized to a certain degree,” he says.“Punk rock, D&D, Lenny Bruce, hip-hop - or indeed anymusical orm pioneered by Arican-Americans ... all o them were easy to demonize because they came romsubcultures that were - and still are - actively denigratedby the mainstream. At the risk o sounding pompous,those who want to predict the cultural ashpoints o tomorrow should probably look at the stereotypes andprejudices they hold today.”As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Mattto gaze into his crystal ball and tell me how people willperceive us 50 years into the uture, since he did such agreat job o encapsulating the past. “In 50 years, thesewill ocially be the Good Old Days. Our technologyand culture will seem quaint to the point o amuse-ment, but there will also be a sizable group o ogiesand blowhards whining that everything’s gone to hellsince then. And o course they’ll need something toblame it on - but it won’t be videogames, it’ll be some-thing new,” he says.His last thought makes me think on the drivehome. When I make it into my apartment, I load upStubbs again, this time trying to keep up with all o Soell’s deep reerences and stereotypes, only to ndmysel unable to actually keep up with the game. I pushdown my edora, crank up the volume, and by the timeI’m dancing against Punchbowl’s chie o police, I’mback at the top o my game. I guide Stubbsthrough Matt’s world a whilelonger beore realizing it’s2:00 a.m. and long past mybed time. I put the gameback in its case anddecide to place it on abookshel, away romwhere I normallystore myold games,because thisone crossed a barrier;it said something.