Has it really been that long?…

21 Sep

I was watching TV with the Lovely Wife, Caroline, the other day when a commercial came on for some teen-oriented anti-perspirant or something. Aside from being appalled that someone was targeting teens with something like that (and note that I said “appalled” not “surprised”…) I was kind of weirded out by the commercial’s overuse of the acronym “OMG.”

Being an old fart, and not knowing, I assume that stands for “oh my god.” And, while I understand the need to abbreviate when texting (I do a LOT of texting myself…) it still got under my skin that, in commercials and everyday non-texting life, we couldn’t actually, you know, use our words.

But, despite what you may think, this isn’t a post about the corruption of our language and so on and so forth. In fact, kind of the opposite. I love the fact that language changes and that I can embrace that change. In fact in fact, I’m writing this because I just had my own genuine OMG moment — my first!:

I was awakened from a pretty sound sleep with a heartfelt “OMG” about to burst from my mouth (which I stifled when I realized such an outburst would wake up the aforementioned Lovely Wife — and that wouldn’t be good for anyone). Anyway, what was my OMG moment?

I realized that this month, September, was my 25th anniversary in the game business. Yow!

I remember vividly walking into Steve Jackson’s house for my interview back in September of 1983. (Heck, I remember exactly what I was wearing: a khaki shirt, green military-style pants, a green vest and some stupid brown suede-covered athletic shoes — Italian, which at the time I guess signified cool, to me, even if they did hurt like the dickens.) Anyway, I remember marching up to Steve’s house for an interview that felt like a fun conversation with a gaming buddy, and I remember him offering me a minimum wage job as an Assistant Editor, and I remember leaving feeling like the happiest guy on Earth.

Since then, I have learned a TON in the game business, and have wracked up debts I’ll never be able to repay. At risk of annoying all sorts of people, I have to thank in some semi-public way (which, I guess, this blog qualifies as) the folks who’ve made the last 25 years great and terrible and educational and absolutely, wouldn’t-trade-it-for-anything incredible:

Steve Jackson – for giving me a start and for providing me with a great education in game design. SJG was like a college course in game design.

Allen Varney – for being a fantastic collaborator for most of the last 25 years. In the world of tabletop games, I did my best work with Allen (though I hate to admit it!) and we’ve continued doing great work together this whole time. It’s weird working with a guy who’s so different from me and yet so much on the same wavelength — Allen’s the only person I’m not married to who routinely finishes my sentences. It’s freaky…

Richard Garriott – if Steve Jackson was Mentor #1 and gave me an undergrad eduction, Richard was Mentor #2 for me and represents my gaming Masters degree and PhD. He taught me the difference between electronic games and tabletop games. Working with him on the early design of Ultima VI was a revelation and a privilege. And let’s not forget that Ultima IV was the game that proved to me that games could be so much more than they were at the time. Utterly inspirational.

Paul Neurath – for teaching me how to flowchart, on Space Rogue, and for getting the Underworld project off the ground and for starting Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Technologies) and for… oh, man, we don’t have space.

Doug Church – for being, probably, the best designer, programmer, project director, you-name-it I’ve ever met. Oh, and a great friend, too! It’s totally weird encountering someone who’s basically better than you are at everything you do. If I have to admit I did “my” best tabletop game work with Allen Varney, I have to do the same, looking back on my years in electronic gaming, and say Doug’s been there for all of “my” best videogames. Doug wins the Unsung Hero award in videogame history — we should all start singing…

