David MendenhallSubmitted to SierraVault:
A much younger and more dweebish version of me appears in Volume 4, #1, on page 43. I was the winner of the “Come Home and Meet the Family Contest” way back in 1990. I spent all summer reading old computer magazines and browsing microfiche to come up with the longest list of Sierra and On-Line Systems games produced over the previous ten years. I also read Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which includes a rather sordid account of the early years of Sierra (concluding with KQ1 for the PCjr, I think). It’s funny to think that in this age of the Internet and Wikipedia, no company could ever run a contest like that one anymore; it would be too easy to collate a perfect list.
My family and I flew to Oakhurst the day after Christmas, 1990. We had dinner with Ken, Roberta, and their sons that evening, and toured Sierra the next day. At the dinner, Ken looked really embarrassed when he heard that I had read Hackers. I remember him saying forcefully “Don’t read Hackers. Don’t play Leisure Suit Larry.” It was like a “This is your brain on drugs” moment. Hilarious. Roberta and I laughed about searching for the bridle in KQ4, and she apologized for making it so hard to find in the original version. I remember that one of my questions was whether they had considered integrating a hint system directly into the games. I was surprised when they said they would never do so because they actually made a lot of money from selling hints.
I don’t remember much of the tour. It was kind of a whirlwind meeting all the developers. Mark Seibert played the new music for SQ4, and Scott Murphy showed off the game itself. I remember looking at the screen and saying, “It says here Space Quest XII.” I think Scott said, “Oh, yeah, that’s just a joke. We still have to change that.” Looking back, I think he was trying to cover up for what was, in retrospect, a significant spoiler. My only other memory is of talking to Jim Walls. He told me he was working on another Police Quest sequel and I said, “But the Death Angel is dead!” He responded, “This time, it’s his brother.” I was too young to remark how much of a Hollywood cliché that was, and instead just thought, “His brother! Brilliant!” Haha.
It was a great experience–a real dream come true for a huge fan who had been playing and replaying Sierra games for years. My son is just now getting old enough to be interested in computer games, and we walked through the AGD Interactive remake of KQ1 a few days ago. I still remember every detail. He calls it “the goat game” because he likes the part where the goat knocks the troll off the bridge. He’s also really into the dragon burning Graham up into ashes. Such a boy. It’s fun to be revisiting it all again.
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