Jump to content

Steve Jackson (American game designer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Steve Jackson
Steve Jackson signing autographs at Lucca Comics & Games 2006 gaming convention in Lucca, Italy
Born1953 (age 70–71)
Occupation(s)Game designer, founder of Steve Jackson Games
Known forCar Wars, GURPS, Munchkin

Steve Jackson (born 1953) is an American game designer whose creations include the role-playing game GURPS and the card game Munchkin.


Steve Jackson was born in 1953,[1] and is a 1974 graduate of Rice University,[2] where he was a resident of Sid Richardson College.[3] Jackson briefly attended the University of Texas School of Law, but left to start a game design career.[4]: 102 


1970s: Metagaming Concepts[edit]

While working at Metagaming Concepts, Jackson developed Monsters! Monsters! (ca. 1976) based on a design by Ken St. Andre connected to his Tunnels & Trolls role-playing game, and Godsfire (1976), a space conquest game by Lynn Willis.[4]: 78  Jackson got his first design for the company published as Ogre (1977), followed by G.E.V. (1978), which were both set in a futuristic universe that Jackson created.[4]: 79 

Jackson became interested in Dungeons & Dragons, but did not like the various-sized dice or the combat rules, and bemoaned the lack of tactics, so he designed Melee in response.[4]: 79  Jackson joined the SCA to gain a better understanding of combat, but as his interest grew he started fighting in SCA live-action combat as Vargskol, the Viking-Celt.[4]: 79  Metagaming also published his game Wizard.[5]

Jackson realized that Melee could be expanded into a complete fantasy role-playing game, and started working on The Fantasy Trip before Melee was even published. The Fantasy Trip was initially scheduled for release in February 1978, but the design and development required more work than Jackson had anticipated and the game was not released until March 1980.[4]: 79  Howard Thompson, owner of Metagaming, decided to release The Fantasy Trip as four separate books instead of a more expensive boxed set, and changed his production methods so that Jackson would be unable to check the final proofs of the game. As a result of these actions, Jackson left Metagaming and founded Steve Jackson Games later that year.[4]: 79–80 

1980s: Steve Jackson Games[edit]

His game Raid on Iran was an immediate success.[5] Jackson bought The Space Gamer from Metagaming, and sold the rights to The Fantasy Trip to Metagaming. However, Thompson sought legal action against SJG for the rights to the short wargame One-Page Bulge, and the lawsuit was settled with an agreement that was reached on November 26, 1981, leaving Jackson with the full rights to One-Page Bulge, and to Ogre and G.E.V. (whose ownership was questioned during the legal proceedings).[4]: 80  Jackson wanted to purchase The Fantasy Trip from back Thompson after Metagaming closed down in April 1983, but Thompson declined the offered price of $250,000.[4]: 81 

Jackson designed or co-designed many of the games published by SJ Games, including minigames such as Car Wars (1981) and Illuminati (1983), Undead (1981), and a published version of an informal game played on college campuses, called Killer.[4]: 103  Jackson wanted to get into computer gaming software in the early 1980s, but instead wound up licensing gaming rights to Origin Systems, which produced games such as Autoduel (1985) and Ogre (1986).[4]: 104 

Jackson had an idea in the middle of 1981 for designing and publishing a new detailed and realistic roleplaying system, intending it to be logical and organized well, and wanted it to adaptable for any kind of setting and play level.[4]: 104  Jackson announced GURPS in 1983, although his time spent managing magazines delayed development of GURPS until 1984, making the combat system book Man to Man: Fantasy Combat from GURPS (1985) available for Origins 1985, and the full GURPS Basic Set appeared the next year in 1986.[4]: 105  Sean Punch replaced Jackson in 1995 as the line editor for GURPS.[4]: 110 

Recent years[edit]

Jackson also designed the strategy card games Munchkin (2001)[4]: 112  and Ninja Burger (2003), and the dice games Zombie Dice (2010) and Cthulhu Dice (2010), as well as Zombie Dice variants Trophy Buck (2011) and Dino Hunt Dice (2013).

Jackson has exhibited his elaborate Chaos Machine at several science fiction or wargaming conventions, including the 2006 Worldcon.[6]

On May 11, 2012, Steve Jackson's Kickstarter funding project for the 6th Edition of his Ogre game became the highest grossing boardgame project at Kickstarter, with 5,512 backers pledging a total of $923,680. The success of the Ogre Designer's Edition project prompted the launch of a second successful project - running from Nov 29, 2019, through Jan 6, 2020 - to help re-launch the popular Car Wars franchise as well.