There have certainly been others I ought to thank — Bruce Sterling and Walton “Bud” Simons for getting me into the whole gameplaying thing in the first place and without whom I wouldn’t even have known there was a game business to be in… Greg Costikyan, for writing the original manuscript that became TOON: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game… the amazingly talented writers and designers at Steve Jackson Games and TSR, all of whom I SHOULD single out and mention by name… Mike Dobson, for offering me a life-changing job at TSR… Chris Roberts, for showing me what it takes to manage the kind of large-scale projects that would come to dominate gaming, and for showing me the power of uncompromising commitment to a creative vision… John Romero, for making me the offer I couldn’t refuse to become a part of Ion Storm… The Deus Ex team, for being utterly inspired (and inspiring), if at times painfully dysfunctional! (DX team leads Harvey Smith, Chris Norden and Jay Lee, you deserve more credit!)… Art Min, Mike Grajeda and Stan Herndon for being terrific partners and friends… Bob Picunko, Mike Ryder, Mark Meyers and Graham Hopper for signing me up with Disney and allowing me to put a check by the “Work for Disney” box on my to-do list of life… Seamus Blackley, for being both friend and agent, and hooking me up with some truly amazing people and opportunities… the JPS team, especially the folks who’ve stuck with me from the start (no easy feat, given the roller coaster ride it’s been)… and, of course, all the non-game friends who’ve been there with me the last 25 years (with a special thanks to the Saturday Breakfast Bunch, with whom I’ve had breakfast, without fail, every Saturday since 1989 — without you guys anchoring my week I’d have gone crazy… okay, crazi-ER… long ago).

Most of all, though, I have to thank the Lovely Wife, Caroline, for putting up with my crazy hours, wild mood swings, days and weeks away from home on business, and all the other nonsense I’ve put her through. I’ve often described her as “the most understanding woman in the world” and that still stands. I don’t know how or why she’s put up with me, but I’m sure glad she continues to amaze me with her love and support.

Anyway, here’s to the next 25 years, and a bunch of new names on the “thank you” list I write up in September of 2023!

12 Responses to “Has it really been that long?…”

  1. harvey1966 September 21, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    Here’s to 25 more!

  2. Ooble September 21, 2008 at 5:35 pm #

    2033, not 2023, my good man.🙂

    Congrats. Can’t wait to see what you’re planning on getting up to until then.

  3. CrashT September 21, 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    Woah… You’ve been in the games industry one year longer than I’ve been alive. That’s kind of strange to think about.

    Congratulation, I think you’ve earned it.

  4. goflashy September 22, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    First, congratulations on your anniversary. I guess It’s a huge privilege to be and stay in the industry almost from the beggining, and watch from the inside as it changes and evolves into a monster, which almost goes on a par with holiwood nowadays.

    I was writing a note about your anniversary on my blog for my readers, and came to a point where I had to describe your present activities. Can you say something interesting and fresh about you future games, or is it still a big secret?

    Congrats again.

  5. oliverko September 22, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Congratulations, Warren! We look forward to the next 25, hopefully containing some more GDCblog rants to keep us all thinking!

  6. jeffhillhouse September 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm #

    Congratulations Warren! It was always a pleasure working with you “back in the day”!

  7. cdrjameson September 24, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

    Congrats!

    Much to my surprise, despite it being so many years on, you can still buy some of your earliest games TODAY if you wish.

    I was just looking up the date on Orcslayer (Sadly, neither Orcslayer! nor the even better Warren Spector’s Steve Jackson’s Orcslayer!), and LO! I could have bought a pdf from here: http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/orcslayer/ had I not already got the paper version.

    So, what was your first SJ game, and can you still get that?

  8. smuchow1962 November 19, 2008 at 3:25 am #

    Hi Warren,
    Congrats on 25 years. I owe much of my new foray into the Paper RPG world to you and Caroline. While Origin was a great melting pot of designers, you and Richard were the heart and soul of the magic at that place – and I continually refer back to your work for inspiration. Give me a buzz (or email). I’d love to get back in touch over lunch!
    Regards,
    Steve Muchow
    Myth Merchant Press
    steve@mythmerchant.com

  9. cloudster April 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    I think I started at Flying Buffalo in Tempe, AZ at about the same time as you at SJG, typing in game turns, running the database for Rick’s Commercial Mailing List, doing some proofing and play-testing, and playing far too many hours of Champions. I’ve written several pieces for various Traps and City books, and now I’m trying to do some work with my new site, SpareBrainsGames.com. Self-publishing/selling my first game at The Game Depot in Tempe, Zombie Cafe.

    It’s a fun biz to be in, I both wish I’d stayed in it as a professional path and at the same time I’m glad that I didn’t. The worst part with being involved for so long is when people with whom you used to work start dying, we’ve lost at least two Buffaloes in recent years.

    –Wayne West

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