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Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates papers

 Collection — Box: 1-16
Identifier: 121.1759
The Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates papers are a compilation of materials from Challenge, Inc., GameWorks, Legend Entertainment Company, and consulting work produced by Bates during his lengthy career in the video game industry. Materials include game development documentation, financial papers, notes, memos, correspondence, customer support information, reference, and much more.

The Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates papers have been arranged into five series, two of which have been further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in 13 archival document boxes and 3 media boxes.


  • 1979 - 2010
  • Majority of material found within 1986 - 1994



The majority of materials in this collection are in English, with a few instances of German and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

Source code and digital files migrated from 5¼” and 3½” floppy disks in this collection are available to on-site researchers only. Please see The Strong’s Digital Games Files Access Policy.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


8 Linear Feet (13 archival document boxes, 3 media boxes)


The Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates papers contain records from Challenge, Inc., Legend Entertainment, and professional consulting work done by Bates; these files include game development documentation, marketing materials, notes, memos, sketches, floppy disks, and more. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1986 and 1994.

Biographical Note

Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates (1953- ) is an award-winning American game designer, producer, studio head, and author.

Bates grew up in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, graduating from high school in Hyattsville, Maryland in 1971. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy degree from Georgetown University in 1975. After college, he worked as a tour guide in D.C., later founding his own company, Potomac Tours. Bates, also an aspiring writer, began playing the Infocom interactive fiction game Zork and saw the format as a way to pursue a writing career by making games. He and friend David Wilt established Challenge, Inc. in 1986 with the goal of creating interactive fiction games built on the Infocom engine, Z-machine. Infocom and Challenge reached a development deal: Bates would design and write games, and the publishing and marketing would be done by Infocom. His first two published games were Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels (1987) and Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur (1989). When Activision shut down the Infocom brand in 1989, Challenge also closed its doors.

Soon after, Bates and Mike Verdu co-founded development studio Legend Entertainment Company, headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia. Legend initially recruited former colleagues from Infocom to program and develop interactive fiction games, and later retained an outside team to develop a new text parser as the engine for Legend’s games. Hit products from Legend included the Spellcasting series (1990-1992) designed by Steve Meretzky, Timequest (1991), and Eric the Unready (1993). Legend also secured licensing deals from traditional publishing houses and shifted from the floppy disk to CD-ROM technology. Their final adventure game release was John Saul’s Blackstone Chronicles (1998) prior to acquisition of Legend by publisher GT Interactive (later, Infogrames).

Bates left Legend in 2004 to design, write, and produce computer and video games as an independent consultant. He also worked as the Chief Creative Officer for External Developers at Zynga from 2010-2014 before returning to consulting and developing. During his career, Bates has written, designed, or produced more than 40 games. He has twice been Chairperson of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and has received various awards throughout his career. As of 2022, Bates continues to write games as well as novels.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Challenge, Inc., 1986-1989

Subseries A: Company records
Subseries B: Game development documentation

Series II: GameWorks, 1989-1990

Series III: Legend Entertainment, 1989-2003

Subseries A: Company records
Subseries B: Game development documentation

Series IV: Consulting work, 1997-2010 and n.d.

Series V: Reference, 1979-1999 and n.d.

Custodial History

The Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates papers were donated to The Strong in May 2022 as a gift of Bob Bates. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 121.1759 and were received from Bates along with various trade sheets, game guides, manuals, and other ephemera.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, July-August 2022
Finding Aid to the Robert A. (“Bob”) Bates Papers, 1979-2010
Julia Novakovic
4 August 2022
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)