warren robinett

warren robinett

Okay. My name's Warren Robinett. I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I'm 63.

My involvement in the videogame industry began, perhaps, with my interest in computer graphics, when I was an undergraduate at Rice University, in the early ‘70s. I took a computer graphics course at Rice. That was pretty cool stuff. I had no idea I'd be working in computer graphics someday. But nobody knows, when they're in college, what they're going to end up doing with their life.

I went to grad school at Berkeley in the mid-’70s, and then a year after that I had heard about this company, Atari. It sounded interesting. They created videogames. I went down to Sunnyvale -- 50 miles south of Berkeley -- where Atari was located. I knew no one. I filled out a job application at the front desk. A little essay about why I'd be perfect for them. I ended up getting an interview and then got a job there. My timing was pretty good, because this was the point in time when Atari made the first videogame console that hooked up to a home television set. I was in the second group of four programmers of the original eight programmers hired by Atari to write games for the Atari 2600 videogame console. I was hired by Atari in November 1977.

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Jumping to the present for a second -- I spent the last year [2015] writing a book,The Annotated Adventure, about the videogame I designed back in 1978-79 -- Adventure for the Atari 2600. It was the first action/adventure videogame. Briefly, what happened was that, in 1978, I played this text-adventure game, the original-text adventure, Colossal Cave, that was created by Don Woods and Willy Crowther. It was all text. You typed text commands like "take rod, go south," and it would print out a description of where you were in text. When I played that game, it blew my mind. It was a game where you could type in commands, and move through this mysterious world, and pick up magic objects, and use them later.

At that time, I was just finishing my first videogame, Slot Racers, for the Atari 2600 console. I decided that, as my next videogame design, I would make a videogame version of this adventure-game concept. I had a boss who was not very imaginative who told me it was impossible and forbid me to do it. I did it anyway, and it did fit into the tiny memories of the Atari 2600. It was pretty successful. Sold a million copies. Did I get any royalties? No. Did I get my name on the box? No. Did I find a way to outsmart them anyway? Yes, because I hid my name in the game. That was considered the first videogame “Easter egg.” I didn't call it an “Easter egg.” I called it my “signature.”

That was Atari. I designed three cartridges, three different games for the Atari 2600 in 18 months during 1977-1979. Things happened fast. The memories were tiny in the Atari 2600 -- 128 bytes of RAM and 4K of ROM. It did not take that long to make a videogame on the old Atari 2600. A year after that I met three women who were interested in making games to teach things to kids. The four of us started a company, The Learning Company. Their names were Ann McCormick Piestrup, Leslie Grimm, and Teri Perl. That company was pretty successful. It was one of the major educational software publishers between 1980 and 1995.

After that -- I didn't really plan to do this, but what ended up happening is I guess you could say I walked away from the game industry. I have never published another game since then [1982]. It's kind of weird to hit two back-to-back home runs, and then never get another trip to the plate. But that’s how it worked out.

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When we were emailing I asked you about that, and you said people don’t really ask you that even though it seems like an obvious thing to discuss. Why did you walk away?

There's a different answer every few years. I was just doing other things. It does have a -- I can give you a short answer. Emotionally, it was just so nasty, what I had to deal with when I was making games. At Atari I thought what I was doing was good work. I think some people would say it was good. I invented the action-adventure game. But I was being treated as a bad, misbehaving employee.

The guy who was my direct boss was mad because I had defied him. When I showed that I could implement my adventure-game concept on the Atari system, he was still mad. When it turned out to be a really good game he was probably still mad. Atari was basically sold to Warner Communications, the forerunners of Time Warner of modern-day times. The Warner people were New York guys, East Coast guys, and they were tough. They were control freaks.

Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, was a pretty nice guy. He was an enthusiastic cheerleader type, really. Likable guy. When the East Coast guys came in they set about making sure that the game designers got no public recognition and no royalties. It was rather demoralizing to be treated like I was worth nothing, when I thought what I was doing was pretty good. I have gotten a lot of validation since then that it was good work, but that was not the message I was receiving at the time I was creating Adventure.

