To Roberta

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    • #25806 Reply

      While it may come across as cliche’d or overstated, I found this website and felt compelled to try and offer my direct thanks as well as it can be done over a message board.

      As a child, my father supplied me with almost the entire Sierra Adventure collection, getting me started on the first King’s Quest games as early as 6 years old. It took me awhile to complete, but it quickly became my favorite pastime after school to run into the basement, fire up the computer, play for a bit, run upstairs to ask dad for the 28th time to buy a hint guide, be refused, and then trudge back down to work on the game some more. I will never forget successfully turning Manannan into a cat for the first time, running upstairs and cheering madly, while my dad watched on, smirking in a mixture of amusement and pride.

      As this continued on I made the decision that I wanted to design computer games. At some point, not sure who to turn to, I wrote to Roberta. Before the days of e-mail and betraying the handwriting of a nervous kid, I wrote to her asking how I would go about becoming a video game designer, and someday work at Sierra On-Line making adventure games of my own. I really wish I would have kept a copy of that letter for myself, as it has to read with the tone of someone saying matter-of-factly  “I’m going to work at your company someday, please give me the best directions to get there, thanks!”

      In any case, the fact that Roberta wrote back was cause for more celebration, and I began almost immediately to start writing another letter, which she also replied to. A few letters later, when Christmas rolled around, I remember drawing a Christmas card with all of my favorite characters on the cover. In response I got a copy of KQVII and a T-Shirt. My parents bought me a bicycle. If it was an attempt to top the present sent directly from Sierra HQ, it failed.

      As I got older I stopped writing to Roberta, but her advice and influence, however small it might have been, remained implanted in my mind. I never got the chance to make adventure games at Sierra (I’m sure I’m not the only one on this board who shook their fist in the skies the day that chance was snuffed out by a business decision), but I stayed passionate about storytelling and got into filmmaking during college, which I still do to this day. I’m also a visual effects artist, and it gave me a huge grin to be able to contribue some textures to the fan-made Kings Quest game headed up by Cesar Bittar. Paying it forward, I guess.

      In any case, here’s where we finally roll around to the Thank-you. Roberta, I don’t know if you even remember the letters, for all I know I was on in a pile of mail that you responded to. But please know, the fact that you responded and took the time to give a kid a little bit of direction and encouragement almost certainly had an impact on where I am now as a person. If I can’t ever find a way to pay you back this pricless favor, I can at least brighten your day with the fact that you changed at least one more life for the better.

      Thank you.
      -Christopher Hanel

    • #25807 Reply

      Wow. This is… amazing. Writing a fan-letter to the people who made games in Sierra is something that was always on my mind, as a teenager in the 1990s, but I always dimissed the idea thinking that it’s probably this huge corporation, so the letter will never reach the individual it’s addressed to, and that anyway they’ll never send a response-letter overseas (I live in Israel)… should have had more faith, I guess!*
      Do you still keep the letters sent to you by Roberta? Any chance you’ll post their contents here?
      Your demo reel on YouTube is also very cool, by the way Smiley

      * Little did I realize that a decade and a half later I will be able to contact the same indviduals through email, and that when I ask one of them (Jane Jensen) for an interview, she’ll gladly agree. I mean, if someone told me back at 1995 that one day I’ll be interviewing the woman who made ‘Gabriel Knight’ one day, I would have probably laughed at him for even coming up with the idea.

    • #25808 Reply

      This is kind of awkward in a funny sort of way.

      This is Chris Hanel again, back over two years later. I had to see if this post was still around after recent events. You see, writing the previous message served a dual purposeat the time, as it also happened to be that my head was churning about getting back into a career path leading into games, and that I should go after that dream while I had the chance.
      That November, I accepted a job as a Game Artist at a growing game company. And last week, I accepted a promotion to Game Designer.
      Roberta and Ken get some of the credit for this one. Thanks again. I’ll be sure to post again when my first title hits the stands. 😀
      -Christopher Hanel
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