Ludo, Ergo Sum

Ludo, Ergo Sum
Secret Agent Candy Man

Dave Thomas | 14 Mar 2006 11:00
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"So, when I first saw a computer I had this 'ah ha!' moment where I said, 'Hey, this is a calculating device and we can bury all the gaming machinery inside the box and we can make real life in a box and just paint pretty pictures on a TV screen.'

"This was within an hour of seeing my first computer in 1971."

By the time he'd reached college at Harvard, Trip had convinced the administration to let him make up his own major in strategy and applied game theory and was preparing to start a little game company. He even set a date - by 1982, the world would get the business that would become known as Electronic Arts.

"So, it was actually in 1975 that I decided that I would start the game company in 1982. I literally pegged it seven years in advance."

In the era of dot com billionaires and equity rich programming whiz kids, it's hard to image just how provocative this idea was. At that time, if you told people computers were going to make everything from typewriters to travel agents obsolete, they would have looked at you like you were crazy. Crazy like a game developer these days saying he's going to build a moon ship. Some people are just ahead of the curve.

"Everyone has always looked at me like I'm crazy. They're still looking at me like I'm crazy. And, of course, I've always felt like I've been doing things that other people think are pretty nerdy and geeky. So, I just guarantee you, back then, it seemed really nerdy and really geeky."

Cinematic 2: Trip Makes a Football Game
"Here's what I totally believe..."

It's 20 minutes into the interview and Trip is getting wound up. Recalling the electric fire of certainty he felt when he launched EA puts him into the entrepreneur's zone. He's ready to play.

"I believe that I was much more alive and engaged as a human being because of the interactivity of gaming compared to the passivity of television. And I was absolutely convinced if we made it easier for people to understand it audio/visually, I absolutely believed that would cause it to replace television."

An MBA at Stanford and four years at nascent Apple Computer gave Hawkins the chops and the connections he needed to squeeze out the venture capital necessary to start Electronic Arts. In 1982, right on schedule, he opened the doors to the tiny software publisher that would one day dominate the retail landscape.

It would take another seven years, but Trip would finally get his computerized football game. EA would provide the platform that would sell 50 million games over 16 years, spanning pretty much any machine that ever claimed to run a videogame. Rarely in the history of gaming has anything approached Madden in longevity, mass appeal or good old-fashioned financial success.

"Madden, without any question, was my biggest success as a creative contributor. And of course, Madden is just driven by this sort of childhood interest in football and football games that were stimulated by discovering Stat-O-Matic. You can look at Madden as Stat-O-Matic taken to that next level. The machinery is in the box and there're TV-like visuals on the screen."

You can only image the smug smile Hawkins earned when John Madden declared over a video link to a room full of E3 journalists several years ago that, "When we started out, we tried to make the game like the real thing. These days we try to make real thing like the videogame."

Cinematic 3: Trip Trips on 3DO
If you wanted to write a biography about Trip, the EA and Madden stories would provide more than enough drama to fill the pages. Neil Armstrong only went to the moon once, after all, and plenty of books have been written about that.

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