That was demoralizing.

Then I got involved with these three women and started a company -- The Learning Company. Starting a company is just hard.

Yeah.

For all sorts of different reasons. There are politics in every company and I got sucked into some of the politics. I made another pretty good product. It was called Rocky's Boots. It was a pioneering educational simulation that let kids design simple logic circuits, by plugging them together on the screen, and you could see the signals flowing through them.

We invented a little game where 12-year-olds could actually build simple digital logic circuits. So that was a surprise to everybody. After three years in the start-up company we almost ran out of money. That's not unusual. The venture capitalist fired the CEO the same day that his wife was giving birth to twins. I'm not making this up.

I know. I read about that. I believe you.

After three years I was just so stressed out that I had to quit. There was something that triggered it. The new CEO was lying to me. But I don't think that's unusual with start-up companies either. Maybe it's not usual with some CEO's.

Then I spent three years recovering from that experience. I had made money from it. That part was good.

I've always wondered about this. Where was that wisdom or that attitude coming from that developers or creators couldn't have their own name on their own games? Why was that even put forth and defended?

In Nolan Bushnell's Atari, it wasn't like a novel where your name was right up front. The coin-op games -- which were Atari’s first type of commercial videogame -- were done by teams, but I think the designers did get some recognition. I think they got their names on there somewhere. I'm not sure actually.

I mean at least in the credits, probably. Sometimes their initials were hidden on the high-score screen.

Where did it come from? American?

Yeah.

It came from capitalism, buddy. Being the big guy that runs the show.

In the Nintendo and even post-Nintendo era you'd see a lot of pseudonyms. I always understood that to be because they didn't want to have their talent poached by other companies.

That might be part of it.

Tell me about capitalism and why that might be to blame as well in part.

I'm just making this up as I go. I haven't really thought it through too deeply.

That’s fine.

Just think about Steve Jobs. He was a control freak. He wasn't actually technical. He had a whole bunch of people working for him and he took credit for what they did, right?

Yeah.

Probably the same for Mark Zuckerberg. I don't know actually. I'm just guessing. The founders of Google actually are technical, I think. They were computer science grad students at Stanford. It's not uncommon to have the big guy, the owner, take credit for a lot of stuff. That entails suppressing the individuals who actually did the work from taking credit.

Yeah. I know you said that’s partly why you stepped away from making published games.

It wasn't the main reason. I actually outsmarted them and got credit for it by hiding my name in the game. At The Learning Company I had my name on the packaging at first. I could not imagine that I could be a founder of the company, and later on they would take my name off of the packaging, but yes. That's what happened.

Do you see a straight line from that mentality to -- we have an entire workforce in game companies today that are largely invisible. Do you think there’s a direct line from that sentiment to what you ran into?

I don't know. You gotta remember I haven't been working in the game industry since 1983.

What I did next, actually -- I don't want this whining about credit and control-freakism to be the main thing that I say. It was like dying and going to heaven to get paid to design videogames at Atari. Starting a company let me have more money than I could have ever saved up in many decades from the time I was about 30. It gave me a lot of freedom to spend multiple years here and there working on what I wanted to work on, instead of having to work just to put food on the table. It was all pretty good for me overall, actually.

What I did next after starting The Learning Company during 1980 to 1983 was this. I spent three nice peaceful years, one and a half years I was writing a book. I had a publisher. Unfortunately the videogame industry crashed in ‘83 and ‘84 and my publisher went out of business.

So I’ve got this manuscript that's been sitting around for a long time that never got published. I've written a different book in the last year. The book that I'm just about to finish now is called The Annotated Adventure. If you would be so kind as to mention this on whatever form this interview eventually takes, a listener or reader could go to my website, and find a link to The Annotated Adventure. It's not up yet but it will be in the next few months.

The book is about the implementation of my 1979 game Adventure for the Atari 2600. It's about the game’s program. It's about how I did it.

