In a five-part series, beginning today, Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh traces the creation stories behind some of the companies that have shaped this industry. Today he recounts the founding of Activision and its 25-year journey to publishing super-power…
A few weeks ago we published a list of five developers that made a difference, helped to shape the game industry, then, one way or another (usually at the hands of their parent companies), ceased to exist.
One theme I touched on there, that I got called on by a few readers, is that although in practical terms all the listed companies were indeed defunct, several continued on in name (Atari, Sierra, and Origin), living a sort of strange afterlife as a brand detached from its body.
This was a deliberate choice; although Infogrames has been going around lately with a nametag saying "HELLO my name is Atari" – and hey, why not; it’s a good name – that doesn’t make Infogrames the historical Atari any more than the creep in the purple spandex with the bowling ball is the historical Jesus. (Not that I’m relating Infogrames to a fictional sex offender – though he is a pretty cool character.)
The question arises, though – what about those companies which live on in both name and body, yet which we don’t really recognize anymore? You know who I’m talking about; the cool rebels you used to know in high school, who you see ten years later working a desk job, or in charge of a bank. You try to joke with them, and they don’t get a word you’re saying. You leave, feeling a mix of fear and relief that (as far as you know) you managed to come out of society with your personality intact.
The same thing happens in the videogame world –videogames are people; all our sins are handed down. This multi-segmented article (to be disseminated over the next week or so) is a document of five fantastic game companies – companies of impeccable idealism, that went off to change the world… then somewhere along the line ditched the tie dye for the mantle of corporate culture. Such is success.