2022, The Losses

A day goes, a wheel turns, history moves on and by us all. One day we will be relegated to memories, but we can all hope to leave an impact comparable to those in the video game industry who made such a large impact on our playing experience. Here are a few people who were taken from us in 2022 who deserve some second thoughts.

Bernie Stolar, Executive of Value

Bernard Stolar (October 9, 1946 – June 22, 2022)

As one of the few executives to navigate through the entirety of the early period of video games, Bernard Stolar became renowned as a “fixer” for companies who were facing financial difficulty. His background was initially in publishing, and while working for Village Voice magazine in the early 1980s he started to take note of the rising arcade game market. Wanting to get in on the excitement, he joined a new, small manufacturer named Pacific Novelty on the West Coast as their Production Manager in 1982. There, he got a crash course on the industry from several luminaries including salesman legend Bill Cravens.

Bernie Stolar (l) with the game Mr. F. Lea.

Risking their business on a big game release, Mr. F. Lea, Pacific Novelty fell apart a year and a half after his arrival. However, in a financially savvy move which would help define his reputation, Stolar decided to liquidate the company rather than take it through bankruptcy to help satisfy the creditors. This skill of looking at the long-term – rare for entertainment executives – served Stolar well in then next phase of his career.


He opened up a distributorship and operated a reseller of components called Amitron (originally Micro-com). During the coin-op video game collapse of 1983, he bought up unused LaserDisc players to sell back to retail and took the assets of the now defunct Sega Electronics to recycle their chips for resale. This made Stolar a huge amount of money and gave him considerable clout inside the coin-op business.

Stolar (l) at Konami.

Amitron continued on for the next few years, becoming a prominent player in the “kit” market of interchangeable circuit boards for video games. When Nintendo came into the US with the NES, Stolar became active in helping license arcade titles to the system. One of his clients in this appears to have been Konami, who he subsequently went to work for in their arcade division. There for the rise of the company’s coin-op beat-em-ups, he was enticed away from the position to join Atari Corporation.

His major role with Atari was on the Falcon home computer project, but he also focused on product development to get third party developers involved with the Lynx and Atari home console platforms. It was often an uphill battle to get proper development funding, having to battle against the mentality of a company focused on hardware when it vitally needed software support. Shortly before the company was about to announce the Jaguar console, he left out of frustration.


After a brief stint at Archer Communications, Stolar was lured back into the home console business. Sony Computer Entertainment of America was readying up for their tackling of the video game market with the PlayStation. In the role of Senior Vice President, Stolar would be responsible for enticing third party developers to develop for a console by a company who had never done one before. He worked closely with the hardware team in Japan and established a base for Sony’s software publishing scheme upon their launch in North America.


However, the Sony executives were not at all happy with the handling of the PlayStation’s launch, despite its success. After the removal of many of his fellow executives, Stolar decided he needed to bale before things got worse. He managed to connect with the heads of Sega and arranged to be hired into Sega of America, initially under the title of EVP of Product Development and third party licensing. He had one condition for coming aboard: To immediately help lead the development of a successor to the Sega Saturn, which had flopped out of the gate. Needing someone of his experience. Sega President Hayao Nakyama agreed.

Interview with Stolar in 1996-09 EGM, which his reputation has been largely based on.

It should be of little wonder that sooner than some would have liked, Bernie Stolar began speaking about the next console in Sega’s hardware line. In an infamous interview given in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s September 1996 issue, he expressed that the company would continue to support their current system but were actively looking to put emphasis on their future console. The quote, “Saturn is not our future” has been repeatedly used as an example of his terrible business sense, but it spoke a truth that was not intended for a general audience. His foresight was again correct, Sega could not afford to put too much into the Saturn.

Peter Moore (l) with Stolar (r) at the 1999 E3.

Unfortunately, Stolar’s plans to lead the development of the future console was also put into disarray. Sega proper assumed that responsibility, taking the Dreamcast in a different direction. While he was prepared for the launch of the console, the displeased management fired and replaced him with his protégé Peter Moore. He quickly found himself on his feet at Mattel Interactive, which was undergoing its own crisis. Hastily pushed to the top of the company, he was asked to evaluate their moribund assets after the purchase of The Learning Company. His solution was again practical and not pretty: Discontinue the entire division. He made the hard decision to save as much as possible.