Yeah. You had sent me an eBook as well when we first started emailing. I think this is where I saw this quote but you had said, "Many things about videogames and the culture that surrounds them have changed enormously since Adventure was released 23 years ago yet some have not changed at all." What things do you see as remaining the same?

I don't think humans have changed very much.

As far as what?

I mean human reaction time has not really changed at all in the few decades that videogames have been around. It's still somewhere between 150 milliseconds and 250 milliseconds. Human visual acuity hasn't changed. The things that interest and motivate human beings hasn't changed. Have you ever heard of the four F's of animal behavior?

No, I have not.

Feeding, fighting, fleeing, and reproduction.

There you go. I knew that was going to be one of the four F's. Thanks for cleaning it up.

I didn't invent that joke.

I know. And it's all right.

You can put that on your list.

Yeah.

If I really gave you the four F's then you couldn't propagate that piece could you?

You don’t need to censor yourself. It’s okay.

Actually I brought that up seriously because humans are animals. We have a few other things, capabilities, added on top. We still have the same animal motivations. We need to eat, and breathe, and reproduce. We're scared of certain things. Really, if you look at videogames you can see a lot of basic human motivations and -- I don't know if you ask yourself questions like this, where do videogames come from, why do they exist, why do people like them? Have you asked that?

I've routinely asked other people things like that and in the course of doing this I am wondering that myself. Yeah.

I've been asking myself that while I've been trying to write the last chapter of this book during the last week. I've been thinking about high level things. One thing that popped into my mind -- do you know the book Hero With A Thousand Faces?

Yeah, Campbell.

Joseph Campbell. Campbell's idea, or what I took away from it anyway, is that we have a need for heroes and bad guys. If you don't have a bad guy you basically don't have a hero. The hero has to do something to be heroic. Just looking good in your suit of armor is not enough, right?

Videogames have bad guys. Players fight them. It's pure Joseph Campbell.

You mean the players as the human beings fighting or the players controlling characters? Because that’s something to think about, too. It ripples and echoes.

What are you doing in a videogame? A lot of times you're fighting a series of bad guys. That's what heroes do.

The definition of a bad guy is relative, right?

People in Germany and Japan were convinced that Americans were bad guys during World War II and we -- Americans -- were were convinced otherwise, right?

Yeah.

So, anyway.

Are there things you would like to see change about the culture around videogames?

I don't actually want to be the president of the world and tell the other videogame designers what to do ‘cause I sure didn't like it when I was told what to do when I was a game designer.

I do have one specific thing that has bugged me a lot. I have three sons. They play videogames all the time. There have been times where I thought there should be a law that says that all videogames can be paused at any time. You just cooked dinner, you get the boys to come eat dinner with the family but they can't. They're in the middle of a videogame that takes an hour to play and they won't come.

[Laughs.] Yeah.

That's not speaking as a game designer. That's speaking as a parent.

It's not that hard to make a single player game that is pause-able at any time. I did not do it for Adventure. I could have. It just never occurred to me to make a way to pause it. It was in real time. If there was a dragon chasing you it was either going to get you or die. There was no pause button.

What do you remember about the audience for Atari games? Did you have any sense who was buying and who was playing?

You actually hit on something that I just realized in the last year or two. I thought I got away with hiding my name in the game and getting public recognition. Since they weren't paying me any royalty they couldn't take it away. I gave a talk at the Game Designer’s Conference last March. When I was preparing for that I listened to Dave Crane's talk on Pitfall from GDC 2011. One thing that stuck in my mind was he said at the height of its popularity they were getting 14,000 letters a week about Pitfall. It occurred to me that if Pitfall was getting 14,000 a week, Atari was probably getting a lot of letters about Adventure, too. They just kept them or burned them or something. I never got a single letter.

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I saw you asked the audience if anyone there sent any to you.

Oh yeah. I did ask that, didn't I?

Yeah.

Atari punished me by disappearing all my fan letters. That's speculation, but I think it's probably true.

