7 Things We Learned From Activision Co-Founder David Crane's Reddit AMA

pitfall screencapDavid Crane shared Activision and Pitfall stories on Reddit.

Photo: Activision screencap

If you grew up in the ’80s, odds are you played Pitfall!The 1982 Atari 2600 game asks players to guide title character Harry through a jungle while recovering lost treasure. Behind Pac-Man, it’s the second highest-selling game for the platform. 

Fans of the game flocked to Reddit today as creator and Activision co-founder, David Crane hosted a live Reddit AMA

The session is in lieu of the game veteran’s new project Jungle Adventure which is looking for backers on Kickstart.

Though no longer affiliated with Activision, Crane offered history of the hit game, what it was like working at the company he helped co-found, and insight into its future.

1.) Inspiration for Pitfall!

“Indiana Jones was out in theatres, so a jungle adventure seemed exciting. One specific inspiration came from a 1950 cartoon show called “Heckle and Jeckyl

In their show opener, the two starring birds run through a bunch of open alligator mouths that snap shut, barely missing them. I thought that would make a nice video game obstacle.”

2.) Activision Took The Entire Staff To Hawaii For A Job Well Done:

“One year the company did so well that the entire company was called to a nearby hotel meeting room (the only way to get everybody in one room). Activision’s president, Jim Levy, took the podium and announced that we had all been working too hard so he was taking the entire company to Hawaii!

Every employee (plus spouse or guest) got on a plane and flew to Maui. We played beach games, tennis, and golf until we were exhausted, then went back to work.

You don’t see that happen in too many companies, do you?”

3.) What he thinks of the new Activision reign:

“Bobby made a genius decision to buy Activision. The prior management (not my co-founders) had made such a mess of it that he was able to acquire the company for less than $1M. At the time I saw a valuation that said that the name alone was worth $50M – what you would have to pay to get the same recognition.

You may not agree with some of the decisions since then, but you can’t argue with his vision.”

4.) The “crappiest” game he worked on:

“The low point of my career is when I had to make a game for a pharmaceutical company to help them promote their constipation medicine.

The game was a series of minigames patterned after Asteroids, Breakout, and Galaxian. Only in this game the Asteroids looked a little like excrement (after all, your lower tract was blocked).

I remember thinking ‘Is this what my video game career has come to?’

But even at that point I had to remember that I get to make games for a living. It’s hard work but (mostly) very rewarding.”

5.) His licence plate gives a nod to his claim to fame:

“Since 1982 I have had the California licence plate “PITFALL”, so you can watch for me on the roads in Silicon Valley.”

6.) Advice to those trying to get into the biz:

“Always strive for something nobody has done before. There is too much “me too” in the game business.

A more constructive suggestion is “get yourself published.” If all you do is pay Apple $99 and make an iPhone game, once you publish it to the store you are a “published game designer.” Maybe you only sell 5 copies, and half of those to family members, but it is a start. With that confidence you can begin to make your mark, creating games that are a part of you. Hopefully there are a lot more like “you” out there who like the same things you do, and you start to develop a following.”

7.) And, his favourite game:

“Hard to answer, but in terms of sheer hours played that would either be Arcade Asteroids or Arcade Super Breakout.

Many times I would put a pot pie in the oven after work, go down to the arcade in my apartment complex, put one quarter into Asteroids and play until dinner burned to a crisp.”

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