In 1984, a programmer named John E. Dell released a buying and selling simulation program for DOS called "Drug Wars". In this program, you're given a certain amount of money you've borrowed from loan sharks and you attempt to sell enough drugs to both pay off your loans and make a huge profit in one month. Sell too few drugs, and you can't pay your loans; sell too much and the police will come to take you down.
In most ways, this program is a classic "business simulation". You're given some amount of funds and must keep track of your finances and sales to ensure a profit. The only difference is that you're in New York City and you're storing your drugs in a warehouse in the Bronx.
The program recieved an update from the "Happy Hacker Foundation" with the release of "Dope Wars" (later just called "Dopewars"). The program goes as far as crediting Mr. Dell with the original idea and inspiration, a refreshing experience compared to their contemporaries. "Dopewars" improved greatly on the user interface, and added the ability to travel to different parts of New York City and deal in different neighborhoods, teaching you the principles of supply and demand.
While a hard sell (so to speak), this program actually shows a lot of potential as an educational program more than any kind of violent or pro-drug experience. The program's success seems to have grown at this point.
"Dopewars" became an underground hit with the conversion to a BBS Door. Using ANSI to keep the screen updated and optimizing the display, the program started taking the BBS world by storm in the early 1990s. (Estimated) With its simple rules and entertaining theme (and educational side-effects) the program was played by a huge number of BBS users.
This program has spawned many imitators. For example, the program "Drug Lord" (1992) has almost the same gameplay as "Dopewars". (No doubt a more in-depth comparison might find more differences)
As the years went on and the BBS DOOR "industry" started to fade, more and more programmers started turning Dopewars back into a standalone program. Moves have been made to both update the graphics (adding point and click travel around the city as well as giving the whole experience a better overall look) and to add some sort of network-play component.
A group called "Beermat Software" has taken the domain dopewars.com and created a Dopewars 2.1 stand-alone game for Windows. They seem to be the current leaders in extending the Dopewars name.
- Scott, Jason. The BBS Documentary Library.