Friday, 9 April 2010

The British OSR Starts Here...


Right then, let's out with it. Form ranks, King's Colour to the fore. We don't recognise much of the American-led OSR. The Brit experience looked something like this...

WHITE DWARF

Yeah, we could say "White Dwarf" and leave the whole post there.

It was brilliant, essentially from about the first issue you bought up until the point where you gave up on it. The exact year and month of each of these two issues will vary wildly between people but the fundamental point remains unchanged.

Mostly it was about the scenarios. Dwarf had absolutely brilliant scenarios and pretty much from The Lichway onwards they were scenarios that you wanted to run. Compared to scenarios in Dungeon they reeked of atmosphere. It's no surprise that GW went on to produce the atmosphere-RPG of RPGs, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

I wanted to play CoC and became a fan of Lovecraft not from discovering the writer in book form, not from reading about CoC but purely from reading the scenarios in Dwarf and thinking "Bloody hell! This stuff is mind-blowing!". I can't be the only one. Paranoia and Judge Dredd likewise. In fact, and something I will yak about next time I pull my bloody finger out and carry on with the White Dwarf Time Tunnel series of posts is that GW used the Dwarf scenario to sell the games they either produced or printed and this approach worked very well for them. It was clearly a deliberate strategy.

In a pre-Internet age, Dwarf was the point at which nearly all Brit gamers touched. It's contents were the communal geek language we used.

Admittedly this made the brilliant scenarios totally sodding useless because everybody had read them but it was a nice thought anyway.

2000AD

2000AD could be like a sleeping giant whose pockets have been picked by a gaggle of Liliputians. They all now what they've done, and they all know that one day he might wake up and then he'll know what they've done. And then they know that they are well and truly fucked.

In the hands of ligitious lawyers, 2000AD could fuck everything and everyone. Games Workshop would be in proper shit, but to be honest they are only the first name on the list. And it's a big list.

Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper. Warhammer 40,000 your Fathers and Uncles are here and they would like a quiet word.

Happily, 2000AD is more like a generous Grandfather who knows the Grandchildren are stealing his Werther's Originals, but bollocks to it he doesn't really care because he loves them all too much and is secretly proud of their ingenuity recognising himself in them. It makes him happy and all warm inside.

Very much like Iron Maiden (see later), we knew we had a truly great thing here and nobody in America seemed to notice. In a perfect world it would be held up as one of the great influences in sci-fi and satire but of course it stayed forever hidden from view in the ghetto of "boys comics".

If you are going to talk about standing on the shoulders of giants, then 2000AD is the giant, but one that nobody remembers. I'm feeling all Loved Up about 2000AD now so we'll move onto...

FIGHTING FANTASY

Nothing ever managed to get D&D style fantasy right into the faces of the British populace with such a huge impact as the early FF gamebooks did. The perfect gateway drug.

We read them, we cheated at them, we looked at the artwork (such an essential part of the whole FF experience), we read the monster stats and we went away and wrote 25-paragraph epics in imitation.

Because of FF everything else made sense. They were perfectly placed, positioned and designed to be the baby steps into RPGing and general geekery. Ask any Brit gamer aged between his early 30s and his early 40s as to what his introduction to RPGing was and 9 times out of 10 he will say FF.

The whole D&D style fantasy milieu was suddenly common currency amongst people who didn't care about such things. Parents, teachers and the like knew about dungeons under castles and mountains and monsters and traps and treasure and were delighted that boys were sitting down and actually reading.

Obviously the fad would never last, and it didn't but it means that a huge demographic within the UK would understand the RPG and it's mechanics and the D&D fantasy setting even though they never actually sat down and played/read one.

They are still the place I go to for inspiration. It's significant that a few years down the line when they had faded somewhat from the public eye, D&D fantasy wasn't at all clear to people.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Mr. Dever gave us...

