You Can't Call It @!#?@!
Stories from a life making video games.
Author: Warren Davis
Reader Appeal: Teens and Adults
It’s 1982 and you’re standing in an arcade.
Remember those places? Space-themed carpet, sounds of games loudly clashing in the dark. There’s Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Centipede of course, but one game stands out from the rest. The sounds are different, the screen has an Escher-like quality, the character is a little silly, and if you listen a little closer, it sounds like he just said a cuss word!
Yep, it’s time to play Q*Bert.
Fast forward a few decades and I’m reading Warren Davis’ memoir, You Can’t Call It a @!#?@!. Davis was the creator of Q*Bert, and spent a lifetime making video games. As a software developer in the late 80’s myself, reading his story was nostalgic for me. I could relate to the author’s description of the technology he had available to him at the time, and how limited the tools were that he used to create the graphics, sounds and game play. Since video games can be thought of as an art form, these limitations directly impacted how the story could be told to the player—yet Q*Bert’s story managed to make a lasting impression anyway.
Davis wasn’t just the creator of Q*Bert, but was also an actor who began at “The Player’s Workshop of Second City” in Chicago. He went on to do local productions, and even joined the Screen Actors Guild later in his career. He spent a lot of his time working in the video game industry at Gottlieb/Mylstar, Williams, Disney Interactive, and startups like Premier Technologies. He left the video game industry at times, became a Disney Imagineer, and even worked at George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic for a while. Quite a varied career!
You Can’t Call It a @!#?@! reminds us that video games do tell a story, but they also can become part of our story: How we played Pong at home with our parents and it was “the most amazing thing ever created”; where we were the first time we wasted our allowance on video games in the local arcade; how our kids now play games so real the characters look like actors; even cosplay and entire movies based on video game characters!
Warren Davis’ memoir is entertaining and nostalgic. Enjoy it with members of your family who are nerds about video game history, and who just enjoy discovering what goes on behind the scenes of digital game development.
Now, I need to start working on my Q*Bert costume for the next Comic-Con …
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:
• What interested you most about Warren Davis’ story? Why?
• What would you like to ask the author of this book? How do you think he’d respond?
• If you created a video game, what would it be? Describe it!
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