The next interviewee from the field of gaming in my Games & Books & Q&A series is Warren Spector, the Program Director of the new Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin.
After getting a master’s degree in radio-television-film from UT Austin (my alma mater!), Warren has gone on to spend three decades in the video game industry as a designer, director, or producer of games including Ultima, System Shock, Deus Ex and Disney Epic Mickey.
CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?
WS: The first video game I ever played was Pong. I can’t tell you how much I loved it. But the first game that convinced me games could be something really world-changing was Star Raiders, an Atari game released around 1979. That was the first time a game transported me to another world and let me be the star of my own story.
CB: What did you like to read when you were a kid? What did you love about it?
WS: I was a comic book and science fiction geek. I loved comics pretty much indiscriminately (and still do, frankly). I didn’t really care if it was DC or Marvel or Archie or whatever as long as it combined words and pictures. On the SF front, I started out with the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series before moving on to Heinlein juveniles. A little later, I discovered Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft and I was pretty much doomed to a life as a fantasist.
What did I love about it? I guess it was the optimism inherent in fiction about the future. And SF/Fantasy certainly allowed me to escape the mundanity of the everyday world in which I lived.
CB: What book that you read while growing up had the most influence on who you became as an adult?
WS: The book(s) that probably influenced me the most would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s funny — I’ve never been able to reread Tolkien as an adult but I’d be hard-pressed to name another author besides Tolkien who set me on the path I’m still on today. Even as a kid I remember thinking, “You mean, people get paid to create stuff like this? Count me in!”
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.
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