LONE WOLF

...which took the gamebook experience and made it more like an epic campaign in a believable campaign world rather than one which just existed to hold a dungeon. Gary Chalk's illustrations showed us a Renaissance world rather than a High Medieval one and WFRP followed along shortly afterwards.

LW was rather expertly placed in that it's target readership was slightly older than that of FF and so coming along a little bit later managed to catch an audience that felt it had grown up and out of FF.

And all being well, assuming he remembered, fellow Stourbridge club member Antony C will have collected my copy of the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook from the FLGS and will have it waiting for me at the club tonight.

COAT-TAIL-HANGERS-ON

Golden Dragon, Grailquest, Blood Sword, Proteus, Way of the Tiger etc etc. All came along to chase the FF/LW revenue stream. Notably, nearly all of the gamebooks sold in the UK were British and aimed at a British market.

BRITART

I'm sorry but I just can't take to the artwork of Otus, Sutherland and Trampier. It wasn't what I was raised up, it was alien to my sensibilities. The first D&D artwork I ever saw was the mighty Red Box cover. The OSR generally dislikes Elmore and Easley. I like them. I am completely out of kilter with the OSR here.

In the UK, it was all John Blanche, Gary Chalk, Iain McCaig, Russ Nicholson, Leo Hartas, Gary Harrod, Tony Ackland and many others. Illustrators who had a clear lineage from Beardsley, Bosch and Durer. The US artists seemed to have a lineage from comic books. That may actually be appropriate to the US style of gaming but in Britain it just never worked.

(Another two important Britart artists were Peter Andrew Jones and Chris Achilleos but their work was generally in colour covers. It was the monochrome illos in the FF books and similar that showed the link back to Beardsley & co.)

One of the early decisions that Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone got right was the importance of good art and graphic design. Two anecdotes illustrate this perfectly (pun not intended).

Jackson & Livingstone told TSR that the artwork for Holmes was not up to the standard that the UK market would expect. The UK printing they printed had a Blanche cover and Fangorn re-drew everything inside.

Likewise, when they sorted out the book deal for The Warlock of Firetop Mountain they told Penguin that they wanted interior art and would sort it themselves, via Russ Nicholson who was freelancing for GW. Penguin grumbled but relented, deciding that as the owners of GW they probably were the experts on this matter. Then Jackson & Livingstone made a totally outrageous demand. They told Penguin that they would supply the cover as well via Peter Andrew Jones.

This was unheard of for a Penguin author, let alone debutant writers. Nobody picked their cover artist. Responsibility for the jacket design was purely in-house and always had been. But Jackson & Livingstone insisted and were prepared to walk away from the contract if this demand was not met. Eventually it was agreed to despite many misgivings from within Penguin/Puffin.

But Jackson & Livingstone were right - they understood the importance of getting the graphic design right and linking WoFM back to the rest of the "Games Workshop Hobby" within the UK. It looked like it fitted right in with the rest of what was going on in UK gaming. Left to Penguin's graphic design team (producers of much classic and highly rated graphic work as it happens) the course of UK gaming could have been much, much different and almost certainly not as successful.

(For the record I suspect that the cover would have probably had a studio photograph of a few fantasy/cod-medieval props, an off-the-shelf font for the title with no fantastical elements and that right now Coop would be interested in something entirely different. I hold that insistence upon keeping the cover "in-house" for GW as really being that important).

Strong artwork has always been a trait of GW - you never saw crap like this on the front cover of the Dwarf.

(A quick footnote - in the comments section of another post on my blog, Chris of Vaults of Nagoh makes this very insightful point when talking about BECMI hottie Aleena -

"Her fresh-faced 'California girl' look suited the All-American tone of Mentzer in much the same way the twisted, scratchy b+w linework of the FF books suited their British nihilism."

Brilliantly sums up the difference.)

GAMES WORKSHOP

How do you make a veteran wargamer froth at the mouth? Mention the words "The Games Workshop Hobby" to him.

