Atari’s Founder Speaks At Japan’s Digital Interactive Entertainment Conference

From Ritsumeikan University (Kinugasa Campus) Kyoto, Japan. At DIEC the founder of Atari spoke:

“That slide’s not right. It shouldn’t read 100 megabytes,” Nolan Bushnell says. “We didn’t have 100 megabytes back then.”

Hailed as “The Father of Video Games,” Bushnell is responsible for taking Pong to the masses. And unlike today, he didn’t have the luxury of endless memory and oodles of polygons that young game developers take as a given.

“The first element of design is timing.”

Timing seems to be something he knows well. Bushnell helped spearhead the gaming boom of the 1970s and early ’80s, making a mint and getting out right before business got bad. Bushnell instead got into the restaurant business, creating Chuck E. Cheese, cashing in on pizza and arcade games.

“The second element is clear objectives.”

He comes off more as a businessman than a “pure” designer or developer. He even brings graphs and charts to show which market segments could be exploited today. In 1982, he tells us, there were 44 million gamers. Today, there are 18 million. Where’d they all go? “Complexity lost the casual gamer,” he says. “Violence lost the woman gamer.” He ventures into Nintendo territory, even slamming the PS2 controller.

“The 3D controller that Nintendo is on to is a very good idea,” he says. “If you look at today’s controller with triangles, Xs, squares and circles, it’s scary. It’s like a keyboard. People are interface phobic.”

“The third element is predictability.”

Bushnell skips the slides. “This isn’t very interesting,” he says. Instead, he finishes up his speech with a slide of his latest business venture: uWink. The Father of Gaming is getting in the dating industry. He’s planned a series of pizzerias that have simple tabletop games, which supposedly open up communication between the sexes. The idea itself is intriguing, but I fear that it’s a case of something looking better on paper than in practice. “I guarantee you if I can help guys meet girls, I will make a lot of money,” he says. He wraps up his speech and exits the stage to thunderous applause,