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How Leisure Suit Larry bootlegs infected the European banking system

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Remember when a new Leisure Suit Larry popped up on Steam earlier this year? Well, here's a reminder: a new Leisure Suit Larry popped up on Steam earlier this year (opens in new tab). It's called (brace yourself) Wet Dreams Won't Dry, and publisher Assemble Entertainment says it's legit. Larry is back, against all odds, and his titles are still groan-worthy. That said, the art on this one actually doesn't look half-bad. And with a new-age Larry on the horizon, now's as good a time as any to look back on the history of the cult-classic adventure games, as MEL Magazine (opens in new tab) did in their excellent write-up on the series' origins—and its unexpected role in a banking disaster. 

Larry Laffer, the face of the game, was created by designer Al Lowe. As Lowe explained to MEL, Larry's design was partly inspired by the hustlers he'd seen at bars in his time as a musician, and also by an insufferable coworker at Sierra Entertainment who loved to brag "about all the different women he had laid on his sales trips." As for the iconic leisure suit: that came from a joke Lowe made at a pitch meeting. "This game is so out of touch, it should be wearing a leisure suit," Lowe said, referring to Softporn Adventure, the primitive text adventure that the Larry series is based on. No, really: 

Perhaps because people didn't want to be caught buying it, the original Leisure Suit Larry was widely pirated—so much so that Lowe says "at one point we sold more hint books than copies of the game. The popularity of bootleg copies made them perfect vehicles for computer viruses, so infected Larry bootlegs spread far and wide, and even made it into the European banking system. 

As the Financial Times reported in 1988 (opens in new tab), several banks in Switzerland, Germany and England lost swathes of data to viruses after hapless employees tried to play infected bootlegs on company computers. This was so common that Activision, who distributed Leisure Suit Larry, sent out a statement affirming that the game itself didn't contain a virus, and that the best way to avoid infected copies was to go out and actually buy the damn game ya thieving bilge rats (I'm paraphrasing a bit there.)

Read MEL's full piece here (opens in new tab). Thanks to AV News (opens in new tab) for spotting it.  

Austin Wood
Staff writer, GamesRadar

Austin freelanced for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and has been a full-time writer at PC Gamer's sister publication GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover-up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news, the occasional feature, and as much Genshin Impact as he can get away with.