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I just got back from Jerusalem, and even though I’ve never been there before the whole scene was eerily familiar to me. The intriguing thing about Jerusalem is that everywhere you look you are struck with the contrast of the old and the new, not unlike when I go to work every day in video games. And if you consider the old temple industry, well, it was booming for a while, then there was the great crash, and then it was rebuilt and resurrected, not unlike the beginning of the video gaming industry. Then when you consider the Jews and the Muslims and the Christians, you’ve got three major factions competing for market share. So when I think of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo…like I said, it’s just eerie.

Another trip east was to Chicago for the Consumer Electronics Show in the summer of 1982. I was just finishing Raiders of the Lost Ark and I had made a demo tape in which I had a perfect play through of the whole game (including a flawless narration). This was probably the only time I ever did that cleanly and I caught it on tape. In Chicago I showed the tape to Steven Spielberg. He watched the tape and when it was finished he said “It’s just like a movie.” That was one of the proudest moments of my life.

That’s the scene today. Now consider that 25 centuries ago it was Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians. It seems like there’s always been three factions competing for market share in Jerusalem, just like 25 years ago there was Atari, Coleco and Mattel. Yet none of the tour guides mentioned this remarkable parallel.

It was also 25 years ago that I made another great pilgrimage east, only not quite so far. That time I only went as far as London. It was December of 1982 and I was there for the premiere of the movie E.T. and the debut of the (not quite yet but soon to be ignominious) E.T. video game. This was the first movie premiere I’d ever attended and it was very cool. I actually got to ride to the theatre in a limo with my cohorts and it pulled up in front of the theatre right to the canopy with the red carpet and velvet ropes. I got to walk the gauntlet of photographers and onlookers. It was a resplendent moment indeed. As I walked up the carpet I could hear people saying “Who is that?” and “He doesn’t look like anybody.” It was a unique and rather enjoyable feeling to be strolling along basking in anonymity.

Once inside we were escorted to our seats. The theatre was lavish and grand and so intricately appointed. The seats were so comfortable it was all I could do to keep my jetlagged eyes open. After a little while I turned around to see the rest of the audience and the ornate details of the room, and when I did I noticed Steven Spielberg sitting three rows directly behind me with his two friends, Prince Charles and Lady Di. I remember thinking to myself, “There they are. They look just like themselves.” I’m glad I didn’t say it out loud. It was an amazing highlight to a wonderful trip.

While in Israel I had the chance to visit a very dear friend of mine. When his children heard I was coming all they wanted to know was if I had any DS titles for them. Video games are very big in Israel. My friend’s wife used to be a tremendous Yars Revenge fan back in the day. In fact, she once told me something I had never heard about Yars before. She said she had become so good at the game that she started playing it with her feet just to increase the challenge. One time when they were visiting me in California I set up the VCS and she gave me a demonstration. She placed the controller on the floor and would use her right foot to move the controller and her left foot for button hits. I thought I’d seen everything about Yars Revenge, but I was mistaken.

While in England as an emissary of Atari I did find time to go to Harrods of London where I bought a lovely silk smoking jacket which I still have today, although I’m afraid it seems to have shrunk a bit as I recall it used to afford me a good deal more room for inhaling. I also got to spend some time at Windsor castle where I had a very special moment with one of the guards. I was standing behind the line that says “DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE” some twenty-five feet from a guard standing ramrod straight at his post, gun at his side. I called out to him and in proper fashion he totally ignored me. Then I said to him, “Look, I’d really like a picture of me standing next to you. If I run over there for a moment while my friend takes the picture, will you shoot me?” He stood perfectly still for a moment as if he hadn’t even heard me. Then in the faintest of gestures he crooked one finger a couple of times indicating I should do it and do it quickly, which I did. He was a fabulous guard and I hope he never changes. :) And just so you’ll know, he didn’t shoot me.

That trip to England was one of the best of my life. Now I must confess to being something of an anglophile in the first place and a trip like this doesn’t do much to change that. I’ve been to England a few times since but there’s nothing quite like your first one. Still, each visit only serves to reaffirm my affection for Great Britain and for great Brits (I particularly enjoy the pubs). Consequently I’m not only pleased but honored as well to be writing for an English magazine now. This column always has a train of thought and it definitely has a schedule, but I’m not always sure about the destination until I get there. This time I guess it’s just about the trips and the moments. I’m fortunate to have had many extraordinary ones and I’m looking forward to sharing more of those in the months ahead. Cheers.

 

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