This hated modern phrase (taken to imply that GW is both the Alpha and Omega of wargaming and effectively the inventors of the whole hobby) is reviled but actually the 1980s was no different. If you lived near a major city then GW was the one stop shop for everything. If they didn't stock it, it effectively didn't exist. If they released a new game, everyone bought it.

Even non-RPGers and non-wargamers and the school cool kids were to be found playing games like Bloodbowl and Talisman.

This is a parallel of the attitude I see on OSR blogs whereby people talk about buying Game X because TSR released it. Hence the apparent good sales figures for what really should be minority interest games like Top Secret, Gangbusters and Boot Hill.

We ignored them because we didn't have brand loyalty to TSR. We had brand loyalty to GW. We rushed out and bought Warhammer and WFRP and Block Mania and Blood Bowl and Chainsaw Warrior instead. Even games that weren't traditional GW fodder like Railway Rivals sold well because they had GW on the box.

TOLKIEN/MOORCOCK/DONALDSON

The only three that mattered. (Sir Pterry and his residential in every WHSmiths in the land came along a bit later). Donaldson seems not to get mentioned these days but back then, there were three authors that mattered and you had to read all three of them. Nothing else even blipped up on the radar. .

Lovecraft, if you could find him in print, was essential reading for CoC but not for anything else. Howard (and all manner of pastiche) was quite commonly found in second-hand bookshops, as was ERB but T/M/D were the Holy Trinity. Every public library stocked these three.

You were a Britgamer? You read these three. End of. The pulp writers being mentioned by all the OSR cool kids? You'd never heard of them despite the prevalence of...

SECOND-HAND BOOKSHOPS

In every town in the land, stacked full of Moorcock and ERB paperbacks from the 1970s. The Net Book Agreement (ruled illegal in 1997) was an unlawful cartel that kept book prices high and forbid retailers from discounting. With new books being expensive, the second-hand market thrived.

IRON MAIDEN

I was on an exchange visit to New England in 1992 and watching MTV with some of the American lads and lasses. Mostly MTV was showing rock and we all knew and loved Faith No More and the Chilis and Metallica. Then Iron Maiden came on and, astounding though it seems now, I was the only one in the room to know who they were.

"You don't know Maiden? Seriously? No, honestly these are huge in England. They've been going years. No, really!"

Suddenly it looked like "huge in England" was akin to "big in Japan".

Funky album covers, lots of imagery from fantasy and horror and sci-fi and the Second World War and Maiden fitted UK gamers like a glove. It was a perfect fit and nobody in North America at that time knew them from Adam.

You can't separate gaming in the UK in the 80s from Maiden.

8-BIT MICROS

Firstly, lets get this vitally important point clear. My Spectrum was better than your C64 then, and it's still better today despite the fact that I only have the top half of the keyboard left with the other half having vanished at some point. Don't ask why the rubber-keyed beast was in two halves - I honestly have no idea.

In England it was if The Great Videogame Crash of 1983 never happened. Despite being a huge retrogamer I never even found out about it until the late 1990s when reading Leonard Herman's "Phoenix - The Rise And Fall Of Videogames". The VCS was an expensive toy but then bald genius Clive Sinclair single-handedly built the UK 8-bit home computer industry in his shed (all truly great British ideas come from blokes in sheds) and fired the UK into the front line of computer development.

By 1983 while the US market was going tits up, we were playing games from tape on Spectrums, C64s and ZX81s. Pay £20+ quid for last generations games or £4 for this generations games (with the ability to do tape-to-tape copies)? Adventure or The Hobbit? Combat or Manic Miner? No question. VCSes got relegated to younger siblings.

There was a massive growth in this market in a space of about two years. Many proprietary machines (all incompatible with each other) appeared and dwindled leaving the market in the hands of just four - The Sinclair Spectrum, the Commodore 64, the BBC Micro and (a bit later), the Amstrad 464.

