February 27, 2013

RIP Allan B. Calhamer

Filed under: Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:33

The creator of the game Diplomacy died this week:

I was a big fan of the game for many years, even publishing a play-by-mail “zine”, as I mentioned a couple of months back:

Long ago, in the days before personal computers were ubiquitous, there were “zines” (short for magazines, correctly reflecting both non-professional status and less-than-totally-serious content). There was a wide variety of zines for all sorts of interests — rather like the back corners of the internet today, except they were physically distributed using the post office (and therefore had to stay within certain boundaries to be safe). Clive and I used to publish a zine for postal Diplomacy:

Infidel 11 cover
Download PDF
Infidel 12 cover
Download PDF

Update: Should have included a hat-tip to John Kovalic, who linked to a highly appropriate Dork Tower strip from last year.

Update, the second: The Chicago Sun-Times obituary:

To people in La Grange Park, Allan B. Calhamer was the guy who delivered the mail.

But to those who have played Diplomacy — the popular board game he invented while a law student at Harvard — Mr. Calhamer, who died Monday, was a geek god.

Back in the Fortran era, the game was a sort of board-game version of TV’s Survivor set in pre-World War I Europe, with its shifting alliances, deception and back-stabbing.

[. . .]

In an article he wrote for diplomacy-archive.com, Mr. Calhamer said the game can “make some people almost euphoric and causes others to shake like a leaf.”

“It’s pitiless because, in the game Diplomacy, there will be one winner,” said game designer Steve Jackson, founder of Steve Jackson Games. “You negotiate, you make deals, you lie.”

Game experts and industry analysts say “Dip” influenced generations of designers.

More than 50 years after Mr. Calhamer invented it, enthusiasts still engage in Diplomacy all-nighters, their long stretches of quiet strategizing punctuated by occasional shouts like: “You gave me your word you would attack Berlin!” And: “My own mother took part of Russia from me!” That’s according to chatter on boardgamegeek.com.

The game is jokingly referred to as a pastime that has been “Destroying Friendships since 1959,” said Mike Webb, vice president of marketing and data services for Alliance Game Distributors.

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