Gears of War. Unreal Engine. Journalists commonly use these two phrases to quickly encapsulate the history of Epic Games, a highly successful video game developer based in Cary, North Carolina.
And why not? The Gears of War franchise has sold gazillions of copies, and the Unreal Engine commonly powers blockbuster titles like BioShock. Both successes have made the gaming industry look up and take notice. But to stop with those platitudes is to ignore a much deeper and richer past.
Epic Games, founded by Tim Sweeney in 1991, has a much bigger gaming footprint than most people realize. When I hear "Epic," I think back to a time in the early 1990s when I was deeply involved in my local computer bulletin board system (BBS) scene. BBSes were early dial-up online services that provided message boards, primitive online games, and numerous free files to download.