The important point is that, discounting the very small amounts of North American-specific clones created by Timex, the Spectrum was almost exclusively a British Isles machine in it's early days. Software was made by Brits for Brits and the cheap cost of the machine, it's ubiquity and a scene whereby most software was made in back bedrooms meant that the UK could support it's own dedicated games scene a situation that would be impossible in today's big budget industry whereby games costs millions of dollars and years to produce.

We were used to doing it on our own on the cheap and we didn't need the Yanks. The Japanese gave us arcade machines, but hey they'd all be converted for the home machines (officially or just cloned). Nobody saw anything unusual in producing a game that would only sell in the UK, chock full of UK-specific references and humour.

I'm talking about computer games, but the parallel with the geek gaming world should be clear. We were small enough and dynamic enough and low budget enough to entirely met our domestic demand with domestic product.

The Brit home computer gaming only started to align itself with the rest of the world in about 1993 when we slowly moved over from our Amigas and Atari STs to PCs and Megadrives.

IMPORTING

Shockingly expensive. Much of GW's genius was realising that it was cheaper to print in the UK and be a distributor and printer, not importer. If GW got it (CoC, MERP, Paranoia, RQ etc.) it took off in the UK. If they didn't, it languished in obscurity. (See earlier comment about GW)

Shipping across the pond and import taxes meant that a lot of stuff that was of virtual pocket money prices in the US (i.e. xD&D modules) wasn't particularly cheap in the UK. Including dice in a box set of rulebooks incurred the dreaded 15% Value Added Tax because according to the taxman, a box of books comprised a book and was exempt from VAT (for political reasons as VAT on books would look like a tax on children's literacy) but the same box with even just a single die was a boardgame and hence VAT-liable.

Products that appeared in the US market with no apparent importer were often dismissed as being "unobtainable" in the UK. Nowadays, I know that anything that appears stateside will be in my FLGS within a week or two and if not - trans-Atlantic mail order is a trivial thing.

Where the American-led OSR raves about modules and talks about ideas filtering down from them, I never came across this in the UK in the 1980s. This is a massive, massive difference between the two scenes. I didn't own a single TSR D&D module until 1993 when I bought one from the Virgin Megastore Birmingham, merely because I needed to break into a £20 note to get some change for the bus ride back after going to a job interview in the city and was feeling a bit flush. Strange interview too - conducted by what we would now call a Cougar who sat on the desk on my side while wearing a microskirt and tittering all the way through whilst admitting that she knew nothing about the technicalites of the job I'd applied for...

If we played a scenario (for any game) that wasn't home brew, i.e. was in print commercially it came from one of two sources - it was the scenario included in the rulebook, or it was the latest and greatest thing from this month's White Dwarf. Which, obviously, the players had already read because all of them got Dwarf in every month religiously.

SATELLITE DELAY TO THE COMMONWEALTH

Before wide use of barcodes for POS systems, UK periodicals would have a mass of different currency prices on the front cover. As well as the UK cost they would carry the cost in the Irish Republic, South Africa, Australia, NZ, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Spain (ex-pat communities), Western Samoa and many more. Specificially though, not the US. Letter pages had a strange time delay whereby the magazines and comics would take so long to reach the rest of the non-American Anglophone world that far-flung readers would be using them to comment on issues from six months ago.

This created the impression that we were in an Anglophone world seperate from America. We were hearing (admittedly not with any rush or urgency) from gamers and geeks in apartheid-era SA, the Antipodes, Cyprus and the like. And they we were playing like us. What were the Americans doing? Very few of us knew or noticed.

ANTI-AMERICANISM

Touchy one this. There was in the 1980s a huge streak of Anti-Americanism running clean through British society. I'm not sure when Britain's attitude towards it's ex-colonial cousins changed from gratitude and admiration post-war (not counting the continual sniping and grumbling about "late to the show twice in one century") over to anger at perceived Yankee Imperialism but I suspect that the Vietnam War might have started the trend, most notably visible in the famous Grosvenor Square riot of 1968.