Did I know what was going on out in the world of players of Adventure? I knew it a bit just because my extended family with kids thought it was pretty cool. They played the game. My cousins played it. I had some idea that it was pretty popular. My knowledge was pretty limited, really.

Did they ever share sales figures with you?

I had already quit Atari before Adventure was released. No, they never shared sales figures with me. There's a story about the four founders of Activision. You know who Activision was, right?

Of course.

These were guys that I worked with. There weren't that many Atari 2600 programmers in the early days, the late 70's. The founders of ActiVision were Larry Kaplan, Dave Crane, Al Miller, and Bob Whitehead. They found a president from the music business, I forget his name. Anyway, while those four guys, the four game designers, were still at Atari -- I think this was Christmas of 1979 or Christmas of 1980, the sales numbers were being shared with the employees.

These four guys looked at the sales numbers and realized that the four of them were responsible for more than half of Atari's profit for the year. They went to Ray Kassar, the CEO, and said they should get some royalties or some kind of benefits from that. What the CEO said back to them was, “You guys are no more important to Atari than the guy on the assembly line who assembles the cartridges.”

They quit and formed a competing company. That was an answer to something. What Atari did just shows the attitude of the top management at Atari.

We already talked about this more in the abstract, but do you know where that attitude was coming from?

I already told you. I'll tell you another answer. Ray Kassar, the CEO, had an MBA from Harvard. Is that an attack at Harvard MBA's? Yes it is. It's just a control-freak mentality. Is that what they teach Harvard MBA's, how to destroy companies? I don't know.

He looked at the situation, and he wanted to make sure that the game designers didn't get recognition, because if they got public recognition, they'd have more bargaining power. He could see they'd probably start asking for royalties. He was right. They did start asking for royalties. It's a power play. It's human nature, right?

Yeah.

On the other hand, one of the great things about Silicon Valley -- this is a California thing. It's against public policy in California to allow people to be tied up with non-compete agreements.

That's not true in a lot of other states but in Silicon Valley, somebody who gets dissatisfied and has developed some skills can walk out and go get a job doing something similar at another company. It's one of the reasons why Silicon Valley has prospered so much. It's not the only reason, but the fact that talent is mobile there is significant, I think.

Have other developers reached out to you about “Easter eggs” that they've done? Not necessarily as tribute to you but as ways they've asserted their individuality or their frustration in the creative process of making games?

Not too much. You really don't understand how out of touch I am from the games business. But I will tell you one story about other game designers and “Easter eggs.”

Please do.

When I hid my name in this game, Adventure, in 1979, I was aware that I had to keep it secret or it would be removed before it was replicated and sent all over the world. If 100,000 copies of the game with my name in it were sent all over the world, you would never get the genie back in the bottle. I did keep it secret. They did replicate it, and sent the game cartridges all over the world. The “Easter egg” was discovered the next year. I'd already quit Atari, right after I handed in the game. I never really had any money of my own to speak of until that point. Leaving Atari, I had $10,000 in the bank. I actually went back to my hometown in Missouri for a while. I went back to Texas where I had friends I had gone to college with.

I got a backpack and went to Europe in 1979. Spent half a year over there wandering around. Eventually I came back to California because that's where things were happening. It was the Golden Age of Silicon Valley. It would have been 1980 at that point. I went over to Atari and said hello to some of my friends who still worked there. We set up an evening where we had pizza and drank beer together. That was with about half a dozen Atari game designers. Carla Meninsky was there. Brad Stewart was there.

They wanted to hear about hiding my name in the game. I told them how I did it, and how I kept it a secret, and answered all their questions. As I looked around the table, I could see a gleam in every eye. They were already planning how they were going to do it in games they were working on right then. I know for sure that Rob Fulop did hide his initials in Missile Command.

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Yeah. You had written in that eBook you sent me it's hard to say what ranks lower on the artistic food chain than videogames. I would agree with you. I've never worked at a game company, though. Why do you feel that is?

