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Greg Costikyan

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Greg Costikyan
Costikyan in 2006
Costikyan in 2006
Born (1959-07-22) July 22, 1959 (age 64)[1]
New York City, U.S.[1]
Pen nameDesigner X
OccupationGame designer, science fiction writer
EducationBrown University (BS)
GenreRole-playing games
Louise Disbrow
(m. 1986)
RelativesEdward N. Costikyan (father)

Greg Costikyan (born July 22, 1959, in New York City[1]), sometimes known under the pseudonym "Designer X",[2] is an American game designer and science fiction writer.[3] Costikyan's career spans nearly all extant genres of gaming, including: hex-based wargames, role-playing games, boardgames, card games, computer games, online games, and mobile games. Several of his games have won Origins Awards. He co-founded Manifesto Games, now out of business, with Johnny Wilson in 2005.

Personal life and education[edit]

Greg Costikyan is the son of attorney and politician Edward N. and Frances (Holmgren) Costikyan.[1] He and Warren Spector, a game designer, were friends since high school.[4] He is a 1982 graduate (B.S.) of Brown University.[1] He married Louise Disbrow (a securities analyst), September 4, 1986.[1] They have three children.[5] He is a frequent speaker at game industry events including the Game Developers Conference and .


Greg Costikyan has been a game designer since the 1970s.[6] Costikyan worked at SPI until it was closed by TSR in 1982; he came to West End Games in 1983.[7]: 186  His 1983 game Bug-Eyed Monsters brought West End Games into the science-fiction and fantasy genres, and the following year he licensed his Paranoia role-playing game to West End Games for publishing after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher.[7]: 186–187  Costikyan designed Toon (1984) for Steve Jackson Games after developing it from an idea suggested by Jeff Dee; Costikyan felt that the game system was mostly "arbitrary" and that the theme of the game was far more important.[7]: 104  West End Games acquired licensing to make a game based on Star Wars, and Costikyan designed Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, published in 1987, assisted by Doug Kaufman and others.[7]: 190 

Costikyan and Eric Goldberg left West End Games in January 1987, forming the short-lived Goldberg Associates.[7]: 191  When West End Games declared bankruptcy in 1998, Costikyan and Goldberg tried to recover the rights to Paranoia; although West End's founder Scott Palter tried to fight this, a judge gave the rights back to the creators in 2000.[7]: 194  Costikyan designed the role-playing game Violence (1999) under the pseudonym "Designer X" for Hogshead Publishing, and made sure that the game would widely available by releasing it under a Creative Commons license.[7]: 306–307  Costikyan and Goldberg licensed Paranoia to Mongoose Publishing, which began producing new books for the game in 2004.[7]: 398 

Costikyan was the CEO of Manifesto Games, a start-up devoted to providing a viable path to market for independently developed computer games.[6] He subsequently worked as a consultant for several years before joining Guerillapps as lead game designer in March 2010 to develop its game "Trash Tycoon" for Facebook.[8] In May 2011, he joined Disney Playdom as senior games designer and in January 2014 assumed the same role at Loop Drop. In June 2015, Costikyan joined Boss Fight Entertainment as senior games designer.[9]

He has written on games, game design, and game industry business issues for publications including: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Interactive, Salon, The Escapist, Gamasutra, and Game Developers Magazine, and is the author of science fiction novels.[6][10]

He has lectured on game design at universities including: the Copenhagen ITU, Helsinki University of Art & Design, RPI, and Stony Brook University.[10]

As of 2019, Costikyan and Goldberg both joined Playable Worlds, a gaming startup focused on producing an as-yet-unnamed MMORPG.


Costikyan's notable works include:

Costikyan's other RPG credits include Acute Paranoia (1986) for Paranoia,[12]: 353  and Your Own Private Idaho (1987) for The Price of Freedom.[12]: 256 

In addition, Costikyan is a widely published author on the subject of game design and the role of games in culture. His essay "I Have No Words and I Must Design"[19] is widely read as a conceptual approach to framing game design.

