Before I continue, I should confess, that in my younger years during the home computer boom, I was never a fan of Jeff Minter. I found his games too difficult and bizarre, basically I just didn't get it. The only exception being Hover Bovver, which I do remember fondly and at the time was a personal favourite. It was only in later years that I appreciated the genius of his work and I'm happy to have an opportunity to write an article about this legendary games programmer and give him the respect I should have done all those years ago.

Jeff is often referred to as Yak, which is a name he chose for himself. This came about due to the 3-letter high score tables used on arcade machines. He decided on Yak because in his own words - "It is a scruffy, hairy beast - a lot like me!".

Sheep In Space Advert
Sheep In Space Advert

What can be said about this gaming genius that has not been said before. Jeff was a huge hit in the early years of the Commodore 64. The main reason for his success was that he had original ideas combined with a wild and vivid imagination.

In fact, it's fair to say that his creations are probably among the most novel computer games ever produced. Who else could dream up “Attack of the Mutant Camels”or “Sheep in Space” !

The other feature that set Jeff's games apart from his competitors was playability. The games tended to have great game play and could be very addictive. Although Jeff’s games were not technically as impressive as some other games at the time, originality and playability were the key to his success.
The music for his games, like Hover Bovver and Revenge of the Mutant Camels, were composed by pianist James Lisney, who was a college friend.

Jeff did not restrict himself to just writing games for the Commodore - so his programming talent was seen on other machines as well, like the Atari 800 and ST, Amiga and in later years, the Atari Jaguar game console.

Jeff was well known and revered by a loyal band of followers. A colourful, often flamboyant character who brought a zest to the game scene that otherwise would have been sorely lacking.

He penned a number of articles in top C64 magazines, like Commodore Horizons and Zzap 64.

Arguably some of his best articles appeared in the overlooked and now long forgotten, Commodore Horizons magazine. Some C64 magazine readers were rather snobbish and negative about Horizons, with their loyalty to Commodore User or Zzap 64 - but go back and compare some of the exclusive profile articles that appeared in Horizons  and you will discover they were often superior to the writings in other Commodore magazines, containing some fascinating and interesting insights into a particular company or programmer, that otherwise you never would have known.

Commodore Horizons
Commodore Horizons Magazine

Jeff Minter
Jeff Minter