Through his life, Stolar was appreciated as an approachable and intelligent commentator on the games industry. He understood the value of technology as an asset, manifested in his ventures like AdSpace Media which was later sold to Google. For the many failures he had to endure, he knew how to ride them out to the best of his corporate ability. His reputation as an enthusiastic and compassionate businessman was well known within the industry.

Stolar (L)

On June 22, 2022, Bernard Stolar passed away at the age of 75.

Rieko Kodama, Sega Visionary

Reiko Kodama (May 1963 – May 9, 2022)

Video game art was shaped by a few people, and one of those people was Rieko Kodama. Being one of the first dedicated console game artists, her versatility as part of Sega’s development apparatus was the type of spirit that their early games needed to find an identity for themselves. Forging a new vision of Sega outside the arcades, Kodama truly established a distinct personality in the realm of the 8 and 16 bit, then evolved into a new role beyond art in her later career.


By her own admission, Kodama was something of an outcast of the type that found themselves working in early games. Not a distinguished student, she nevertheless had an eye for design and came into Sega through somebody she knew. Her tutelage at the company was under Yoshiki Kawasaki, a long time artist at the company best known for the art on Flicky. Kodama worked with Kawasaki on Championship Boxing as a character designer, then gradually worked her way into regular art duties as a pixel artist on early games for the Sega Master System.


Her style was incredibly manga-influenced, as would be her pseudonym, Phoenix Rie. Posing, colors, and expressiveness in static form were all hallmarks of her style. Her first real chance to show off this style was in the first Phantasy Star, where she put a great deal of thought into using her art to enhance the story. This first true flowering of Sega’s home division put her among the top talent in the division, working with he likes of Naoto Oshima and Yuji Naka who would later use her talents in Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel.

Unlike some of her Sega cohorts, Kodama was not exacting about her craft to the exclusion of her fellow artists. Her even temper and practiced hand made her a natural fit for a leader. Therefore, she took on a number of duties on Phantasy Star IV, including director status to help create the design of the game. With her leadership potential now realized, Sega put Kodama in charge as a producer, mainly to help make games they hoped would draw in a larger female audience. Not exclusively, but games she produced like Magic Knight Rayearth and Atsumare! Guru Guru Onsen were a direct appeal to a less game-savvy audience.

Kodama (L) and Yousuke Okunari (R) assistant producer on Skies of Arcadia.

Kodama’s experience culminated in her best-loved game, Skies of Arcadia. While she was a producer on it, not directly involved in the creative roles, it seemed like a perfect reimagining of the Phantasy Star series into a new generation and perfect send-off of the doomed Dreamcast. Subsequently at Sega, her producer role defaulted to working on retro collections where her experienced touch helped solidify the reputation of Sega’s re-releases. Her quality of work and understanding of the soul of game art created a “Sega style” which has influenced artists for decades.


Kodama died on May 9th, 2022 at age 58.

David Ward, Oceans Ahead

David Ward (1947 – May 2022)

Ocean Software is one of the success stories of the UK game development scene, and that came down to the ability of its two founders, Jon Woods and David Ward. Ward came into the games business when he starting putting coin-op video games into his L. A. nightclub. Impressed by the success of the business, upon moving back to England he started discussing with Woods about jumping into video games. The home computer game market was just beginning to be birthed with home computers like the ZX Spectrum and decided they could do better than the current competition. Their company in Manchester, initially called Spectrum Games, started as just one of a flood of new developers cashing in on the market.

Jon Woods (L) and David Ward (R)

However, it wasn’t long until the renamed Ocean Software truly defined itself. Chasing after official arcade licenses rather than clones as they (and everybody else) previously had done, the company in-built recognition among the teenage audience who the computers were marketed to. Ward was in charge of this process, licensing their first big hit Hunchback, then expanding the licensing program. He brought in games to convert to the Spectrum like Datasoft’s Bruce Lee and eventually began chasing media properties like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Neverending Story, and Rambo: First Blood Part II.


The company became incredibly adept at seizing powerful movie licenses in particular. They hopped on the rights for Robocop and Platoon, subsequently sublicensing both their designs and the rights for the games to Japanese companies who wanted in on the deal. This salesmanship brought them into contact with Nintendo, who allowed Ocean to do ports of several of its older arcade titles to computer platforms. The relationship eventually blossomed into the company becoming a full-fledged publisher for the NES, one of the most prominent in Europe.

Ward (L)

Ward ran a tight ship at Ocean, overseeing the day to day operations. He was a pure businessman and the games were ground out at a furious rate, but he knew how to make his people happy and was quite a fiend of having fun at parties. With a wry wit and keen observation of market forces, Ward was an extremely good businessman. The growth of the UK market was limited though. Eventually when international interests began eyeing up Ocean’s territory, they had to acquiesce in one way or another.


