Life in the Games Industry (Documentaries)

Edit on Github | Updated: 5th February 2024

Life in The Games Industry

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a developer in the games industry in the 80s/90s/00s? This page will try to collect all the information we know about to help paint a picture of what it must have been like.

Life in Imagine & Ocean Software in 1984 (The Battle for Santa’s Software)

Commercial Breaks was a 30 minute documentary series in the UK about buisnesses and one episode in particular from 1984 is of interest to this site, it was called “The Battle for Santa’s Software”. It followed two British software companies, Imagine software and Ocean, only one remained at the end of the show!

On the Imagine Software side Mark Butler was 23 when the documentary was filmed and it shows his extravegent lifestyle with his fast cars and sponsored motrobike teams. He had 70 people working for them in May 1984 and John Gibson was the only programmer over 30 (Known as Grandad).

The documentary starts with Imagine Software looking great and antisipating the next big game, but sadly ends with bankruptsy. This documentary is great for showing the uncertainty in the early games Industry, one minute you are on top and gone the next.

Fortunetly former programmers at Imagine Software went on to establish Psygnosis, known for the Psy-Q development SDKs.

On the other side was Ocean Software and David Ward who managed to survive the time it took to film the documentary and showed off some of their upcoming games for the festive period.

You can find more information about this documentary over on VHiStory: [Commercial Breaks – Film 84 – Tomorrow’s World – Micro Live – tape 1 VHiStory](

How did game programmers find work?

Many Game Boy developers worked freelance and were contracted out by companies to work on a title with a harsh deadline of a couple of months or sometimes even just weeks! Others were hired full-time by companies and would work on a constant stream of new games.

Jas Austin was one of the developers who started off freelance on the Game Boy version of R-Type but did such a good job that he accepted a full time job a B.I.T.S 1.

He heard about the job through his agent which was a common way for game programmers to find work in the late 80s to early 90s. But by the 2000s games had grown so much that they would require whole teams of developers and hiring freelances who worked from home became rarer.

Game Industry Materials


Magazines (Games Industry)

For more information on all the Game development magazines check out this post.


Due to the sheer number of magazines being published in the late 2000s, Publishers realised they could collate all the material from their monthly magazines into yearly publication. This resulted in a rather thick magazine with no advertisements about the size of a book but with the print quality of a magazine, hense the industry dubbed them bookazines.

We have an entire page dedicated to just Bookazines related to game developement and the technical creative industry as a whole here:

Bookazines (Games Industry)

For more information on all the Game development Bookazines check out this post.


Game Industry Conferences

For more information on all the Game industry Conferences check out this post.


Books (Games Industry)

For more information on all the Game development Books check out this post.


All Posts

Bookazines (Games Industry)

Read all about Bookazines (Games Industry) in this s...

Books (Games Industry)

Awesome list of Historic Retro Games Industry Books and their impact on the industry


Game Industry Conferences

Awesome list of Historic Retro Games Industry Conferences including Audio and Video recordings


Game Cracking Software used back in the day

A quick look at software used to crack early games industry titles such as SoftICE, W32Dasm and OllyDbg



Read all about Hacking in this s...

Indie Game Development

Read all about Indie Game Development in this s...

Magazines (Games Industry)

Awesome list of Historic Retro Games Development Magazines and articles


Game Industry Museums and Virtual Experiences

Read all about Game Industry Museums and Virtual Experiences in this s...

Working at SEGA Documentary

Read all about Working at SEGA Documentary in this s...

Cross Products (Creator of Development Tools)

Read all about Cross Products (Creator of Development Tools) in this s...

SN Systems (Creator of Development Tools)

Read all about SN Systems (Creator of Development Tools) in this s...