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Crowd-funding the revival of a classic game

CHARLESON, W.Va. -- Indiegogo is used for many offbeat crowd-funding projects, but one West Virginia couple is using it for an unusual goal: to revive a once-popular game one of them designed and released in the 1980s.

Roger Scott Jackson -- who goes by RoSco -- designed the 1987 game, called "Superstructure," as one of many efforts to find entry into the competitive world of gaming.

"It was published by a company that I had a part of called Coolsville Limited," Jackson said. "That company ceased to exist in the 1990s. Superstructure has been out of print since then."

However, after receiving notice recently from a fan of the game seeking a part, RoSco -- who now calls Roanoke, W.Va., home -- decided the time had arrived to resurrect his best game ever.

"It had a very strong following among people who sort of followed the toy industry, the kinds of people we would meet at the International Toy Fair in New York," he said. "It made some 'Best of' lists."

At last count, RoSco and his wife, Cari Park, were well on their way to meeting their modest $1,400 Indiegogo goal for a campaign that wraps up at the end of October. Park, a carpenter, designs the game's wooden parts and the boxes in which the games arrive. The Indiegogo money will go toward purchasing a drill press, table saw and other tools to create more hand-crafted versions of the game.

Superstructure is a tabletop construction game played with cards, said RoSco. You essentially keep score by building a little building -- a superstructure -- and, along the way, you buy miniature construction supplies -- wooden I-beams, rivets and columns -- to do so.

"When you reach three stories, the first person to place a roof atop the third story of their building wins the game," he said. "Along the way, you cause each other to go on strike, you steal from each other, cause purchased parts to be foreclosed on and other sorts of good-natured cutthroat action."

RoSco said the game, which always takes about an hour to play, features a "sort of good-natured dog-eat-dog vibe, like backgammon or Uno."

"It is designed such that its mathematically impossible for there to be a runaway winner in this game -- and its always finished neck to neck; it's always close. You can't be left very far behind in this game. So, it's great for adults to play with children precisely because there's very little chance of getting frustrated or bored."

Then, there is always that child-satisfying pleasure in setting your parents back a ways, RoSco said. When he was a kid, his family used to play games like Aggravation and Sorry, he recalled.

"They all have that ability to send somebody back or to advance your own interest at the cost of your competitor," RoSco said. "It was wonderful as a kid to be able to send my father back five places. There were very few outlets for that impulse in me as a kid.

"Games are a nice way for families to play out these ideas a little bit. At least for me, it had a cathartic effect. Who knows what might have become of me if I hadn't had games to play as a child," RoSco said with a smile.

The original Superstructure game was designed with injected-molded plastic parts and RoSco still has a few of them around for sale or for upper-level contributors to the Indiegogo campaign. Ultimately, though, he and his wife hope the hand-crafted wooden versions of Superstructure -- available in one of Parks' handmade boxes for $100, plus $15 shipping -- will lead RoSco back into a life of game creation.

How many games of Superstructure do they hope to sell?

"Having been in the toy industry, I have a pretty down-to-earth notion of the likelihood of selling millions of games independently. It's hard to do. We would like to sell enough so we can produce some of the other games from my designing past, and maybe some that I haven't designed yet. So, I think the answer is: enough to keep going.

"We want to produce The Park next, which is a mugging game, and after that, Panic, which is a game about nuclear holocaust. They're both board games."

Park underscored the sociability aspect of a game like Superstructure.

"My grandchildren play a lot of videogames, and they are so solitary. We wanted to introduce something new to board games, because it's so much more social. Maybe learn something, maybe not, but it's definitely a social-interaction thing, which is something I think is important."

For RoSco, Superstructure also is a way to get back to what he loves doing best. He has done work as a newsaperman on small weeklies, been a correspondent for the Wichita Eagle and been an English teacher, among other day jobs.

But he can quickly pull up the exact number of games he has designed -- 67 -- and why his game-making hopes are again on the rise.

"The vast majority of my games, like any game designer, have never seen the light of day. We do intend to release at least two of the old titles after we've got Superstructure up and running."

For more on Superstructure, visit the Indiegogo campaign page.

Also see bestgamebuilt.com.

Reach Douglas Imbrogno at douglas@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.


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