Thank you Ken, Roberta, and everyone at Sierra for being part of my childhood

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    • #26041 Reply
      Stephen,Webber
      Participant

      Dear Ken and Roberta,

      I think I’ve always wanted to write this letter to you, but the means and the thoughts never really coalesced until now. I have a lifetime of memories and stories I could tell, but I will condense them as best I can. It needs to be said that everyone I knew here in Southern Ontario, Canada had or played Sierra games.

      I remember my dad bought us the Sierra Value pack with Thexder, Space Quest 2 and 3D Helicopter Simulator. I would have been in fourth or fifth grade. My dad determinedly made the play disks as instructed by the manuals so as to protect the precious originals for copy protection purposes. I was enthralled by Thexder, given as it was a Robotech game in everything but name. My dad called me in to watch him trying to figure out the beginning sequence of Space Quest 2… he couldn’t figure out what to do next (we had a CGA computer at the time and the ramp to board the shuttle on XOS4 was almost invisible, so he told me “I am sure my boss is going to come back out and fire me”).

      Thexder grew tiresome, so I learned that I could fly the AH-64 around in Helicopter Simulator, and level Fort Worth with the missiles. With those skills, I learned I could shoot the ferry in another level. Then I realized I could land the Robinson if I came down gently enough. I was in love with helicopters and flight sims now.

      In Space Quest, I finally figured out how to get onto the shuttle and ended up down on Labion. I got eaten by the root monster, devoured by the mushrooms, and drowned by the swamp creature. The last one gave me nightmares and I was banned from the game for a week.

      I met a kid at summer camp who’d finished the game. He gave me a disk with his saves and with those I figured out how to get past those hard puzzles and finally stop Vohaul.

      My dad came home with another value pack. Police Quest 2, Manhunter: SF and Silpheed. I loaded Police Quest 2, and, not understanding the concept of keys yet, frustratedly walked Sonny out the front gate of the parking lot and was hit by a car. Death on the first screen! Yes! I complained to another friend at school who claimed I had to go to the captain and ask to be issued my cruiser (the concept of police detectives in unmarked cars was foreign to us, too,\policemen rode in police cars!).

      I wore out two joysticks playing Silpheed. I had more nightmares from the big nasty rat thing hiding in the sewer in Manhunter.

      There’s so many more stories I could tell, but suffice it to say, I was hooked. My mom and I played Space Quest 3 together and laughed ourselves silly during the credits. I made my first proper best friend working on Space Quest 4 and Quest for Glory 2, and we drew dozens of comics inspired by them.

      What really struck me is how Sierra felt like part of the family to me. Ken and Roberta were this other family who made these games with their friends and shared them with us. They wrote this catalogue telling us about what they’d done, what their thoughts on them were (the behind-the-scenes comments in the 1990 catalogue were great) and what they wanted to do to beat television (I loved that and couldn’t wait for it to happen). We’d go to the cottage on the lake, or someone’s house, and if there was a computer, there was a Sierra game to stick in and start playing. A lot of it was more mature than a kid my age was really able to appreciate and understand yet, but the stories pulled no punches and never talked down, and we took it all in. 

      I learned to type quickly and accurately to open escape pod doors or stick plungers on walls in Space Quest, where spelling counted and the parser didn’t pause the game. I learned to respect and understand the police and what they did from Police Quest. I learned kindness and bravery in King’s Quest, while Codename: Iceman drove me to buy a hintbook – it was outrageously hard, and came at a time when a friend and I were caught up in the Tom Clancy/Hunt for Red October fever so we had to see what happened! I was almost moved to tears by the plight of Julanar the tree woman in Quest for Glory 2. Heck, while bored at university, I even had a go at the AGI studio and learned what went into making my own adventure (I never finished it)

      This letter has run away with me, so I will close it here. I want to thank you again for all the shared adventures and lessons and fun you shared with me and so many other people, young and old, back in the day. I wish the both of you many happy years adventuring on your boat and enjoying your retirement.

      My very best,

      Stephen W

    • #41272 Reply
      Dan Warne
      Guest

      This is a great account, and although I didn’t play the same games, tells the story of my childhood too! Sierra games were great family games and I agree with the feeling that Ken and Roberta were this other family making games and sharing them with mine. As a former tech journalist, your account made me realise that part of the magic of Sierra was the amazing marketing and communications around the games, which really made you feel part of a club — and a truly valued customer of the company. I just read Ken’s whole book and he has many great theories and methodologies for succeeding in the games business, but I think that he perhaps underrates himself as one of the first great tech community builders! Sure, as Sierra players spread around the world we didn’t talk with each other in the same way you do with online communities now, but we sure as hell all felt part of something special. Certainly very different to other game companies of the time which were more focused on simply shipping boxes.

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