My friend Tracy W. Bush, Audio Director at Seattle-based game developer 5TH Cell, is the next interviewee in my Games & Books & Q&A series of chats with gaming folks about books (and vice versa). Tracy has composed music for games including Scribblenauts Unmasked, World of Warcraft III, Tabula Rasa, and Dungeon Runners. For more about Tracy’s work, see his 2013 interview with joystiq.
CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?
TB: The VERY first video game I played? There were a couple. But the very first one that I recall was a game where you rode a motorcycle and jumped a ramp that had buses underneath it. There was also a “breakout” type game at the army post NCO club where we were stationed in Germany. I played that a lot before we got our own Atari at home.
What I remember about the bike ramp game (which was at a pizza parlor in Kentucky) was that the graphics were pretty rudimentary, but it totally communicated the feel of what it was you were supposed to do. I mean, you had to use your imagination a little bit, but it totally worked. This also was in the mid-’70s when Evel Knievel was a big hero, so it kind of hit the zeitgeist as well. I remember that I really liked it, but I only had the one quarter, so…
CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?
TB: When I was a kid, my favorite thing to read was Asterix comics. We were living in Germany, and I had been put in a German school, but I didn’t really speak the language. I had to learn pretty quickly, and I had a German tutor. The way she taught me quickest was by reading Asterix comics with me and teaching me that way. They were full of puns and visual gags and things that didn’t translate from the original French to German very elegantly, but I really liked the stories. Also, there was a sense of them being involved in actual history, since Cleopatra and Julius Caesar were main characters, and that spurred in me an interest in history which I still have to this day.
TB: When I was 14 I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Probably the most influential book from my childhood. Until I’d read that book I didn’t even know there was such a thing as comedy books — you understand that the funniest books we got in school was Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, which were pretty dry. Hitchhiker’s was very, very funny, as well as being absurd, and that was kind of a revelation to me. That it’s OK to be funny, silly, even as an adult. Before that, I’d kind of assumed that all adults were just serious and dull all the time. That’s probably the first time I figured out that it was OK to grow up and be funny, and enjoy humor, and that it was socially acceptable to do so.
I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.