Unpacking the Collection: Who’s Who Among Play-by-Mail Gamers
This is the first in a series of posts to the Suspense & Decision blog where I present an overview of some of the amazing publications from PBM history, sent to me by Edmund Hack. For a summary of this collection, please read my prior blog post, “A Collection of PBM History“.
One of the more unique publications sent to me by Edmund Hack was the Who’s Who Among Play-by-Mail Gamers. He sent two editions, one from 1987-88 and the other from 1988-89. I have never heard of these publication before, so I don’t know whether they continued on past these two editions. If you have any details to share, please post a comment below.
The concept of a Who’s Who publication is nothing new, however. Every decade or so since I was a teenager, it seems, I’ve received postal and email offers to be included in various guides of this type, from Who’s Who Among College Students to Who’s Who Among Technology Professionals. There are several others I’ve since forgotten. You pay to be included in these guides as a low-brow method of gaining credentials. The advertisements often falsely prey on a sense of perceived accomplishment and that you’ve been specifically chosen to be including at the low cost of…you get the idea. You’re paying to say that you’re included in such a guide so that you can list it on a resume. At least that was the rationale for these business models. The truth is, if I ever saw a resume come across my inbox that bragged about being included in a Who’s Who publication, it would make me question the validity of the candidate. My sense is that Who’s Who had its peak in the 1970s and 1980s. Being in print isn’t what it used to be. Now I can whip out a blog entry and…hey, look, Mom, I’m in print!
In the context of play-by-mail gaming before the Internet era, I think a Who’s Who guide was a cool idea. The participants weren’t trying to build credentials, they were trying to connect and learn what other games people were playing. For each player in the guide, the following information is included:
- Phone Number
- Birth Year
- Games Played
- Game Playing
- Games Won
- Favorite Games
- Aliases Used (ha!)
- PBM Magazines Read
- Last Updated (the year the record in Who’s Who was last updated)
In the first publication, the 1987-88 edition, age was listed instead of birth year and whether you were a member of the PBMA (Play-by-Mali Association). I am not sure why the PBMA information was removed after the first edition, unless perhaps it was predominately people who were not members and therefore not a useful tidbit of information to share.
Who’s Who Among Play-by-Mail Games was published by Kieron Mitchell of K+C Enterprises in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to the alphabetical listing of players by last name is a listing of of players by state and country, an alphabetical list of aliases used by players (from .357 Magnums to Zyklard Zakstarr), an alphabetical listing of all games from the player listing with which ones were marked as favorite games by various players, and an alphabetical listing of all play-by-mail moderators (mostly companies) with contact information.
One of the improvements made from the 1987-88 edition the 1988-89 edition was to move from listing the Games Played, Games Won, and Favorite Games in a player listing from numerical codes to the actual game names. This was clearly an improvement, as the 1987-88 edition required looking up numerical codes for a game in the back of the publication. This was likely done to reduce the size of the guide, thereby reducing the printing and mailing costs. In the 1988-89 edition, the full game names were used, although the guide itself is about the same thickness. The spacing and font sizes were reduced to compensate for the additional word count.
Towards the back of the publication is a collection of full and half-page advertisements that no doubt helped subsidize the printing and mailing costs. Although, I suspect most of the subsidization came from players paying to be listed or buying copies of the guide or both. The full-age ads for Paper Mayhem and Flagship Magazine were likely trades for ad space in those magazines for Who’s Who Among Play-by-Mail Gamers. I will have to see if I can find an ad in the magazines during this time period.
I am excited to have these publications for future research work I plan to do into PBM players and games. There is information in here that would be difficult to locate in other sources.