Certainly by the 1980s it was rampant. There were two main faces of this, firstly Thatcher was a very divisive figure and her stoking of the Special Relationship with Reagan seemed to bind the US with Thatcherism so that much of the left regarded the hated Thatch and Cowboy Ronnie as essentially two halves of the same marriage and much of a muchness.

The left definately were the main axis of the Anti-American thing and much of their support came from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament pressure group. In the 1980s this was huge and membership was virtually a right of passage for anybody left of centre (and quite a few vocal members came from the other end of the political spectrum) - Tony Blair used to receive flak when PM for having been a member as young man, a attitude which seems bizarre today. I would be more supicious of Blair if, as a young Labour Party member he wasn't. This was the age of Greenham Common protests and a time in which a piece of graffiti "U.S. OUT!" could stay on a road bridge passed by thousands every day near where I grew up for years without anyone thinking to remove it. America was the main target for CND, a movement which is today almost completely forgotten having crumbled rapidly along with the Berlin Wall once the Cold War dribbled out.

It was a different time then and not even post Bush/Iraq/Afghanistan has the UK experienced anything similar - perhaps the nearest has been vocal Muslim anger at the US and this is generally ignored as being from shouty young men who will grow up and out of it at some point.

The English speaking world was not as homogenized as it is now. The student populace was far more suspicious of all things American. Unsurprisingly, suspicion of American things was patchy - the most rabid anti-American would still rate Hollywood movies higher than British rubbish and join in with the brief craze for American football that flared up in the UK in the 1980s.

(There were Ameriphiles about, but they were treated with contempt, driving stupidly large left-hand drive American cars around stupidly small UK roads and doing excrable things like line-dancing and wearing cowboy hats.)

This attitude and the times may explain much of the rise of GW - yes it was importing and printing US games but here was a British company doing British things and pushing the British way. It was a message that fell upon fertile ground. Anti-Americanism was just one facet of how British society was really not at all in sync with American society.

Our gaming was shaped accordingly.

28 comments:

  1. Blakes 7, Tomorrow People, Clockwork Orange, Into the Labyrinth, JG Ballard novels, Orwell's 1984, Gary Numan, Sapphire & Steel, got all mushed up in my brain with cool European films on Channel 4 like 'Stalker'. Greyhawk seemed like Disney in comparison, knights as cowboys.

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  2. You're wrong about the C64, and I've still never read any Moorcock, but otherwise it's all spot on. Your point about 2000AD is particularly important too, I think, as it does tend to get overlooked as a cultural force. After all, no Tooth, then no Alan Moore.

    I also wonder if punk didn't have an influence. You've got the movement kicking off only a short time before rpgs and 2000AD hit the scene, and there definitely seems to be a filtering of the irreverence of punk into those other areas.

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  3. Fascinating!

    Thanks for sharing this. In America, we knew the British stuff as edgy, "scratchy" and disturbed, but "deeper" and more serious in its way than what we got domestically.

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  4. Oh, and my lifelong love of Iron Maiden has always been because of the album covers. I've only recently got into their music, but my older brother had all of their records, because they were indeed records back then, and I used to spend ages looking through his collection, entranced by this strange cover art. Why there isn't an Iron Maiden coffee-table art book, I do not know.

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  5. The post I wish I could have written. You, Coop', are a national treasure. Any thoughts on "Dr Who" as formative Brit gamer influence? or is that just stretching the net too wide?

    @Sean: "Into the Labyrinth" - I had vague memories of that show (particularly the weird hippyish opening credits), but no idea what it was called.

    @kelvingreen: Iron Maiden coffee table art book?

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  6. My experience in Canada (moved here from the UK when I was 5) was very similar to this. Definitely add Doctor Who as an important influence. :)

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  8. Chris, that would do nicely, if it weren't so expensive as a collectable! Three hundred quid?!?! The irony being that it's cheaper to buy and import from America.

