Tom Filsinger, Filsinger Games: 23rd September 2003
Man Australia interview the founder of Filsinger
Games, and the inventor of Champions of the Galaxy!
name at birth was Savvas Tsagarakas, but my father
abandoned my family and pretty much disappeared
when I was born. He was a Greek immigrant. My
mother remarried when I was four years old and
I was adopted by my real father (I never refer
to him as a stepfather because he raised me and
we are still very close to this day). My name
was legally changed to Tom Filsinger, so I'll
what it would have been like to go around getting
everyone tongue-tied with my real name.
did you come up with the game idea?
created the game in high school when I was bored
in my classes. I lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the
time and my high school was just too damn big
(almost 800 in my graduating class, in which I
graduated somewhere around # 700. It's no wonder
my counselor suggested I join the military when/if
I graduated). I guess I shouldn't complain that
my high school was lousy because at least the
boredom "inspired" me to be a creator.
The game I created was a wrestling game and I
made playing cards for my wrestling favorites
from the 70's like the Sheik, Bobo Brazil, and
Johnny Valentine. I never dreamed it would lead
motivated and inspired you to make the idea a
high school counselor would have been shocked
to find out that I would eventually earn a Master's
Degree in Social/Personality Psychology from Northern
Illinois University. I became a college lecturer
in 1982, but still played my wrestling game with
my brother, Paul. Paul enjoyed the game and since
he seemed to be an otherwise normal adult I figured
other people might enjoy it too.
pitched my idea to Vince McMahon and the WWF around
1985. After months of keeping me waiting on pins
and needles, they sold the rights to produce a
wrestling game to DIC Enterprises. DIC promptly
rejected my game in favor of having Milton Bradley
produce a WWF board game. Can you imagine that?
Choosing a hugely respected and popular game manufacturer
over a totally untested nobody like me? I was
crushed, but not finished yet.
day I was watching a He-Man cartoon on television
and the idea struck me of wrestling in the future.
Being a big fan of Marvel Comics, it wasn't such
a huge leap. I immediately contacted an artist
and began writing and producing the game which
now would be called Champions of the Galaxy. The
game was released in 1986 and continues to prosper
to this day. So take that, DIC Enterprises! By
the way, the Milton Bradley WWF board game is
us thru the process of idea, patients, testing,marketing,
to on the shelves etc...Like I said, the testing
took place as a by-product of playing with my
brother. The game was created to entertain me,
not to market and sell. Which is probably why
it's been so successful, it's from the heart,
not from a blueprint or a corporate flow chart.
patent was necessary since the game does not have
a game structure (there's no board or parts).
I filed copyright documents for the printed matter,
like game cards, handbooks, instruction book,
and game charts. Then I advertised in Pro Wrestling
Illustrated magazine, by far the most popular
wrestling magazine in America at the time. Plus,
the magazine had an international audience. The
immediately and Filsinger Games was in business.
have been your biggest supporters?
loyal game fans---I call them promoters---have
been our greatest supporters. Many people have
played Champions of the Galaxy for over a decade
and longer. I meet COTG fans in person at gaming
and comic book conventions and I consider them
terms of well-known supporters, I've gotten a
lot of support from the professional wrestling
community from the likes of Ted DiBiase, King
Kong Bundy, Playboy Buddy Rose, Johnny Valiant,
Nikolai Volkoff...the list is actually pretty
long. I've been very thankful for the support
of these legends.
also been very honored by the open and vocal support
of Marvel Comics legend, Stan Lee. Stan's writing
style was a big influence on my own writing and
he wrote the introduction to The GWF Files, a
handbook about COTG published by Filsinger Games.
We are regularly in touch with each other. I'm
almost embarrassed to say it, but Stan once referred
to me as "a great man." I would never
to dream that something like that could ever happen
and I still don't believe it! It's an honor, probably
one I don't deserve, but still an honor.
you know certain cities, like New York, would
be hot for the game?
I had no idea where the hot spots might be. At
the beginning I was surprised by how big our fan
base was in Canada. In fact, there's even been
Canadian COTG cons, a few of which I attended.
Several of our most loyal fans are from Australia.
aspects of your business, and this game in particular,
are the most challenging?
be writing the 32nd expansion for the game very
soon and it's set to be released in January, 2004.
It'll be called ENTROPY 2118. Each edition is
another year in GWF (Galactic Wrestling Federation)
history. So the biggest challenge after all these
years is keeping things fresh. I don't want the
game to get boring or to start repeating myself
with the same angles and storylines. Sound familiar?
