Because we’re celebrating Don Mattrick’s departure to Zynga today, I decided to dig down the rabbit hole because I’d always wondered where a guy like Mattrick comes from. In 1983, game developers Don Mattrick and Jeff Sember of Distinctive Software, Inc. went on CBC’s Front Page Challenge to explain their trade as Canada’s first video game developers. The panelists’ inquiries reveal a strange, naive era in which video games are still rare things to be dissected and understood. Let’s take a deeper dive, shall we?
Don Mattrick Wasn’t Always A Suit
In the show’s open, the panelists must guess who these two guests are. When one calls out that maybe they’re Wayne & Schuster (a Canadian comedy duo from the 40s and 50s), Mattrick breaks out into a little jig before others suggest they may be the MacKenzie brothers. Y’see, he may be wearing a suit, but Don Mattrick was a kid once.
If he were a kid though, his parents might be concerned about what video games were doing…
Don Mattrick Doesn’t Think Video Games Will Turn Your Mind To Mush
When none of the panelists look younger than 50, it seems inevitable that they’d turn to the question of whether video games were a terrible plague upon the youth of Canada or not. But these surveyors are far more like grandparents than the prodding of Katie Couric or Jack Thompson and Mattrick simply brushes off the suggestion.
That’s not the only thing he brushes off, though.
Don Mattrick Doesn’t Care About Nuclear Calamity
After Mattrick dismisses the idea that they’re building programs to wipe kids’ brains, he seems apathetic to panelist Pierre Berton’s inquiry about the (then) very real threat of nuclear annihilation. Of course, at this point, Reagan is amassing a military stockpile south of the border, the Soviet Union is looking weaker than ever and these kids just made enough dough to buy sports cars and pay off part of their university. The Cold War was receding, not approaching a climax and the Soviet Union would fall eight years later.
Of course, who needs fat stacks when…
Don Mattrick Built Games For $4,000 Canadian
Back before he went to the big time world of Electronic Arts and Microsoft and never ever looked back, Don Mattrick made games with Sember in a house for $4,000 Canadian. Sember even suggests they could do it for half that amount, but you see that little twinkle in Mattrick’s eye? He wants to take his (yet to be delivered) Toyota Supra and hot rod it around Vancouver, then never stop hot rodding it.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. While we know what became of Mattrick, Sember gradually disappeared from video game development altogether by the mid-nineties.
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