Something special happened last month, as Games Workshop quietly turned 40.
That’s quite an accomplishment if you think about it because most of the company’s target audience is barely half that age!
Where the big birthday blowout was I’m not sure. To be quite honest I don’t think much was even said about the milestone on the internet, and I only remember because I just saw an image of the first issue of Owl and Weasel in my massive media folder.
What’s the Owl and Weasel you ask? That my friends is the precursor to White Dwarf, and hearkens back to a time when the founders of Games Workshop had not yet become obsessed with the game that has probably touched all of us at some point in our lives; Dungeons and Dragons.
It’s almost mythical to me how two different groups of peoples, with very much the same interests, could create two similar worlds of fantasy oceans apart based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien.
On one hand you had Gary Gygax and the fledgling TSR in Lake Geneva, WI creating and marketing Dungeons and Dragons, and halfway around the world Ian Livingstone and his band of merry men were busy writing the Owl and Weasel, producing and writing about ‘progressive games’ (the 70’s term for a Role Playing Game) and forming Games Workshop.
What Games Workshop was before the discovery of D&D and what it continued to do after, was a act as a platform for the development and sale of a wide variety of those ‘progressive games’. As many of you know, GW still developed and sold smaller niche games into the early 2000’s with their ‘Specialist’ brand, but by then the company was quite different from what it had started out as back in 1975.
However Games Workshop’s main focus after the discovery of D&D was to become an import re-seller of Gygax’s new game, and only after they lost their exclusivity for resale several years later, started the other pursuits which lead to the development of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000.
Eventually White Dwarf emerged from the Owl and Weasel publication or ‘Zine’ as I think they were called back then, and the company enjoyed great success for the 1980’s.
Fast forward to now, we still have the White Dwarf, and I can’t help but wonder what direction the company may have gone if it wasn’t for the influence of Dungeons and Dragons.
Happy Birthday Games Workshop, may you have many, many more!
-What birthday present would you buy GW?