The power that games have to bring people together isn’t celebrated enough. Certainly, the most memorable games – be they single-player adventures or ones built for couch multiplayer sessions that make you forget where the time has gone – are the ones that help us bond.
Today’s guest, Sarah Woodrow, one half of indie game studio, Utopian World of Sandwiches, thinks so. Below, Woodrow explains how her time spent playing Bomberman, on Sega Saturn, with her friends in college, inspired the kind of video games she and her husband have gone on to make.
“When I met my husband (Woody) at college, we knew we had music in common. It took us a little while to find out that we both liked computer games as well. After a couple of months, when he realised he could reveal his inner geek to me, the first game we played together was Bomberman on his Amiga. He beat me, he always beats me, but I have so much fun playing that game I don’t care. I like games that are fun when you don’t win.
“When we went to uni, we would play Bomberman with our friends every day. We all pooled some of our student loan to buy 10 pads for our Saturn, so that we could play Bomberman together in our living room on a massive projector that we’d book out from the uni library for “research”. Playing games with our friends was our favourite thing to do, and Bomberman was the best. We would shout and scream insults at each other, team up and lose constantly to Woody.
“Bomberman brought us together – we built memories of playing it together. It’s how people got their nicknames. It sparked some of the stories we still share with each other 10 years later. It was a reason to get everyone in the same room. We weren’t friends because of Bomberman, but it was what we did together. When we found a new friend, they would come round and, even if they weren’t a gamer, they would join in and play with us. Then they were a part of it too. In that time we made our lifelong friends and Bomberman bonded us.
“When Woody and I decided to finally make a game, it was these moments of playing together in the same room and the idea of bringing people together that inspired us. It was what made us want to make the games we make.
“After 10 years of talking about making games we decided to just do it. On that day, we had a conversation that changed the course of our lives. We talked about how, if we wanted to do this, we would want to create games that were more than just a game, and that we believed games can do more for people than just fill up time. We talked about what games have done for us, and then we talked about Bomberman. Although we played lots of games, Bomberman was the only game we could all play together, hour after hour. We wondered why there weren’t more games that were like that, that would bring lots of people together in the same room… and then, long story short, we made our own multiplayer game, Woody quit his job and we started our business.
“Bomberman has given me memories to share with my friends, made us closer and given me the inspiration to start my own business, making games that do more for people than just pass the time. Thank you, Bomberman! Especially black Bomberman, coz that’s the guy I always played with ;).”
Sarah Woodrow is a product manager, designer and game developer. She works with her husband at indie game studio, Utopian World of Sandwiches. The studio’s first game, Chompy Chomp Chomp, is available on PC and Xbox 360.
For personal accounts of gaming moments that have changed players, game makers and more, see the Moments We Remember archive.
Image: Utopian World of Sandwiches (main); Hudson Soft/Konami (body)