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Match Day 2, developed by Jon Ritman. Courtesy Jon Ritman
Match Day 2, developed by Jon Ritman. Courtesy Jon Ritman

My uncle used to make video games – including the 'best Game Boy title ever'

Just a few decades ago the video game landscape looked rather different. And back then, Ritman was among the leading names of the industry.

Things may be all edge-of-the-seat first-person shooters with Hollywood blockbuster budgets these days, but just a few decades ago the video game landscape looked rather different. And back then, Ritman was among the leading names of the industry.

My uncle Jon, no less, was one of the gaming innovators of his time, the winner of the Golden Joystick Award for Best Programmer in 1987 and lauded for a heap of titles that, while perhaps looking a tad blocky and basic nowadays, were very much among the envelope pushers.

Working primarily on the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad, he was the man behind the celebrated isometric puzzlers Head Over Heels and Batman, along with the football simulations Match Day 1 and 2. He later moved onto the Game Boy with 1995's Monster Max, which was hailed by the press (one magazine called it "simply the best Game Boy title ever") but sadly suffered poor sales, largely due to bad marketing (so I remember him telling me at the time) despite my cousins and I loudly talking about its greatness whenever in public.

There were definite perks of having a video game-making uncle. Naturally, I got a copy of Monster Max, and can confirm that it was the best Game Boy game ever, although I failed to complete it (it was devilishly tricky). I also went with him to a massive gaming exhibition in London, where I recall Sony was showcasing the first-ever PlayStations. Ill-conceived attempts to launch a major publishing empire from my bedroom would almost always see "an interview with Jon Ritman" as the main article in whatever magazine I was planning. None ever made it to the printers, strangely. Uncle Jon semi-retired from gaming about a decade ago, which is a shame as I always loved him showing me whatever he was working on, usually from within a room littered with computer bits. The last time we spoke, he said his next major project was "The Downstairs Bathroom", which sadly didn't turn out to be the genre-smashing domestic sim I'd been hoping for.

aritman@thenational.ae

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