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Confessions of a Pioneer Computer Game Designer (Part One: Popopoly)
I've noticed a lot of interest recently in the early days of computer gaming so ... always one to jump two-footed, studs showing, onto every bandwagon ... I thought it about time to reveal my small part in those far-off days. For in 1981 I created Randomberry Games - one of the first computer game companies in the UK.
But first, let's go back to the 1960s and talk about Popopoly. This was the first game I designed. I was thirteen and had just watched a TV comedy (maybe All Gas and Gaiters, maybe Me Mammy) in which the characters were playing a spoof board game called Popopoly. I thought this was brilliant - a Catholic version of Monopoly for Jesuits - but the TV programme only scratched the surface - a few jokes and that was it. I needed more - so I got out some paper, some stiff card ... and started designing.
The four train stations became Monasteries. The streets became parishes, the rent became stipends - descending in value from the prestigious parishes in Mayfair to the distant Hebridean islands inhabited entirely by sheep worshippers. The utilities became seminaries and Free Parking became a Retreat. Jail, of course, became Hell (spawning such classic cards as the 'Get out of Hell Free' card and the 'You were seen winning second prize at a beauty pageant - go to Hell, hussy!'
The Chance cards became Miracles. Community Chest became the Collection Plate. Taxes were collected by the Jesuits, church roofs were always in need of repair and the confessional a lucrative source of income.
Naturally the goal of the game was to amass as many parishes as possible, build churches and cathedrals, beggar your rival curates and, with white smoke wafting skywards, become Pope.
I will go to Hell. I will not pass Go. I will not collect my stipend.