Tuesday, 31 March 2009

20 years on - I blinked

Twas Easter 1989 - or 1988, I can't be completely sure without checking with the Foolscap Boys - and a series of remarkable things had happened. 

I had been given a considerable sum of money, and something even more valuable - total creative freedom - by young millionaires Richard and David Darling, founders and then owners of Codemasters Software.

Why? Well I'd approached them with an idea for a rockstar management game, but a management game with a spin. This one would be totally irreverent, original, and (ahem) funny. And so it was to be. 

Looking back they took considerable risks, legally as well as financially, with a game that was so different from what they - or anyone else for that matter - was producing. Richard and David were great, they found a fine young artist from Liverpool - Chris Graham - who was an excellent caricaturist, and basically let me get on with it.

They even went along with the title I wanted - A Rock Star Ate my Hamster. 

Allister Brimble provided a mind-boggling piece of music mix and match for the game and everything was going to plan. 

The first version was released for the Easter holidays, everything was set. Expectations were high.

Then Good Friday came, and the game was removed from the shelves. Throughout Britain, by at least two major chain stores. Comprehensively and stupidly.

A couple of jokes were found offensive by a store who sold gun magazines and porn. Another store jumped in nervous reaction. I checked with my local stores, and they confirmed that the game had been pulled. They didn't know when it would be back, but one offered to sell me a copy under the counter. Pah.

We lost Easter and the game peaked at number 2. You can see the offending material here.

Happy days though. And the game is still a cult today. Which leads me on to a decision I recently made. After a self-inflicted absence of around 20 years - give or take - from games writing I've decided to do it again.

Am I excited? Yes. Nervous? No.

Everything's changed of course. Will I be retro? Who knows.

Yes, everything's changed. But actually very little has. I left the industry knowing that a new form of computer entertainment would soon grace our screens. A better, more original entertainment beyond shooting, jumping and sports simulations. For every media throughout history has developed and blossomed into a fantastic field of creativity hasn't it? Comics, films - they all grew far beyond their original form and produced fabulous, breathtaking works.

So take a look at your kids. What games are they - and you - playing?

20 years. I blinked. And absolutely nothing changed.

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