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  9. Do you allow honorary Brit gamers? I blame my British-Canon loving English teacher Aunt who had Dr. Who on the approved list. On PBS along with a lot of other BritTV.

    That and her son who introduced me to D&D (via Holmes Basic :P ) was also into Iron Maiden.

    I'm nodding throughout the post, except I'd replace Donaldson with Meryvn Peake, who I became aware of from mentions in Games Worshop artist profiles.

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  10. Sorry about the delay responding to your comments - I just got back in the house from a weekend away.

    @Chris/Stuart - Confession time - I stopped watching Who during the Tennant era as I grew to dislike it immensely. As for "proper" Who, I never felt a link between Who and gaming - people were into both but I never felt the two were related other than being tangentialy linked by being liked by the same people because they were geeks. I never seemed to feel that it was a part of UK gaming anyway. Others may feel otherwise.

    Ruminating on the Who issue for a bit made me realise that for RPGers, the definitive UK TV series might actually have been Robin of Sherwood - because we were predominantly fantasy and that was a fantasy series with it's Saxon myth and Clannad soundtrack. Sci-fi was the poor relation as regards gaming right until the point where 40K was released. Yes, there is foreshadowing of another BritOSR post here, one that is still a bit embryonic...

    @Kelvingreen - For me, punk was a younger face of the "bloke in his shed", an apparently UK-exclusive thing whereby men retire to sheds and either invent something of genius or make something better than a professional manages to do. There is a link with gaming, but not via the music, just the attitude "yeah, I can make something and I don't need somebody to make something for me and tell me what that something I want should be.". That's why a slavish devotion to "official" and "Chapter Approved" in gaming saddens me.

    @Gibbering Ghoul Englishness is a state of mind and the personal decision of the individual :)

    I love Gormenghast but it didn't seem to be required reading for gaming - Donaldson did but these days is never mentioned so it wasn't until I started writing this that I remembered that, basically, I hadn't thought of nor heard of his works for absolutely years. Maybe some people reading the blog have been going "Who!?" when seeing his name like with JRRT and Moorcock.

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  11. Excellent.

    Fair enough on Peake, but for me the art design of early Games Workshop was as influential as the games (though the RPG was a close 2nd, White Dwarf a close 3rd). Aside from artists mentioned Peake, Ian Miller was the most influential to me, and he illustrated a set of distinctive Gormenghast illustrations that fit right in with his GW work IMO. Mind, he also illustrated a notable part of the Tolkein Beastiary, which made for quite a different impression than is the norm for Tolkein. :P

    You may want to give the new Doctor a try, rather different from the 10th Dr. and more like the first 3.

    As for Donaldson, something happened, I'm not sure exactly what. Either he ran his themes into the ground, ran out of steam or ??? For me I just can't past first The Land book, the protagonist and the writing make it not fun nor seemingly worth the effort. I hear it gets better and the 2nd series was more palatable (and similar with one of the other unrelated series) but well, there's just so many others to read out there...

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  12. For me, Donaldson seemed to be trying too hard to not-do-Tolkien, which was admirable in theory, but I'm not sure it worked in practice. Lots of good ideas though.

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  13. Spot on, I particularly liked the "GW Brand Loyalty" angle, which is why I think we felt so cheated when they dropped some of their product lines in favour of pimping single foot mini's at £5 a pop.

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  14. Awesome, awesome post. I love knowing how the hobby evolved and was perceived.

    My gaming group in the 80's was very much influenced by all thing English/British. My DM introduced me to D&D AND Iron Maiden in one fell swoop. So even though I gre up in Illinois, D&D and Iron Maiden are forever linked for me as well. We read Moorcock, stayed up late on Sunday night to watch the Tom Baker run of Doctor Who on PBS. Our game store carried Dragon and the occasional White Dwarf.

    Though I agree with others on this point, Donaldson lost interest with me.