I think it's natural. Film didn't earn respect for its first 50 years or maybe more. Nowadays there are film universities. Fifty years from now there'll be departments of videogames studies. Right now -- It's just starting to happen. But I don't think Stanford has a department of videogames studies, or Harvard. MIT has a media lab. I'm not sure what that is.

When the press started to write about Atari and videogames what do you remember about the way they approached writing about it?

There were a lot of fears at first that it would desensitize kids to violence. Everybody was used to seeing 4,000 murders per year on television so they'd forgotten about that. They were worried about videogames.

Chess is actually about a battle between two small groups, two little tribes and you're trying to kill the king of the other tribe. That's violent. But it's abstract. There's no blood. Fighting bad guys is fundamental. If you read books about how to write novels, which I have been doing the last few years, the very most important thing is conflict. Fights to the death are a very solid type of conflict, that people like to read about. That's why murder mysteries are popular, maybe one reason.

A friend of mine out in California, she had a friend who was a law professor at Stanford. He had written a novel and she loaned it to me. I was going to be flying back from California to North Carolina the next day. I read it. He had the technique down pretty well. It kept me somewhat interested. The problem was it was a novel about legal stuff, about wills. Nothing happened. You need some kind of action to make a good novel.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your being at GDC? I don’t know if you were there for the whole conference, but I’m curious to hear what struck you about talks people were giving or conversations you overheard? What did you notice?

What I noticed is how big it is. How much money there is. How a successful game can make huge amounts of money nowadays. A lot of the genres that exist now haven't changed that much in 30 years. Of course, the graphics have gotten better.

Yeah.

The computers have gotten more powerful. Memory's gotten a lot bigger. It's a weird combination of some things change beyond recognition, other things are still the same.

Does that surprise you that a lot of the genres haven't changed much in the last couple of decades?

It doesn't surprise me. There are a lot more people doing me-too things, than trying new things. It seems like there's an inverse relationship between the amount of money you spend on a new title and how much risk you're willing to tolerate. If you're spending $5 million you're probably going to try a variation on something that's succeeded before. Whereas at Atari, back on the old Atari 2600 console, the memory's were tiny. 4K bytes was all you had. The programmer could fill it up in a month or two of programming. You had to work hard to get anything interesting to work on it. Even so, one person could do the job in four to six months.

If you had 10 programmers you could get twenty games in a year out of those 10 programmers. There was no oversight at all. I remember my first day of work at Atari, Larry Kaplan was my first boss. He was a good boss. What he told me was, “Your job is to design games. Now go design one.”

He didn’t tell me what that meant.

That was just the culture then.

Kaplan also told me: Everybody in the marketing department at Atari is an idiot.

In those days how did you even decide what a videogame was supposed to be?

Nobody knew. We were figuring it out. You tell me.

How did we know what videogames were?

How did people knew what novels were back in the 1700’s? How did people know what a novel was? What was the first novel?

James Fenimore Cooper -- he wrote The Last of the Mohicans? Over in America -- was it Daniel Defoe? Or Dickens? Anyway, I think that was in the 1820's. There were a few novelists that were blazing the trail for how you use this new form -- the novel -- to tell stories. They were figuring it out by doing it. That's what the early videogame designers were doing. We were figuring it out by trying things. Some things worked and some things didn't work. I did three cartridges for the Atari 2600. Adventure was really successful, but the other two were not. I was lucky I got there in the early days where you could try stuff and get it published even if it wasn't that great.

What was the process like for feedback while you working on it?

The process was you'd go in and work on your game on the 2600 development system at Atari. You couldn't do it at home. You had to be there, onsite. Nobody told you what to do. The other people at Atari gave you suggestions and comments -- not so much the game programmers, but like the guy who wrote the manuals. What was his name? There was one guy who wrote all the manuals. Steve Harding. He liked playing the games as they were being developed. He'd tell you what he thought. There were quite a few other people. Not the game designers. They weren't playing other people's games and giving constructive feedback. Some people saw it as a competition. The surrounding staff, they played the games. They gave you feedback.

