An exhaustive history of Sheffield’s videogame publishing powerhouse, Gremlin Graphics

With the British computer game scene about to explode, a small shop appeared on Sheffield’s Carver Street called Just Micro. It was founded by the partnership of Ian Stewart and Kevin Norburn, both with retail backgrounds but a desire to get into the business of games publishing. Fortunately, the shop attracted local talent such as Pete Harrap, Shaun Hollingworth and Tony Crowther, and so, in 1984, Gremlin Graphics was formed.

Officially endorsed by founder Ian Stewart, the book features interviews and anecdotes from all of its key members, including Chris Kerry, Ben Daglish and Greg Holmes, along with stalwarts of the UK gaming scene: Rod Cousens, Tim Chaney, Jeremy Heath-Smith, Geoff Brown and Infogrames founder Bruno Bonnell among many others.

Published in 2016 after a culmination of two years research, A Gremlin in the Works is the definitive history of Gremlin Graphics, from its roots in Just Micro through to its acquisition in 1999 by Infogrames and beyond. Standing at over 570 pages, it was extended via a unique concept in publishing – monthly digital DLC, adding a further 200 pages in the Expansion Disk available to all purchasers of the original hardback.
“Born of Mark’s passion for everything Gremlin and lovingly knitted together by the guys at Bitmap Books, this is a stunning double tome that gives the deepest of insights into the company that practically built the industry.”

“A beautifully presented slice of Sheffield’s digital history. Wonderfully tactile and a clear labour of love for both the author and editor.”


Colossal Adventures searching for Magnetic Scrolls in the Twin Kingdoms of Hobbits
The Classic Adventurer is a magazine dedicated to the golden era of text adventures. Featuring visually stunning design, and meticulously researched articles, it is a collection of in-depth interviews, reviews, and a raft of hand-restored artwork from an era of adventure gaming when text ruled.

There’s a look behind the scenes at some of the greatest ever text adventure games, including The Big Sleaze, Fish!, Doomsday Lost Echoes, The Hobbit and Twin Kingdom Valley, plus industry legends including Anita Sinclair (her first interview in over 20 years), Charles Cecil MBE, Fergus McNeill, Tim Gilberts, Mike White, John Wilson, Veronika Megler and The Austin Brothers give their own accounts of creating iconic games during the 1980s and 90s.

Self-published in 2018, with a free-to-download and print-on-demand version, The Classic Adventurer has downloaded over 55000 times.
“The articles are well written, interesting and likely to reveal information that even the most ardent student of interactive fiction doesn’t know.”
“I’ve been reading these, on and off, for a few months, and adore them. These magazines are like a dream come true for me. “


A Festival Of Videogames For Schools

The Games Britannia Festival brings creativity and technology together, providing schools and colleges with workshops and activities led by games industry experts and academics. Started by myself, David Orridge and Chris Ash it is now run by the Department of Computing at Sheffield Hallam University as part of a range of initiatives which attempt to engage schools and teachers in Computer Science.

Programming is just one facet of the Games Britannia festival, which incorporates areas of the curriculum as diverse as English, Maths, Computing, Music and Art – all through the exciting field of videogame development.


A full-colour coffee table book celebrating box art from the glory days of computer games

Professional artwork started to legitimise games as an entertainment medium, and even turned some products into objects of desire – something to buy for the packaging as well as the contents. On platforms such as the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 the crude pixel graphics of the games could never deliver what the fantasy land on the cover promised, but it did propel kid’s and their imaginations into the valley of quarrelling kings, the manager’s seat in the dugout, or behind the controls of a space-bound star fighter.

Over 50 pieces of artwork are featured, including:

  • Android Two, Vortex Software
  • Citadel, Superior Software
  • Wanted: Monty Mole, Gremlin Graphics
  • Who Dares Wins, Alligata Software
  • Starfleet Encounter, Micro Power
  • Sweevo’s World, Gargoyle Game

From Football Manager to Zool, each piece has been lovingly and painstakingly recreated, completely by hand using the original box artwork as source material.

The result is a set of vivid, high definition images that restore lost detail, and in many cases present the work as it came from the studio and before any game title or ugly platform sticker.

“The art is the star of the book, and the sheer effort involved in recreating classic covers makes it worth picking up.”



A permanent online library celebrating Gremlin Graphics and Sheffield videogame development

Dating back to 1983, Sheffield has a long and prestigious history in pioneering the development of computer games and the computer game industry in Britain. Whilst Sheffield and its Museums rightly celebrate it’s industrial steel manufacturing and mining past, it’s new videogame industry has little recognition. From Gremlin Graphics to Sumo Digital, Sheffield has produced world class videogame talent that continues to shape the global games market well into the 21st century.

The Gremlin Archive is a permanent online library offering access for the general public to historical Gremlin Graphics cultural and digital artefacts.

The library, founded in 2016, has received hundreds of donations from former Gremlin staff and Sheffield game developers, and currently stands at over 760 items that include text, audio, multimedia, images and source code. This on-going project has the sole aim of celebrating the videogame culture in Sheffield, and documenting and preserving its heritage for historians, researchers, developers, gamers and the public.


Contact Information

Mark James Hardisty is from Sheffield. His weekly pilgrimage to Just Micro as a child left him with an indelible love for Gremlin Graphics.

You can find Mark at @hardistymark where he tweets about games, getting kids coding, The Cannonball Run, and his favourite game – Elite on the Acorn Electron (sorry Monty).