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  15. I must've grown up in a Brit enclave, because Maiden was THE SHIT from 1982 thru 1986 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Everyone had an Eddie t-shirt and we all wore out our tapes of Number of the Beast and Powerslave. Like Tim, D&D and Maiden are always close relatives.

    And Thomas Covenant will always be alive in my imagination, as will the Giants and Ranyhyn. There are many direct rip-offs from the first trilogy in my "Dark Ages" campaign I'm running. (Although I have to say that the latest set are complete shit, I am bored by them. :/)

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  16. You basically described be a gamer in Spain in the same era... You can change the name of the magazine, and of course, kids depended on translated editions. But FF & Lone Wolf, Micros, Iron Maiden, imports... I remember all of that.

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  17. Great article, even if the C64 is so much better than the Spectrum its not even funny.

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  18. "The Great Videogame Crash of 1983" is a fun little myth. People didn't understand marketing and innovation. A lot of folks buy a bunch of games when they get a new system and then the purchases dwindle away. As there was no real measurable improvement in "expensive" video game systems of the time consumers just weren't enough new games to keep the vast array of game producers in business at the time. How many variation of red dot chasing green dot does the consumer really need?

    I had a professor that told me the video game market was dead in the mid 80's when I expressed a desire to do video game work (I did some screens and coding, nothing major). I thought he was nuts then and it turns out I was right.

    FF and WFRP were both great contributions from Britain that did the gaming world good. I say the Brits should get working and come up with something new again.

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  19. Y'know, Stuart Marshall and Matt Finch are Brits. Just sayin'.

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  20. Whoops, apparently just Stuart. Still, not entirely American-led.

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  21. Matt Finch lives in Texas. I don't know what his birthplace is, but he's a dyed-in-the-wool Texan now. LOL

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  22. Great post. I'm a 36 yr old Brit gamer so you touched upon pretty much all the significant points of my life. But you can't really talk about GW in the 80s without also mentioning Citadel Miniatures.

    I don't feel I was a proper devotee to the realm of geek until I played my first d&d game (group found through the WD small ads) and saw my DM's miniatures collection. I borrowed them for an evening and spent the whole time gazing at these little painted marvels. I never looked back.

    I totally agree with you about Robin of Sherwood. And there were some great British films which were massive hits with me because of my love for all things fantasy: Jabberwocky, Time Bandits and Excalibur stand out in my memory.

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  23. Hey, what about the Dragon Warriors RPG?!?!

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  24. Most of the formative influences were English rather than British - growing up in Northern Ireland I found the anti-Americanism of the English (including in White Dwarf) noticeable but irrelevant to our experience. The Scots & Welsh were too busy being anti-English to be anti-American, likewise.

    I guess the big exception to the English domination of the fantasy scene was the Scottish roots of 2000AD.

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  25. Not sure who you hung out with in 92 but Iron Maiden was headlining in the states from Number of the Beast onward, that was like 82. They kept the metal torch going while the hair rock phase ran its course.

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  26. I think that you're a little generous to Games Workshop, who I remember stocking a lot of TSR products long before WHFRPG which co-incided with their in-house products only policy which eventually killed role playing in the UK. The last gasp came with games like WHQ where GW barely acknowledge RPGs as board games. GW stocked AD&D in the early 80s but like yourself I only saw AD&D 2 modules in small corners of shops like Virgin Megastore. I'm right with you on Spectrums and FF - although I also remember a lot of snobbery agains game books from tabletop roleplayers. Cool post!

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  27. Malaysia and Singapore gained independence from Britain in the 60's, but still carried much of Brit tastes in literature and film. So while we managed to get D&D in the 70's, it was heavily informed by FF, Lone Wolf, Way of the Tiger, Blood Sword and all those other fabulous time sinks of the 80's. And also paved the way for GW's eventual entrance into gaming consciousness through WFRP and WH40K. American stuff came much later and the OSR movement feels alien. Awesome post that's almost like finding out your geek genealogy.

    Cheers, mate
    Rogue_lead

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