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Obituary: Video Game Journalism Pioneer Bill Kunkel

Obituary: Video Game Journalism Pioneer Bill Kunkel

September 6, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

Video game writer and designer Bill Kunkel, co-founder of the first dedicated video game magazine and the voice behind anonymous columnist The Game Doctor, died in his Michigan home early Sunday morning at age 61.

Kunkel, along with collaborators Arnie Katz and Joyce Worley, was among the first handful of journalists in the United States to focus on the video game industry. The three started with their "Arcade Alley" column in the pages of long-dead home video magazine Video in the late 1970s (example here [PDF file]).

In 1981, the trio turned the column into a dedicated magazine called Electronic Games, arguably the first consumer publication dedicated to the hobby (the United Kingdom's Computer & Video Games launched across the pond at about the same time).

The magazine and its writers are often credited for creating much of the lexicon still used today, coming up with terms like "playfield" and "Easter egg."

Kunkel was also the voice behind its anonymously-written question & answer column, under the pseudonym of The Game Doctor, a persona he would use well beyond the final issue of Electronic Games in 1985.

The Game Doctor would appear semi-regularly in columns written all the way up to Kunkel's death, in publications including Computer Gaming World, Videogames & Computer Entertainment, Electronic Gaming Monthly, pioneering game website Happy Puppy, Digital Press, and in recent years, online shop

In the mid-'80s and early '90s, Kunkel designed computer games at the company he co-founded, Subway Software, one of the earliest design-specific studios. Games that he worked on include The Omnicron Conspiracy for Epyx, the MS-DOS version of Batman Returns for Konami, Borrowed Time for Activision and Microleague WWF Wrestling.

Kunkel is also the author of multiple strategy guides, has taught game design courses at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, has testified in several video game industry trials, ran the website for Postal series developer Running With Scissors, and was briefly the editor-in-chief of Tips & Tricks magazine until its closure in 2007.

Kunkel is survived by his wife Laurie and their three cats, sisters Stephanie, Karen and Joellen, and brothers Ken and Stuart.

More information on Kunkel's career and accomplishments can be found in this 2005 Gamasutra interview and in his book, Confessions of the Game Doctor.

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