Culture, Gaming

Moments We Remember: David Thomson on Lemmings

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a timeLemmings (1991), Psygnosis cover (682x384)Title: Lemmings (Psygnosis, 1991)
Format: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, various formats

Moments We Remember returns with a reflection on Lemmings from game developer, David Thomson.

Though visually simplistic, the gameplay in this point-to-point puzzle game opened the eyes of thousands to the fun/mayhem of tactical play. Created by several of the original creators of Grand Theft Auto at DMA Design (now known as Rockstar North), Thomson explains how the game captured his imagination.

“I normally cite Pac-Man as being my origin story in games, since that was the first game I remember playing and just being hypnotised by. It still has a huge bearing in how I approach making the games I want to play, and the Championship Edition has influenced me in a whole new way.

“However, I think the moment I played and fell in love with Lemmings (even though I was pretty terrible at it) had far more influence on me wanting to make games.

“I fell for Lemmings initially because the animations were completely charming – the amount of personality portrayed in those tiny sprites was amazing, and often provided almost as much entertainment as actually playing the game. It was also the first time I remember feeling that I had total control over what was going on, being able to combine the different worker modes to solve levels felt fantastic.

“It seemed as though you had only a limited number of options and ways to manipulate the levels, but of course being able to combine those options meant you had far more scope than you first realised. This was taken to the point of allowing me to feel like I could regain control via nuking to quit the level – so much more empowering and entertaining than simply clicking a restart button! I’m still surprised more games haven’t followed that lead.

“Realising it was made in Scotland was the second defining moment for me. Reading about [Scottish developer and Lemmings maker,] DMA Design, the people, their games, the sense of humour and the attention to detail, definitely made me focus on the game development path to the exclusion of others.

“After 16 or so years making games in Scotland, I’ve now been lucky enough to work on projects with many of the names I once read about (although I’ve never worked on a GTA project), and also to count them as friends.”

David Thomson is a game developer based in Glasgow. He worked on games for mobile phones before it was a thing, but up next is Bodycheck on PS Vita.

For personal accounts of gaming moments that have changed players, game makers and more, see the Moments We Remember archive.

If you have a gaming moment you’d like to share, find out how to get involved, tweet @dk33per or visit the Contact page.

Image: Psygnosis/Sony