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Will Fresno Survive? : Players Save, Destroy World--for Fun

July 09, 1986|PETER BAKER | Times Staff Writer

Several tables sold little but dice, so important are they to the hobby. Hundreds of 6-siders, 8-siders, 10-siders and even the new 100-siders were available.

"I think none of the dealers will complain about business," said Hunt, one of 350 volunteers staffing the convention. "I've had a number of dealers come to me saying they're all sold out."

Between the five auctions and the dealers' room, players probably spent more than $200,000 just on games and accessories, Hunt estimated. By convention's end, organizers figured that the average fan spent $50 to $100.

One company, Strategic Studies Group, came all the way from Australia to introduce its newest computer game, Battlefront, and already has space reserved for next year's convention in Baltimore.

"It's been our realization right from the start that we have to establish ourselves here--after all, 90% of our games are sold in the United States," said Roger Keating, who co-founded the company 3 1/2 years ago. "We feel we have to make our sales visible to the buying public, so Origins is going to be the place where we go out and meet the people who play our games."

Across the aisle from the Aussie group was a booth set up by a man who started playing war games in college and then decided to make a career out of it.

"I got into it as a career, kind of by accident," said Steve Jackson, 32, designer of about half a dozen role-playing games, among them Car Wars, Toon and the just-released Generic User Role Playing System (GURPS).

"I was reading a newspaper when I should've been studying, and I saw an ad that impressed me. It was for a job at a game company, editing a magazine, and I decided to give it a shot. I didn't get the job, but I did get a job editing games for them, and pretty soon I showed them one I designed. That was Ogre, and it's done pretty well."

That may well be an understatement. Ogre, a game pitting ordinary military units against a huge futuristic juggernaut-tank, became so popular after it was introduced in 1977 that Jackson soon broke off from his old job and formed his own game company.

Steve Jackson Games, now with a staff of 20 and a building of its own in Austin, Tex., is a rising star in the gaming world, and as he chats, Jackson himself is bombarded with autograph requests.

"The independence is nice and I'm supporting myself," he said. "I'm probably not making as much money as if I had stayed in law school, but I wouldn't be having as much fun either. That's the thing--I'm enjoying myself."

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