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  • A Chat With Former CGW Head Johnny Wilson

    - Steve Fulton

  • Was there any moment that you thought game journalism "jumped the shark"?

    As used in Hollyweird, this is a plot gimmick used when ratings/box office are/is down. I don't remember ever deliberately gimmicking the magazine to get attention. Did I overhype convergence in the ‘90s? Yes! Did I think cable television, film production, and game development were going to come together? Pretty much! I blew it.

    Now that video game news is updated 24/7 on the web, is there yet a place for a serious publication about gaming?

    Absolutely not!

    Retro Gamer magazine is one of the top-selling publications for Future in the UK.  Why do you think that might be?  Do you think there is place for nostalgia publications in the USA?

    UK has a smaller, more efficient distribution system. You don't have as many returns in the UK as you do in US newsstand. That helps make it viable. If we ever do one in the USA, I want to write for it, but I wouldn't personally invest in it. The US has a cult of the NEW-especially in technology.

    What are your thoughts on that game industry today?

    The future of packaged games is questionable. The problem with downloadable content is that one has to know where to browse and the search engines are such that you don't get surprised like you do when browsing a shelf. However, I think we're going to see an explosion of content on tablet media (iPad and Android tablet) for a while. It  gives new talent a chance to break in at a decent budget level. The big publishers have to find a way to dial back their production budgets.

    Do you think Facebook social games are the future, or simply a blip like many other blips in the past (i.e Tycoon games in late 90's)?

    Blip! Who has time to constantly be bothered by other players-even folks you like? I think we're already seeing evidence of that.

    What are your desert island top-10 games (or any type, board, computers, video game)?

    1. Sid Meier's Civilization (any edition) [PC]
    2. Heroes of Might & Magic (any edition) [PC]
    3. The Elder Scrolls (particularly post-Arena) [PC]
    4. Paths of Glory (a WWI card-driven boardgame) [Board]
    5. Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 or Pathfinder d20) [Pen and Paper RPG]
    6. Traveller (science-fiction role-playing) [Pen and Paper RPG]
    7. Empire Deluxe (editable turn-based conquest game) [PC]
    8. MechWarrior (any game in this giant ‘mech series) [PC]
    9. Naval War (or any of its clones like Tyrants of Rome, Modern Naval Battles) [Card]
    10. British Rails [or any of the Mayfair "rails" games] [Board]

    And that list would change slightly every time I would be asked that question.

    Can you tell us a bit more about your work at De Paul University?

    I'm an incredibly minor player at DePaul University's College of Computing and Digital Media. The school allows me to teach a course for history credit ("History of Games") in which we build a history of western civilization around model games (like Senet, Medieval Chess, Faro, and Pokemon Trading Card Game), looking first at each civilization (Ancient Egypt, Medieval Iberia, Frontier U.S., and Modern Japan) and playing the game as we discover how the culture impacted the game and how the game impacted the culture. The first unit covers the history of racing games (Senet,  Nyout, Nard, etc.); the second considers war games (Go, Alquerque, Chinese Chess, Kriegsspiel, and miniatures/board wargames); the third touches on  the history of gambling games; and the fourth looks at  RPGs, video games, and trading card games). So, one gets history AND one gets game history in one place.

    In addition to my History of Video Gameselective  for Game Design majors, I teach an "Ethics in Games and Cinema" course that uses film clips from games and movies, as well as game experiences like Diplomacy-variants to challenge assumptions about in-game/in-film ethics, as well as inspire would-be designers to include ethical dimensions within their games.

    Do you have any discussions with your religious colleagues about games?

    Well, Robert Don Hughes was a seminary professor and colleague of mine. He wrote the Pelmen the Power-Shaper series (If you haven't read Prophet of Lamath, you missed a treat.) We have a religious fantasy and science fiction class taught in the Religion Department here at DePaul, so I have talked to  that prof  (grin). Most of my church members play games and one of the elders of our church went with me to the World Boardgame Championships last year. My brother is a conservative pastor and his church hosted a local game club (at no charge) for a couple of years.

    What are the future plans for Johnny Wilson?

    I expect to keep teaching at DePaul. I recently spoke at a conference in China and would love to teach more over there. I serve as teaching pastor of a church in Chicago and actually spend more time playing FTF role-playing games and board war games  than PC games (currently, re-playing The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind before buying Skyrim. I also picked up Blood Bowl for nostalgia value.


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