In 1996, Ocean was purchased by the French company Infogrames in hopes to obtaining access to public finance, even though the acquirer was a smaller company. Jon Woods left after a year, but Ward remained on board to oversee the transition and hopefully steer his company into a new future. Unfortunately, Infogrames was a horribly mismanaged operation growing at an unsustainable rate. The Ocean Software division was eventually absorbed into the whole of the organization, becoming the initial base for that glorious rise and eventual fall.


When they attempted to consolidate all of their operations in London, Ward took it as his cue to leave, not wanting to leave Manchester. He left the games industry, leaving behind him a legacy of a company whose games made a large impact in both America and the UK. Ocean’s apart, yet all covered.

Ward (L)

At age 75, David Ward went abroad in May of 2022.

Frank Fogleman, The Inventive Gremlin

Harry Frank Fogleman (May 21, 1931 – March 31, 2022)

There have been those I have previously interviewed who passed away in previous years, but Harry Frank Fogleman is the only one in which I had a true personal connection. Co-founder of Gremlin Industries, Frank brought me into his confidence and pushed me to write the book on Sega/Gremlin and Cinematronics I am currently working on, which opens with his story. I will leave his adventures until then, but I will tell you about knowing him in those final years of his life.

Frank had an indominable spirit, even as health wracked him in his old age. He could bring out a sly smile and a firm wit, always respectfully listening as the people around him spoke of their experiences. Never did he let any negativity over what happened show through. The experience at Gremlin was truly the best part of his life, though not the only part. He was an inventor, a lover of games, and an executive with aspirations that seemed to view the whole as more important than the one person. Up until he no longer could walk unaided, he was continuing to work at a small engineering firm on small projects.

Fogleman (seated, light blue shirt)

His reputation among those who worked at Gremlin remains legendary. People I’ve spoken to always talked about how much they respected and admired Fogleman as a person. It was not just his leadership or personality, it was that sense of humanity that is extremely rare to find in high-level company positions. That is part of what made the story of Gremlin so remarkable and compelled me to cover it. Frank brought me into that world, and for that I’m forever grateful.


Harry Frank Fogleman flew away from us on March 31st, 2022 at age 90.


I actually wrote this up before seeing the obituary date, so consider this a late addition to the 2021 obituaries.

Paul McLaughlin, Artistic Legend

Paul McLaughlin (1964 – December 2021)

An artist best known for his work at the studios of Peter Molyneux, Paul McLaughlin shaped a visual identity for British computer games in the 1990s. He came out of a background in video work and after working on his first game, Treasure Trap, with Doodlebug designs, he was hired as employee #4 into Bullfrog Productions shortly after work had finished on Populous. While he did not help to define that game, he deeply shaped the sequel and subsequent games like Syndicate, Theme Park, and Magic Carpet.

Bullfrog games had an entirely separate visual identity from the likes of their competitors like Psygnosis and Rareware. Molyneux called McLaughlin, “the first proper games artist I had ever encountered”. Knowing how to work within the limitations of the Amiga and VGA graphics on IBM PCs, his style always had distinct, crisp edges to objects while allowing for some complexity in the design. His range covered the spectrum of comic to realistic, early 2.5D to true 3D, never rote but always identifiable.

McLaughlin (L) showing off posing of 3D models in the Maya graphical tool.

Between Magic Carpet and Black & White, much changed about game technology, and Paul changed with it. He leapt to join Lionhead after Bullfrog’s collapse post-Dungeon Keeper and would be the senior artist who worked on Fable. While not the lead of the art team on this project, his influence permeated the production and helped make the game aesthetically distinct from its peers. Eventually, McLaughlin became the art lead on Black & White 2 and Fable: The Journey.

McLaughlin (far left) with the artist team at Lionhead

Much of McLaughlin’s later tenure with Lionhead was spent working on projects that never came to fruition, such as the infamous Project Milo. His increasing managerial role gave a chance for his personage skills to shine through and he continued in that role at 22cans, Molyneux’s next studio. As art director, his titles were suited to a new age of graphical fidelity, always maintaining a link to the past through quirky and defined stylistic expression. McLaughlin earned his stripes as one of the UK’s most important game artists.


Paul McLaughlin left us in December of 2021 after a battle with cancer at age 57.

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