Good game / bad game
Brainy Gamer Podcast - Episode 4

Oh, Nolan...

Sunset My friend Gabriel tipped me off today to an interview with Nolan Bushnell in Electronic Design. The story has since been picked up here and here, among other places. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, Nolan Bushnell founded Atari and is one of the pioneers of the video game industry.

Well, the short story is that Bushnell hates pretty much everything about video games today:

Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I'm sad for that...We used to have families sit down and play a game together. A lot of video games today are very isolated. You don't see mom and dad, sister and brother, sitting down like they used to play, say, Monopoly.

Bushnell's remarks sadden me. Not because Bushnell is so clearly out of touch with the range and diversity of the today's video games. Not because he casually dismisses the good work of so many hard-working designers. Not because he's biting the hand that fed him...and yes, I know he's still bitter about Warner forcing him out at Atari in '78.

No, Bushnell makes me sad like Norma Desmond makes me sad. Bushnell's vainglorious rant ("I interpreted technology for the masses") coupled with a desperate clinging to an exalted past seem eerily familiar. They make me realize we've reached a certain sad but inevitable point in the history of a medium: the point at which the aging faded star says something memorable like, "I *am* big. It's the *pictures* that got small."

I mean no disrespect to Bushnell or his accomplishments. I was one of those kids who saved up his paper route money to buy the home version of Pong at Sears in 1976. Nolan Bushnell made me a gamer, and I'll always be grateful to him for that. But c'mon, Mr. Bushnell, why'd you have to say that?

Max: "She was the greatest of them all. You wouldn't know, you're too young. In one week she received 17,000 fan letters. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. There was a maharajah who came all the way from India to beg one of her silk stockings. Later he strangled himself with it!"

You can read the full interview with Nolan Bushnell here.