(1959- ) US Game designer and writer, inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Hall of Fame in 1999. Costikyan is a rare example of a designer who has worked on three generations of modern games, from Wargames through Role Playing Games to Videogames. He began developing Wargames as a teenager, helping to create such works as the World War Two-based Supercharge (1976 Simulations Publications Inc [SPI]) designed by Frank Davis, Greg Costikyan, Redmond Simonsen and Battlefleet Mars (1977). His first actual design was the excellently crafted Swords and Sorcery (1978 SPI), with Eric Goldberg, a combination of a Wargame and an adventure Board Game similar to a RPG, set in a fully developed and original fantasy milieu with a strongly satirical flavour, full of puns and references to the then small world of games design. Costikyan continued to work on Wargames, including The Creature that Ate Sheboygan (1979) and Vector 3 (1979 SPI) – a game of tactical space combat reusing the Newtonian mechanics of Battlefleet Mars – until the market crashed in the early 1980s. He then began to concentrate on RPGs, including the impressive Toon (1984) (see RPGs) and Paranoia (1984) as well as Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (1987) (see Star Wars Games), though he did return to the earlier form in Web and Starship (1984). More recently, he has done some work on Videogames, of which the most notable is perhaps Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life (1997 Crossover Technologies, Win; vt Genetic Evolution: The Race for Intelligent Life), a real time Computer Wargame in which the goal is to evolve an intelligent form of life which might have appeared on Earth. In recent years, however, his involvement with games has to some extent shifted from original design work to a concern with critical and historical analysis, and the promotion of Independent Games through such avenues as his publishing company, the now defunct Manifesto Games.
Costikyan's game designs are often characterized by parody and dark humour; notable examples include Paranoia and Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed (1999 Hogshead) as by "Designer X", which transfers the gameplay of a highly combat-oriented fantasy RPG into the modern world, essentially positioning its player characters as serial killers. The savagely satirical Violence is largely unplayable, and intended to be so. Critically, Costikyan is an enthusiast for game design as an art form, and for approaching games primarily as systems of rules rather than as Interactive Narratives. Interestingly, however, many of his designs involve strong fictions, generally on sf or fantasy themes. The explanation of this apparent conflict may be visible in Paranoia, where the milieu is crucial but individual characters are unimportant, existing as "six packs" of identical Clones all of which may be eliminated in a single session of play; for Costikyan, perhaps, the world, not the characters, is the star.
Costikyan is also an sf writer, who began publishing fiction of genre interest with "They Want Our Women" for Aboriginal, September/October 1988; his only sf novel is First Contract (2000), an odd but beguiling Satire in which Aliens – depicted in broad cartoon-like strokes – ruthlessly apply free-market interplanetary capitalist practices to those, i.e. entrepreneurs of the Western World, who had previously profited from applying those same principles to our own Third World. In the end, humans triumph, but the pleasingly sour – and knowledgeable – taste remains; Costikyan's own entrepreneurial experiences have clearly been drawn on. [NT/JC]
see also: Postal Worlds; Star Trek Games.
Gregory John Costikyan
born July 1959
Cups and Sorcery
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