Newest Nolan Bushnell quote: relevant or Old Fogey talk?

Nolan Bushnell, the man that essentially created the video game industry (which automatically makes him my lord and savior) had some harsh words to say about the current state of video gaming in an interview with Electronic Design.

“Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I’m sad for that,” says Bushnell.

Now, let’s forget that this man single-handedly destroyed the video game industry right after he created it with a plethora of sub-par Atari games. I mean, there’s a dump solely dedicated to letting E.T. cartridges get the much-needed suntan that they deserve.

And let’s forget the fact that Bushnell has been out of the video game business ever since he created Chuck E. Cheese, a restaurant that just screams “pedophile hangout”. Let’s just forget about all that, in an attempt to understand what he truly means.

A lot of websites are basically painting this quote as saying the quality of most games made today are complete shit. While I neither agree nor disagree with that statement, I do think the quote was taken slightly out of context.

It’s not the quality of games that he’s referring to, but rather the type. This situation is easily summed up by what Bushnell is currently doing, a gaming/dining project titled uWink. Based in Woodland Hills, California, uWink “is an entertainment dining experience where people can play tabletop games, interact, and enjoy tasty, reasonably priced meals.” It’s a group-oriented traditional gaming experience, basically. People coming together to have fun.

Bushnell has come to a point where he considers a “game” to be more than what we’ve been privy to recently in the video game industry. The idea of a game now, especially the “video” type, seem to encompass playing alone in the pursuit of murder. Which is true, we tend to kill in seclusion more than rolling dice with your friend or sibling in a game of Monopoly. He may not be considering the murder part the real problem, but he’s probably hinting around that it’s a tired convention at this point.

The man has a solid point. His quote may seem like it’s from some old Grandpa that continually says his day was better than ours, but if you read into the situation more, he’s hitting the nail of the head. Video games are becoming unbalanced at this point, and we need to broaden the very definition of them to come out ahead. Some will say casual gaming, and to a smaller extent the Wii, has already done that, but I don’t think he sees it being enough. Maybe that’s what uWink is all about.

Anyone disagree with him? Does the advent of Xbox Live and PSN make his statement unjustified, or is that again, not enough?

[Via Next-Gen]

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14 years ago

So I think I see what you’re getting at, but I’m not certain. For further context, I checked out the linked interview and one from a couple years ago at Wired ( Unfortunately, neither of them give that much direct context to the quote, or fleshed out the reasons behind his beef with the gaming industry.

At this point, all I really think I know for sure is that he doesn’t like the way video games have become socially isolating. This is confusing to me because there seems to be a trend away from that on both consoles and PC’s, at least as far as I can tell.

14 years ago

Community gaming and widespread interaction with computer interfaces seems like a great idea. The more people into video games, the better. I wonder if he’ll be using Microsoft surface?

14 years ago

I need to read up on my atari history again. If I’m not mistaken Bushnell had sold Atari when it really started releasing the shovelware.

14 years ago

Wow, you’re right Christian. Bushnell was forced out of Atari in 1978, a few years before Atari turned into the shit-pile that everyone describes it as. I’m not sure what games came out during this time period, but it completely bypasses the ET controversy. Maybe I was a little mistaken about the guy. I apologize, Mr Bushnell, sir, you’re cool.

14 years ago

The thing with Atari was that Bushnell was mostly the business guy, while Al Alcorn was the more technical guy. Kinda like Allen and Gates at Microsoft. The difference is that Al has not faded into obscurity (which Allen did intentionally after a while).

In any case, from what I’ve known of Atari history, both Al and Nolan knew how valuable their engineers were, as they quite literally made all the games. When Warner owned the company it was just another cog in the wheel.