It can happen in the
WWE too if they're not careful.
try to keep things fresh by working with new artists.
Another way is to release new products. We published
our first book about COTG in 2000. We also released
a real- life wrestling game in January, 2003 called
Legends of Wrestling.
we'd been releasing Legends playing cards as early
as 1999, but we put together all the cards
and more in a box set. The Legends game is a tribute
to wrestling history from Frank Gotch (if you've
heard of him, then you know your wrestling) to
Gorgeous George to Jimmy Snuka, even up to the
and man. There are 24 wrestlers in the first edition.
It's a blast. I love it and it's sold well for
updates and new editions have became available,
and why?The COTG saga will never end, so we'll
be releasing ENTROPY 2118 in a few months. It'll
be a pivotal year in GWF history. We also regularly
release games for another federation called the
CPC. So look for CPC SAVAGERY 2118 to be
released in January, 2004, the same time as ENTROPY
2118. The CPC editions are written by Mark Ashby,
who started as a game fan and now is writing for
LEGENDS REMATCH is due in December, 2003. It'll
feature more wrestlers for the Legends series,
including Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the Midnight
media exposure have your received to date?
really fun is watching for fans holding signs
on RAW on Monday nights. Every now and then you'll
see a GWF or COTG sign, or something more specific
to the game. In terms of mainstream publicity,
I've been featured in articles in Entrepreneur
Magazine, Cleveland Magazine, as well as wrestling
magazines and several newspapers. I've done several
online interviews too. Nobody at Wizards of the
Coast is quivering in their boots, but we've carved
out our niche and people know who we are.
has the wrestling business changed since you released
has become more adult-oriented. It's become darker,
more gritty than the days of the red and yellow
Hulk Hogan. That wouldn't work today. Now wrestlers
wear black and talk trash. Another big difference
is there really aren't heroes and villains anymore.
Wrestlers are popular or unpopular, but this status
confered by wrestling fans is not related to heroic
qualities or villainous qualities of the wrestlers
so much as a hard-to-define "coolness"
factor. Fans respond to who they think is cool
and who performs well. Fans control who's popular
today. Wrestling organizations try to respond
to fan reaction where it used to be the other
in the 80's the WWF could create a babyface or
heel just by the way a wrestler talked or acted.
The fans would respond to their prompting. Not
has the Internet helped you?
been a huge help. The official Filsinger Games
site has had over 330,000 hits. It's become very
extensive and this allows newcomers to find out
all about our games before ordering. It's also
a meeting place for our regular fans. There's
a discussion board, auctions, polls...just plenty
to see and do. The internet is very informative.
Very dynamic. I love the internet. I've pretty
much stopped watching television
because I enjoy it so much.
the reward equaled the effort you put into your
more. There's nothing more rewarding than knowing
that my game has entertained people and given
them something they find rewarding and fulfilling.
COTG isn't just a game, it's a way of life. And
many people have adopted this credo as their own.
What I'm trying to do is promote escapism (in
positive sense) and creativity. Stan Lee and Jack
Kirby made me very happy with comic books like
Spiderman and Fantastic Four. I'm honored that
my creations have had the same impact on others..
opportunities have your invention given you?
I have a full-time job as an Associate Professor
and Director of Social Sciences at a college in
Jamestown, New York, I really don't need much
more in the way of career opportunities. Plus,
I've got a wonderful wife and four children. So
I'm pretty busy. Writing and producing Champions
of the Galaxy is purely a labor of love.
job at the college has given me that opportunity,
so that I don't have to worry about game sales
or the bottom line. Hence, it's totally about
quality. In turn, success with Filsinger Games
has given me the opportunity to meet and work
with people I might never have met otherwise.
This ranges from professional wrestlers to people
in the comic book industry.
other games do you play?
a game fanatic. We've got game all over the house.
I like Magic: The Gathering, Strat-O-Matic,Risk..
.you name it. I meet every week with the Academic
Dean and an English Professor at the college for
game night. And I play Champions of the Galaxy
do you do to relax?
games, read, and spend time with my family.
else should we know?
far as I'm concerned, game playing is the very
essence of life. Life itself is a game. In order
to be successful, a game has to have an addictive
quality that makes a person want to come back
again and again. With Champions of the Galaxy
and Legends of Wrestling, the foundation is built
on the magination and creativity of the player.
Then sharing the experience with others. It's
worked for us for
years, so who can argue?
great job with the questions, especially whipping
them out the way you did. Best wishes to you and
thanks for the opportunity to share my ideas.
note: What an amazing interview, and an amazing
game. They say life is a game, and Tom has just
further reinforced that.
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