Costikyan worked on game design for many years, including writing and consulting for Nokia. In September 2005, he left Nokia to join with Johnny Wilson, former editor of Computer Gaming World, in founding the startup indie game publisher Manifesto Games.[20] He regularly contributed to the now defunct Manifesto Games' website, and was editor in chief of their now defunct offshoot game review blog Play This Thing.[21]

In the 1970s and '80s, Costikyan was a leading player of Slobbovia. His novel One Quest, Hold the Dragons includes several stories about crottled greeps, a Slobbovian meme.[citation needed]

In 1997, he designed the video game Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life.[22]

In February 2009, Costikyan updated the rules and re-released his 1979 space combat game, Vector 3, under a Creative Commons license as a free PDF download.[23]


Costikyan has written four novels. The first two were parodies of genre fantasy: Another Day, Another Dungeon (1990, ISBN 0-8125-0140-3) and its sequel One Quest, Hold the Dragons (1995, ISBN 0-8125-2269-9). By the Sword (1993, ISBN 0-312-85489-7) is another irreverent fantasy about a young barbarian who is forced by circumstances to make his way in the larger world; it was originally serialized on the Prodigy online service.

His latest novel, First Contract (in French : Space O.P.A. - 2000, ISBN 0-312-87396-4), depicts (with much dry humor) the vast sociological and economic changes that happen after aliens arrive on Earth, and one entrepreneur's efforts to survive and make a new start.[24]

In 2013, Costikyan's non-fiction look at the role of uncertainty in game development Uncertainty in Games was published by MIT Press. A paperback edition was subsequently published in 2015. ISBN 9780262527538.[25]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Costikyan is the winner of five Origins Awards.[6] On March 7, 2007, Costikyan received the Game Developers Choice Awards Maverick Award. The award was given for his tireless efforts to create a viable channel for indie games.[26] He was inducted into the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame in 1999.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Costikyan, Greg 1959-.". Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. Gale. 2006. Archived from the original on 2013-08-16. Retrieved 2012-04-18. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Ed Hogg. "Violence by Greg Costikyan, writing as "Designer X"". Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  3. ^ "Greg Costikyan". Pen & Paper RPG Database. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  4. ^ "Games * Design * Art * Culture". 2003-04-07. Archived from the original on 7 April 2003. Retrieved 2021-12-18.
  5. ^ Greg Costikyan. "Personal Stuff". Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  6. ^ a b c d Costikyan, Greg (2007). "My Life with Master". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 204–208. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  8. ^ "Multiplayer Facebook Game Trash Tycoon Trains You To Be Green (But In A Fun Way)". Tech Crunch Network. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Greg Costikyan Linkedin". Linkedin. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Digital Media Wire - Greg Costikyan". Digital Media Wire. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Web and Starship". Gollancz SFE. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  13. ^ "Origins Award Winners (1987)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  14. ^ "Charles S. Roberts Award Winners (1985)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  15. ^ "1984 list of winners". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  16. ^ "Charles S. Roberts Award Winners (1979)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  17. ^ Banks, Michael (2008). On the Way to the Web: The Secret History of the Internet and its Founders. Apress. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4302-5074-6.
  18. ^ "Review of Violence: the Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed". RPG.com / Skotos Tech, Inc. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  19. ^ Greg Costikyan (1994). "I Have No Words and I Must Design". Archived from the original on 2008-08-12.
  20. ^ Dean Takahashi (14 February 2007). "An Interview With Greg Costikyan, the "Maverick" of Manifesto Games". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  21. ^ "Manifesto Spins Off 'Play This Thing!' Blog". UBM TechWeb. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  22. ^ Costikyan, Greg (April 15, 1997). "Designer's Notes". costik.com. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  23. ^ Greg Costikyan (3 February 2009). "Vector 3 – Tabletop Tuesday: Revised Version of My Old Game, Now for Free". Archived from the original on 5 February 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  24. ^ "First Contract by Greg Costikyan". Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  25. ^ "Uncertainty in Cames". MIT Press. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  26. ^ "2007 Game Developers Choice Awards To Honor Miyamoto, Pajitnov". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  27. ^ "Origins Awards (1999)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-10-09.

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