They were pretty knowledgeable. They played all the Atari videogames from the beginning, right? They knew what they were talking about.

I also read that Atari had a big party atmosphere.

It was loose.

Brenda Laurel had told me she remembered there was no ladies’ room. There was an extra bathroom where people were smoking marijuana. Is that the loose culture you remember?

I never saw people smoking marijuana during working hours. Maybe some people did. I didn't. It would have been hard to make any progress in your program if you were stoned, in my opinion.

I know what it smells like.

Yeah.

Atari changed a lot every few years. I knew Brenda real well. She was my girlfriend for a year and a half back in the mid-’80s. She was there at Atari in a slightly different era than I was. She was there in the early ‘80s when Atari was just swimming in money. She was in the Atari research lab. Things were pretty goofy there. They weren't actually doing anything that necessarily had to make any money. They weren't making products. They were doing research, whatever that meant, for Atari.

Alan Kay, do you know that name? Alan Kay was the head of Atari research. This is a story that I heard from somebody over there. Alan had a policy that he would sign anything that anybody put on his desk. He didn't think it was his job to be a bureaucrat. Signing anything was his bratty way of showing his disregard for that responsibility. They put an invoice on his desk for a 747 aircraft. He signed it. They all thought it was funny. They knew somebody would prevent the 747 from being purchased.

Your real question was what was it like working at Atari, right?

People came to work whenever they wanted. This wouldn't have worked in most companies. If you had a job where you're paid to design videogames, most people realize that was an unusual kind of job. You're given the responsibility to make a product for the company. Not everybody could handle this, and not everybody liked it. I liked it. I thought it was great. I worked hard but I didn't get up at 7 a.m. and drive through rush hour. I showed up at 11 a.m. and worked ‘til 7. Sometimes I worked late into the night. At Atari, people kept whatever hours they wanted.

You can tell if somebody's making progress, ‘cause you can see the game evolving. If you walked into the development lab, there were the two development systems there. If you hung out there, you'd see what people were working on.

I'll tell you a moment that I remember.

I did not perceive my job at Atari as a competitive situation. I thought we Atarians were all trying to make games for this system. We had competitors like Fairchild Channel F. I thought we were all trying to make a bunch of good games that would make the Atari system succeed. I was working on Adventure, and, internally, people liked it. There was a relatively small number of game designers. One of them was Dave Crane and he was pretty productive. He made games quickly. He made his first game in four months, I think. The one with the cactuses and the cowboys, Outlaw, it was called.

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One day, Adventure was nearly done and Joe Decuir and Jay Miner were playing it. Well, Joe was playing it. Jay Miner was watching. These two guys were the architects of the Atari 2600 hardware. Joe's playing Adventure and a bat comes in and steals his sword and leaves him with the dragon. He's laughing and Jay Miner’s smiling. Some other people are watching too. This lab room is moderately big -- maybe 30 feet by 30 feet.. Over in one corner is Dave Crane, watching Decuir play Adventure. And he's frowning.

I could interpret that. He saw it as a competitive situation and he was not happy -- he saw me as his competitor. That's why he was frowning. I was getting some accolades from the internal people. I didn't perceive it that way then. But later on I realized that he was right. There was a competition among the Atari game designers.

In what sense? What were you vying for if it was a competition?

Just look at what happened with Activision. The four Activision founders -- Crane, Kaplan, Miller, and Whitehead -- left Atari and went and started a competing company, and they made $50 million their first year in business. Their games were better than the ones that Atari was putting out. Atari collapsed. Activision succeeded. I’d call that competitive.

You think The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were competitors? Hell yes, they were trying to get No. 1 songs, right?

Sure. What’s interesting is I perceive not much or pretty strained solidarity in the game industry, and that could be a byproduct of the way that game development has become institutionalized. You mentioned being treated as just another stop on the assembly line.

That was the way Ray Kassar looked at it.

