The UT Videogame Archive is pleased to announce the acquisition of approximately twenty boxes worth of material from Steve Jackson. The materials, originating from Jackson’s Austin-based paper game publisher Steve Jackson Games, were transferred on March 26 from the Austin History Center, where they were previously housed. The materials included games published by Steve Jackson Games (SJG), press releases, and the company’s newsletters.
Why, you may ask, is the Videogame Archive interested in materials from a paper games publisher? The most immediate answer lies in the close affinity between paper-based games and videogames, an affinity brought into sharp relief by the passing of Gary Gygax this year. Jackson’s influence on Austin’s videogame community may not be quite as legendary as the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, but his games were mined for videogame ideas, and at least one game — Autoduel, published in 1985 by Origin — was based directly on Steve Jackson’s game Car Wars.
Furthermore, not a few of Austin’s videogame developers got their game design start at Steve Jackson Games. One of those developers was Warren Spector, who began working at SJG while pursuing a Ph.D. in Radio-TV-Film at UT. Others include Allen Varney, Denis Loubet, Aaron Allston, Jeff George, Steve Beeman, Bill Armintrout, and David Ladyman. So many developers got their start at SJG that Spector has been known to dub Jackson as “the Father of Austin Gaming”.
Finally, in the late 1980s Jackson found himself playing a central role in the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, when the Secret Service raided the SJG office and confiscated several key computers and files. As chronicled in Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown, it took several months for Jackson to retrieve his much-needed computer and data, forcing him to temporarily lay off his staff and close up shop (Sterling himself, it should be noted, counted Jackson and Spector as his friends in the early 1980s, before he found success as a science-fiction novelist). The ensuing attempts to recover his equipment, data, and lost time figure prominently in EFF’s early activities.
With all of this history swirling around Steve Jackson Games, we are pleased to consider this first acquisition as the start of a long-lasting relationship. We’ll be sure to post news of further donations from Jackson in the future.