So, I had wanted to do a write-up on D.I.C.E. but I kept delaying it and delaying it. After waiting a few months, I now no longer have much to say about it. Most of the sessions were not about games and – while interesting enough – didn’t lead to much cohesive thinking. There was one moment I will never forget though: watching Sid Meier play Pong with Will Wright. (and Sid won! twice!) Life can be surreal.
Actually, there are two moments I will never forget. The other came at the AIAS Awards ceremony. Civ 4 was nominated for two awards, and we won one – Best Strategy Game of the Year. I went up to receive the award with Sid who presumably said some nice things about me as way of an introduction. It was one of those moments in which you hear words but don’t process them – I was just thinking, focusing on my speech. I had decided earlier that after thanking the team and my parents, I wanted to say a word of thanks to Dan Bunten for inspiring me when I was so young. Bunten made two masterpieces, the first of which (M.U.L.E.) I was too young to play when it was released. The other, however, (Seven Cities of Gold) was my inspiration for becoming a game designer. You played a Spanish conquistador discovering the New World… except it wasn’t the Earth that we already know. It was a new one, randomly generated inside your computer – different enough to surprise you but similar enough to feel real. It was the future, and I knew it.
At any rate, I thanked Dan Bunten for inspiring me so many years ago to start following the path that led me to the stage that night, holding that award. What I will never forget, however, is that the audience burst into applause as soon as I mentioned Dan’s name. Dan Bunten has never been as famous as, say, Will Wright or Sid Meier – and not just becuase of her sad early death. Dan burned brightest so, so early – so much earlier than anyone else – that his accomplishments were only seen by a handful of early adopters. To the world, video games were Pac-Man and Frogger in the early ’80s (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but Dan knew different. I don’t know how many designers were inspired by Dan’s vision (Sid has stated that Seven Cities of Gold inspired him to make Pirates!), but I suspect it is not a small number. Simply put, Dan is our Velvet Underground.
So, when the audience at the AIAS Awards surprised me with their warm response to Dan’s name, I felt wonderful. I was home.