Aug. 18, 2003
Fast Chat: It’s All Fun and Games
In the beginning, Nolan Bushnell created Atari,
and it was good. So good that it made its inventor, now 60,
into a cult figure for videogame enthusiasts. In advance of
his scheduled appearance at last weekend’s Classic Gaming
Expo in Las Vegas, the man who gave us Pong, Breakout and Asteroids
took questions from NEWSWEEK’s Steve Friess:
What are your favorites?
I was proud of Breakout and Asteroids. Whether you’re knocking
out all the bricks or getting rid of all the asteroids, people
like to complete something.
How do Atari games compare with what they’ve spawned?
Since we were so limited with graphics then, we had to focus
on gameplay. We developed a philosophy that the games should
be easy to learn, impossible to master. Some classic games are
much better balanced between the risk and reward of play. In
Pong, the hardest shot to return was also the hardest shot to
make. Does the graphic nature of today’s games concern you?
I don’t like the ones that glorify antisocial behavior, like
Grand Theft Auto and Vice City. We actually had a rule at Atari,
which seems kind of quaint now, that you could blow up a tank,
a plane, a car—but you couldn’t do violence against a human.
How did you go from Atari to founding Chuck E. Cheese’s?
At the time, the only places to play videogames were bars,
arcades and bowling alleys. Those weren’t good places for kids
to be. So I created a pizza parlor where families could have
a good time together and kids could play games, all under the
watchful eye of an eight-foot robotic rat. I think I accomplished
giving kids a good time, although I’m not so sure how I did
by the parents.