Role Playing, carrying the torch for simple times

By on 13 May 2011

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently about writing and where I’m going with it all later in life and he started telling me about a project he’s been working on as of late. He has taken a novel he was writing and converted it to a campaign setting for Pinnacles Savage Worlds system. He had contacted them about the venture and they said as long as he doesn’t print the rules and adds their logo to the format he would be able to get it published. At the time I thought it was fantastic that some publishers and companies actually give you the freedom to do this but then I remembered I had heard about this happening before.

Back in the late 70’s to late 80’s with the advent of the ZX Spectrum and the other myriad of home computers of the day, there was a generation of people who invented something practically unheard of; The Cottage Industry. What happened was people from kids to adults began learning to code from books because for the first time ever in history people were given the basic tools to make their own video games. Now this started all very simple with kids making games and putting them on tapes to give to their friends to check out and from that communities were born. Soon after, companies who were developing games in the mainstream market started taking submissions from people who wanted to work with them as developers. As this was the infancy of the gaming industry in a sense, a well made game was as good as a CV for some. Soon after even the people making these games began starting up their own businesses, advertising in hobby magazines such as Crash and My Sinclair asking for people to send in their games giving them the opportunity to get published. This gave the every day gamer with a hobby a big chance at entering this new market and give them a foot in the door in living their dreams as game developers.

A great example of one of these companies was Code Masters, originally started up by Richard and David Darling who were already fully fledged game developers over at Mastertronic. They saw this advent of the Cottage Industry in the ZX Spectrum market and decided to take a leap of faith to start up their new company. Though they were mainly developing simulation games to start with they would happily take submissions from fans and would publish them if they were up to the mark. A very famous title which originated from the Oliver twins; Philip and Andrew, who at the age of 17 created “Dizzy The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure”. Dizzy ended up being one of the biggest franchises of the 80’s gaming scene propelling Code Masters ahead in the market for the next 8 years.

The generation of the Cottage Industry became one of the staples of the modern day gaming industry, companies like Lion Head, Rare and the Oliver Twins’ very own Blitz Games Studios are big players in the game industry and it’s strange to think that some of them started their career in their bedrooms. This industry that I thought was dead and gone is still alive but in a new format. Going strong after nearly 40 years the Role Playing industry is still giving new and upcoming fans the chance to get their hard work put into the public eye and to me it is a very comforting feeling, that one day, somewhere, someone could be writing a campaign setting or a system that may just be the next Pathfinder or Savage Worlds.

To my good friend Mike, keep writing and I’ll be backing you all the way.

Until next time adventurers.

About James Grimes

James is writer from Derbyshire and when he’s not running games he’s writing them. He has spent 3 years running games trying to perfect his craft. Like a reluctant hipster he supports indie games and new systems that people haven’t probably heard of but that doesn’t jade his opinion of the classics and greats.

One Comment

  1. Mike

    13 May 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Cheers, James. I should add the game publisher doesn’t mind what you do if you publish for free as a ‘fan’ but to sell commerically you need more permissions – which I’m hoping to get in the fulness of time!

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