Tech Historian Flips Activision The Bird, Exposes Leisure Suit Larry Source Code On Twitch


Jason Scott
In case you missed it last night (and I suspect most people did), a person who dressed up like Leisure Suit Larry went on Twitch and read the entire source code for the game, which is impressive on several different levels. Not the least among them is that it took the guy nearly 12 hours to read the source code in its entirety.

I can't imagine spending that long reading anything out loud, let alone source code for a game that is decades old. It's reminiscent of when Andy Kaufman starting reading The Great Gatsby to an audience that was expecting a comedy routine. When the audience scoffed, he rolled out a record player, which had a recording of him continuing to read the book.

This was no prank, however. The guy who read the source code is Jason Scott, "an American archivist, historian of technology, filmmaker, performer, and actor," according to Wikipedia. Scott is passionate about the preservation of software, and his stunt, if you want to call it that, was in part to solicit donations to Archive.org, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and The Video Game History Foundation.

The story behind this is that Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe recently attempted to auction off a bunch of original source code from projects he worked on many, many years ago. Several Leisure Suit Games were among them. The auctions reached as high as $11,000 for Leisure Suit Larry and over $10,000 for Leisure Suit Larry 2 before Activision swooped in and flexed its legal muscle, forcing Lowe to cancel his auctions.
Activision doesn't actually own the rights to Leisure Suit Larry, the IP of which has been sold over and over again until finally landing in the lap of Assemble Entertainment. The publisher even admitted this to Lowe, according to PCGamesN, but was concerned that the source code may have contained shared code with King's Quest and Space Quest, which Activision does own the rights.

This didn't sit well with Scott. He also doesn't think that auctioning off source code is the right way to handle historical software. So, he took to Twitch and read the whole darn thing out loud, likely in hopes that someone would take the time transcribe it all. He also took several breaks during the 12-hour reading session to explain why he was doing this, and to encourage donations.

The full feed is no longer available for viewing. It's not clear if Activision flexed its legal muscle once again, or if the video will reemerge at some point. In the meantime, there are several clips that have been saved.