(Mis)adventures In Game Development – PART 1

Up until the 16-bit era, video games, for me, were objects that simply seemed to appear on store shelves, as if by magic, seemingly out of thin air. Of course, I was aware of developers such as Sega, EA, Capcom and so on, but I never spared a thought for how these games came to be. Being a kid at the height of the Mega Drive vs SNES rivalry, I never batted an eyelid, absorbing as much as a child consumer with a 50 pence per-week pocket money allowance, and the odd generous relative could at the time. Then one day, it came to me… “Where did these games come from?” Join me as we embark on a voyage of discovery and creativity, all through the eyes of my ten-year-old self.

BoxArtIt was 1994 and I remember hearing about an uncle of a school friend who’d made a name for himself as the software developer and inventor of some pocket dictionary / thesaurus software. As a ten year old, nothing seemed more mind-numbing than writing a dictionary. It was bad enough being told to write my name out 100 times by my head teacher, when I failed to use capital letters in handwriting class.

Some time later, I watched an episode of video games review show Bad Influence on TV (remember that one?). This particular episode had a feature in which presenter, Violet Berlin, talked about a group of kids who had developed ideas for a game which they had sent to a games developer. If memory serves me right, the game in question was a sim, in which the player ran a newspaper, set the task of finding stories to fill its pages. Seeing how these kids had set about inventing their own game concepts, I decided to go about it myself.

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The Letter Through the Door

It was the morning of the 23rd September 1994, I was ten years old and this letter arrived in the post:EA Envelope

Electronic Arts UK had written back to me in response to my first foray into the world of video game design.

What followed in the coming years was an insight into the world of 16-bit game development, correspondence with some of the gaming greats of their era (mainly receptionists), freebie t-shirts in the mail and all the free gaming posters a school kid could ever desire.

Join me in the coming days for the first installment of (Mis)adventures in Game Development, a fascinating tale of one school kid’s desire to take on the gaming giants, armed only with a biro, a wad of A4 paper, an incomplete set of Berol felt-tip pens and a book of stamps (we’re talking pre-email here people).

It’s gonna be so retro, your floppy disk drives will be screeching from beyond the grave.