Maybe you don't know enough about the way the companies are today and the way they work, so don’t want you to feel obligated to comment on something you feel you know little about. Do you have any feelings about the way that process has become institutionalized of making games?

I don't. I'm out of touch with what really happens in game companies nowadays. It seems like -- I think the best I can do is give you an analogy.

Sure.

Let me put it to you this way. Forty years ago a person who wanted to write a novel would have an idea. He would sit down and type out of bunch of words and rearrange them a bit until he was happy. One person produced a novel. Today one person sits down and creates a bunch of words and rearranges them ‘til he's happy. One person still creates a novel today, right? Usually. Forty years ago for the Atari 2600 one person would sit down and so something similar but it was with a bunch of bits. He'd type in a program, make some graphics and sounds, mess around with it for a while, test it with kids. It was a lot like being a novelist. You had control of the whole thing.

Today, 40 years later, I guess there are a few one-designer games on smartphones, But for the A-list titles, it's a team of fifty people or more.

It can sometimes be teams of hundreds all over the world working together.

There's planning. There's a design document. Do you think I had a design document for Adventure? Never. There was no design document. I played this game, the text adventure game Colossal Cave. I was enamored. It caught my fancy, and I decided I would do a game based on that concept. Nobody made me write anything down. There was no elevator pitch. There was no design document. I didn't even have to tell anybody. I didn't tell anybody except maybe my office mate and then my boss. It wasn't Larry Kaplan anymore. It was a guy named George Simcock.

He heard that I was trying to do an adventure game, and he forbid me to do it. At Atari, you didn't have to get permission. You just did it. What's my point? It's just that things have changed a lot. Making a videogame nowadays is a lot more like making a movie than it is like writing a novel.

I just enjoyed having control over the whole thing.

It's a different experience if you're not on a team with dozens of people. I never made a game on a team with dozens of people.

What's the biggest team you've worked on?

One.

What do you make of ways modern games pay tribute to older games?

You can see some threads that have persisted. When I talk to my sons about videogames I’ll tell you one thing they say. They say, "Dad, educational software is not fun. Educational software is not a game." They allow no exceptions. Anything that is educational software is boring and it's not actually any fun. It's something that's jammed down your throat. That's what they said to me.

They don't even believe you could make something that's fun that's educational. Must be coming from somewhere. I don't think it's impossible to make a fun game, where some learning takes place -- but their opinion is no.

Yeah. This was in one of the eBooks again. You were writing about how the costs and the money going in may go up by a factor. Ten or a hundred or another factor of ten. You sounded skeptical about whether that would enable -- I think the phrase you used was “amazing new game experiences.” In the spirit of what you said are there other types of experiences that you think would be amazing for games to have, or at this point do you not really care?

Yeah, I care. I think the medium's still developing. The medium is interactivity. Not just computer games. I'll give you an example. When did Google come along?

Mid- or late 90's maybe.

It came along about the same time the internet came along. If we can just lump the internet and Google together -- if you go back to the ‘80s, we had computers but they weren't networked. If you broaden your definition of what we're talking about from games specifically to just computer based media. Google is an interactive program. It lets you search. It's not a game. It's a tool. Google changed everything.

There might have been a few people who were exceptions, but I don't think most people saw search engines coming, and being a big deal. I certainly didn't see it. I actually had no interest in computer networks. My point is -- just look at what you can do with computers. Humans were using computers through some kind of interface -- then the internet came along, and all of a sudden we're connected to all this stuff. Google is just one of many apps that lets you do pretty amazing stuff just by quickly searching through things. It changes how you behave.

That was a huge innovation. I don't think most computer types saw it coming.

Yeah.

It blindsided Microsoft, for sure. That's an example of something unexpected that you could do with computers. Had a huge influence and changed the way people did things. Changes how you interact with the government. All things are online nowadays. I'm trotting out that example which I know is pretty convincing because the Internet and Google changed so many things.

Yeah.

Nobody saw it coming and I don't think we're through discovering game-changing things like the Google search engine.

I don't think the patent office can say that all possible types of software have already been invented.

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