Back in 2009, I wrote a little post called “A LIFE LIVED WELL, THE STORY OF ALAN CALHAMER” in this blog. This was a short piece I wrote after reading an article in Chicago Magazine called “All in the Game“. which told the history of one of the most famous boardgames ever, DIPLOMACY, which was designed by Alan Calhamer. I wondered then, and do now, if Alan was satisfied with such a singular achievement. Calhamer never designed another commercial game that I know of. Calhammer, as his friends recounted, was a genius that never seemed to to live up to other people’s expectations. He spent his life delivering mail for the Post Office, retiring in 1991.
Alan Calhammer, designer of DIPLOMACY, one of the greatest, nastiest, backstabbin’est gaming experiences created by man, passed away this week from natural causes. His greatest achievement from the perspective of others was certainly the game of Diplomacy. Calhamer kept pretty mum about about his life while he was alive, so we’ll never know what he thought about his fame, but perhaps this quote from an interview with his daughter gives us a clue:
(After being asked about being a letter carrier for 28 years) “The biggest appeal may have been that it wasn’t an all-consuming corporate kind of job,” Calhamer-Boling said. “It gave him the chance to pursue other hobbies, such as reading, painting and sculpting, and more importantly, time to be a doting dad. He never missed a single T-ball game or school play.”
Joan Kates wrote a nice appreciation of Calhamer’s accomplishments in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, read it here.
At the recent World Diplomacy Championship and the North American Grand Prix in August 2012, Calhamer was the guest of honor. When he was introduced to the crowd, he received a standing ovation. Achievement enough? I think so.
Rest in Peace, Alan Calhamer. You lived a good life and probably caused more arguments over a boardgame than any other designer I know of.