I got away with playing a lot of videogames as a youngster. Ours was a fairly relaxed household and the siblings in my family were trusted to spend their free time wisely, watching TV, playing games, and eventually surfing the web to excess. Internet in particular was a powerful influence, and was even more so back in the late nineties when I started using it as a 7 year-old. At first, the Internet was just an extension of my other interests -- I would just look up the YTV website, or Fox Kids, or video-game guides. But it didn't take me long at all to realize the Internet was a place where things forbidden elsewhere strode free. My parents sure as shit couldn't keep up, and that gave a sense of entitlement... A spectrum of vulgarity, obscurity, and other media-unattainables were suddenly at my fingertips; and so with a curious eye, I discovered Newgrounds. The problems of the future, today!
Sown in the soil of pirated Macromedia Flash zipfiles and a flagrant exploitation of the Internet's exclusion from any and all broadcasting standards, Newgrounds was a fringe tween's paradise. It was kind of the cable access of the Internet age: mostly crap, but always surprising, always obscure, and occasionally, mind-blowing. There was a series of games called the Negotiator, in which you simply navigated various dialogue trees to reach a certain outcome. My favourite among those was 'The Barfly' as I was confident that in a successful playthrough you would see the lady naked, as in MANY other Newgrounds titles. There were the Xiao Xiao and MADNESS silent series' of ballet-like cartoon mass murder. David Firth's chillingly hysterical Salad Fingers made its start on Newgrounds. I remember an influx of content so massive and sudden following 9/11 that a whole section of the site was devoted to it: half completely tasteless comedy, half inflammatory political commentary, all inappropriate to bring up anyplace else (the most inappropriate fo this content has been taken off of the site by now...). It was a top secret South Park, an island of media apart from the corporatized TV set. It seemed like nobody was making this shit for money or for fame; they were making it cuz they want to make it.
EDIT: Returning to Newgrounds I see it's now inundated with banner and pre-content advertisements which you can pay a subscription to ignore...
Tom Fulp, the founder of Newgrounds, was himself a prolific content generator, creating such charming titles as fantasy-school-shooting game Pico's Day at School and Disorderly. The latter leapt to mind recently and inspired this post, I'll describe it. It's a sidescrolling beat-'em-up in which you play a disgruntled ginger orderly in a retirement home who needs to reduce the elderly population at the retirement to make room for "younger, wealthier tenants," which you do by... beating up old people. There are mega-old people at the end of each level before moving on to the next-most-dangerous category of octogenarian (I am pretty sure this game taught me that word): 'Wheelchair,' 'Senile,' and so on. There are also side-rooms along each level where you score bonus points or a power-up. There was one I closed my eyes during because it felt so wrong: there'd be this black naked old man in a tub you had to spongebathe, and he'd moan and groan in response to your, uh, stroking. This game's total disregard for social politics is, by today's standards, impressive. The site's content always pushed to get away with nothing less than it could, which, in the Wild West of Internet days, was everything. And what's more, the crude content wasn't reflected in crude design: even today the game plays quite smoothly. I think Newgrounds was dumb stuff made by smart people. But it sure fucked me up.