I doubt many people can identify their first foray into being a junior entrepreneur. Somewhat surprisingly I can, which is odd. Despite having run my own business for 18 years I am not a natural entrepreneur. I love to be creative, I love what I actually do, and I love to solve my clients’ problems. However I don’t jump at opportunities to sell, I don’t plan like a salesman or run things like a business man. I create things, brochures, logos, websites, and maps. Maps? Yes maps!
Junior entrepreneurial me sold maps at school, but not just any maps, oh no. Magical maps.
It was 1982 and I had just discovered Dungeons and Dragons and, at this point more importantly, was passionate about the ‘choose your own adventure’ game books craze. Especially The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Now I must declare that I was one of those annoying players who didn’t cheat and hold my finger at certain entries as I read through. I also didn’t cheat dice and therefore occasionally lost battles. I loved the whole concept. That the hero was never described in the books meant that the hero could, and did look like me, was me. I loved the design and layout of the Adventure Sheets. And I was fascinated by the idea of mapping the dungeon. I drew it carefully as I played, adding notes and drawings as I went.
In fact I ended up with two maps. One leading up to the river, and one beyond with the maze and the finale. Once I had won the game I drew up final maps and took them in to school. It must have been a Friday. I was showing some friends the maps and other kids noticed and took an interest. Like most children’s fads when the Fighting Fantasy game books first took off there was a huge ground swell of interest and nearly everyone at school had The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It seemed that many people were also having difficulty, so that weekend I hit the library photocopier hard and made a load of copies of both maps.
The photocopies cost me 5p each and on Monday I sold them in the playground for 10p. Not a bad little profit. The map of the dungeon before the river was most popular with the maze map surprisingly (to me at any rate) less sought after. When I made the map of Citadel of Chaos I sold barely any. In hindsight many of the kids buying the maps were band wagon jumpers and I was lucky to be selling at a peak. Once the initial furore had died down there were still a load of us playing the books, but all as hardened gamers we made our own maps, in our own ways and the market dried up completely.
Another key element of the Fighting Fantasy game books was the artwork. In keeping with the idea that you were the hero all pictures were drawn from a point of view perspective. You never saw the hero, you never saw yourself, you only saw what you would see. Of course I loved the art in the Dungeons and Dragons books, and in Dragon and White Dwarf magazines but this was different, a new view on the world. Perhaps without it many computer games today would be very different. In fact without The Warlock of Firetop Mountain my life would be very different, first entrepreneurial foray notwithstanding, and so would many other people’s too.
Confession time: There was one Fighting Fantasy game book I did cheat at. Starship Traveller. Despite playing it fairly many times, and cheating many more, I still never, ever completed it. Maybe I should return to it one day?