Nolan Bushnell, Entepreneur; Founder, Atari
Dong Nguyen, Indie Game Developer, Flappy Bird
in conversation with David Kushner
In 1972 Nolan Bushnell created an industry when he founded Atari and gave the world Pong, the first blockbuster video game. Today his design credo—that games should be “easy to learn and difficult to master”—is inspiring a new generation of developers. A prolific entrepreneur, Bushnell has started more than 20 companies, including Catalyst Technologies, the first Silicon Valley incubator, and Etak, the first in-car nav system—not to mention Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater. In the process, he pioneered many of the workplace innovations that have made the Silicon Valley a long-standing magnet for creative talent. Bushnell was the first and only man to hire Steve Jobs and wrote the 2013 bestseller Finding the Next Steve Jobs. With his latest startup, BrainRush, he is intent on fixing education with software that uses gamification principles to “addict” students to learning. A true icon of the digital revolution, Bushnell was named one of “50 People Who Changed America” by Newsweek. A biopic, tentatively titled Atari and slated to star Leonardo DiCaprio as Bushnell, is currently in pre-production.
As a contributing editor of Wired and Rolling Stone and frequent guest on radio and TV from CNN to NPR, David Kushner reports on the key leaders and innovators of the information age. Author and journalist Kushner is the leading expert on the new i-Conomy of digital culture and industry.
When Dong Nguyen created Flappy Bird last year, his goal was to create a modest game that people could play on their phones during their morning commute—with “one hand holding the train strap.” By January 2014 it had become a runaway sensation, topping the charts in the US and more than 100 other countries before he pulled it from online stores in February. The Vietnamese developer clearly has his finger on the cultural pulse: His ruthless simplicity and retro-style graphics challenge every self-indulgent impulse of today’s bloated gaming industry. As John Romero, co-creator of Doom has said, Flappy Bird is “a reaction against prevailing design the way grunge was a reaction to metal.” Nguyen studied computer science at Hanoi Polytechnic University and began his career at a local game developer. He recently quit his day job and is now at work on several new titles.
Atari founder Nolan Bushnell describes how thousands of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" video game cartridges wound up in a landfill, and indie game developer Dong Nguyen, designer of the mobile game Flappy Bird, explains why you can't copy success.