Tuesday 26 March 2013

From the Dawn of computers to the Twilight of chapbooks

A long time ago when computer games were on audio cassettes and computers had 32K of RAM, I wrote a game that got mentioned in the Guardian

It was with a small company, Peaksoft. According to the potted history of Peaksoft it got some ok reviews

  • Remarkable ... Fantastic Detail ... Graphics 100% ... Value 100% - "Home Computing Weekly"
  • Ingenious ... Brilliant - "Personal Computer Games"

That's not how I remember it (I'd taught myself how to program and was learning as I wrote). I got about half a year's pay from it (that I was going to get money for something I enjoyed came as a shock) and I had the chance to see my game at a stall in a Computer Game show. Pirated versions are online somewhere. Computer games have moved on since then, with multi-million dollar budgets (though the emergence of Apps has helped return games-writing to being a cottage industry).

Now, when computers in the form of Kindles and iPads are threatening to take over the publishing world, I've jumped ship and have a paper-based pamphlet out (with HappenStance). Again it's with a one-person company run by a likable character who understands the product from the inside, grows a customer base, and knows the manual labour involved in selling by post. Again I'm unqualified (I've an "O level" in English) and learning as I go along. It won't pay my bills for 6 months or attract teenagers to a stall saying that they played with it for hours on end. It might get 100% for Graphics, but there the resemblances end. The game was pre-web (1984, I think). The pamphlet wouldn't have existed without the marketing resources that computers and the WWW make available for small-scale sales (Amazon, Facebook, etc).

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