It was just over a year ago that we joined the Kickstarter clamour to make Darren Wall’s history of iconic computer game developers Sensible Software a reality. We were delighted when Darren duly hit his target and excited to see the finished product, which dropped through our letterbox this week. And praise the heavens; Sensible Software 1986-1999 is a ruddy triumph.
Written by games writer Gary Penn in collaboration with Sensible’s Jon Hare, this is a comprehensive, funny and honest account of the rise and fall of the organisation that bought the world classics like Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Wizball.
There’s plenty here for computer games geeks to enjoy; original designs, hand-scribbled game treatments, photographs, a huge archive of Sensible visuals and plans for games that never saw the light of day, but there’s much more to this intriguing title. In many ways it’s about much broader themes; creative control, the changing nature of the games market across the 1980s and 90s and what factors cause fortunes to shine, and to wane.
“It was one of the best runs you could have but all good things come to an end. We found our end…by accident.”
This is made possible by the candour of the interviewees; rather than a two-dimensional hagiography we find out that the team hated Sensible Golf –"so dry, so humourless" – and where the much-vaunted adult game Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll went wrong – “so overdeveloped.”
And Jon Hare’s meditation on the problems the company went onto face is wonderfully poignant: “All I can say is – fuck… we had seven, eight years at the top. It was one of the best runs you could have but all good things come to an end. We found our end…by accident.”
That end was of course 3D (or “Fucking 3D”) but this chapter of computer game history deserves a history this good.
- American Studies: Jeremy Liebman unpacks his father’s photography archive
- Christian Pardini's Studio Flat creates neat type-based posters, postcards and identity design
- Lynnie Zulu decorates her exotic characters in punchy hues and patterns
- Production Type and Large’s confident and consistent designs for electronic music mag Trax
- Mark Manzi makes a spectacle of spectators at the Queen’s 90th Birthday
- New work from Supermundane show Everything Connects
- Don't Hug Me I'm Scared - an exclusive interview with Duck, Red Guy and Yellow Guy
- The Imperfection Booklets by O.OO explain the nuances of Risograph printing
- Reactions to the referendum and our weekly Best of the Web
- Babak Ganjei paints 90s sitcom sitting rooms. But which one's which?
- Pop, subcultures and the future of graphic design: an interview with Experimental Jetset
- Oliver Curtis photographs the world’s most famous monuments, the wrong way round