The two "Steve Jacksons"[edit]

Jackson is often mistaken for Steve Jackson, a British gamebook and video game writer who co-founded Games Workshop. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that while the UK Jackson was co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, the US Jackson also wrote three books in this series (Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep, and Robot Commando), and the books did not acknowledge that this was a different 'Steve Jackson'.[7]

1990 Secret Service incident and legal actions[edit]

The United States Secret Service raided the offices of Steve Jackson Games on March 1, 1990 based on suspicion of illegal hacker activity by game designer Loyd Blankenship, and seized (among other materials and media) his manuscript for GURPS Cyberpunk; when Jackson went to Secret Service headquarters the next day to ask them to return his book drafts, the Secret Service agents told him that they believed GURPS Cyberpunk was a "handbook for computer crime", despite his protestations that it was just a game. Through the newly created civil-rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, SJG filed a lawsuit against the government, which went to trial in early 1993 as Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.[4]: 108–109  SJG won the lawsuit, receiving $50,000 in damages.[8]

Personal interests[edit]

Jackson is an avid collector of Lego (especially pirate-themed) sets.[9][10] He has written a miniatures game that uses Pirate sets, Evil Stevie's Pirate Game,[11][12] and has run it at several conventions.[13]

Jackson has combined his fondness for model trains and LEGO through the LEGO train community and has been an active member of several LEGO users groups including TBRR (Texas Brick Railroad)[14][15] and the Texas LEGO Users Group.[16]



  1. ^ "SFE: Jackson, Steve [2]". sf-encyclopedia.com. Retrieved June 2, 2024.
  2. ^ ""Rice University Class of 1974 Commencement program"". Rice University Class of 1974 Commencement Folder, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University. 1974. hdl:1911/61711. Archived from the original on March 17, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  3. ^ "Steve Jackson" (LinkedIn profile) – via LinkedIn.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Appelcline, Shannon (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  5. ^ a b Jackson, Steve (2007). "Paranoia". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 231–235. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  6. ^ "WorldCon 2006". Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) from Wired
  7. ^ Steve Jackson – Biography and Public Warning Archived July 22, 2018, at the Wayback Machine from Steve Jackson's personal website
  8. ^ Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service, 816 F. Supp. 432, 435 (W.D. Tex. 1993).
  9. ^ Jackson, Steve. "Steve Jackson: Biography and Public Warning". sj.sjgames.com. Archived from the original on July 22, 2018. Retrieved August 4, 2021. His other interests include gardening (especially water gardening), Lego, pirates, trains, ....
  10. ^ Heiseldal, Are M. "Buying a Chunk of a Legendary LEGO Masterpiece... with Some Assembly Required". bricknerd.com. Archived from the original on April 23, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2021. I wrote about Amanda Feuk [...] who displayed "The Tree" at Brickworld Chicago in 2015 and ended up selling it to fellow attendee Steve Jackson, of Steve Jackson Games, creator of the Munchkin card game.
  11. ^ "Evil Stevie's Pirate Game". www.classic-pirates.com. March 26, 2011. Archived from the original on September 9, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  12. ^ Jackson, Steve. "Evil Stevie's Pirate Game". sj.sjgames.com. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  13. ^ Varney, Allen (May 15, 2007). "LEGO Games". www.escapistmagazine.com. Archived from the original on August 3, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2021. At conventions, Jackson runs his pirate game for up to 20 players at once, all down on their knees pushing big plastic ships across the hotel carpet and shouting "boom!"
  14. ^ "Steve Jackson Shows Off the Texas Brick Railroad (Video)". games.slashdot.org. Texas. May 20, 2013. Archived from the original on May 29, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021. This is the Texas Brick Railroad or at least the version of it for this show. We are a LEGO train club. We like building LEGO and we especially like trains and monorail.
  15. ^ "Texas Brick Railroad". www.texasbrickrr.com/. Archived from the original on February 27, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2021. What else would you like to see from your Texan LEGO train club? Send comments to Steve Jackson at...
  16. ^ "TexLUG FAQ". Archived from the original on April 2, 2017. Many thanks to Steve Jackson for help in putting together this FAQ.
  17. ^ "AAGAD Hall of Fame". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design (AAGAD). Archived from the original on May 11, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  18. ^ "Awards for Steve Jackson Games". Steve Jackson Games. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "Poker Deck". Flying Buffalo. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2014.

External links[edit]