Father of video games advises persistence

first_imgWhen nobody else believes in you, persist. That is his advice to entrepreneurs attending Thursday’s 2007 San Fernando Valley Economic Summit, where Bushnell is slated to give a keynote address along with state Controller John Chiang. After investors snubbed his Atari idea, Bushnell got the company off the ground with his own money by paying for parts every 60 days, charging buyers every 10 days, and building the game consoles in three days. Finding investors for uWink posed similar challenges. But the restaurant, which allows patrons to answer trivia questions or play truth or dare while eating, is showing signs of success. Customers are playing 60,000 games a month, and Bushnell, who lives in Brentwood, is opening two additional locations in Hollywood and Culver City next year. It wasn’t just Bushnell’s tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit that pushed organizers to invite him to speak at the conference at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. Skepticism is an old friend of Nolan Bushnell. When he thought up the video game Atari in 1972, investors did not believe people would play arcade games on boxes resembling TVs. After video games caught on, Bushnell pitched a pizzeria called Chuck E. Cheese where children could play electronic games, but investors shot it down. So how did he turn his ideas into wildly successful realities? “Force of will,” said Bushnell, 64, from a table at his latest venture, the multimedia restaurant uWink in Woodland Hills. Bushnell is widely recognized as the father of video games, one segment of an industry that is a major source of the 700,000 private sector jobs in the Valley. The technology industry employs tens of thousands of people throughout the entertainment, biotech, aerospace, Internet and gaming sectors. But putting one’s finger on the industry’s size is difficult, partly because it is so widespread. “It’s really hard to get your arms around it,” said Daniel Blake, director of the Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge, and author of an economic forecast to be released at Thursday’s conference. Technology is becoming “an even more pervasive element,” Blake said. He predicts the information sector, which partly encompasses technology, will boom by 4.2percent in 2007 and by similar percentages in 2008 and 2009. That tops the growth of every other industry measured, second only to secondary services such as hair and nail salons, and automotive repair shops. But the information industry is so much larger than these services that it will have a bigger impact, Blake said. Like the information industry, Chiang, who will also give a keynote address at Thursday’s economic summit, has great power to affect the Valley. Chiang administers $300billion in state pension funds and may have a say in how $20billion in voter-approved transportation bonds will be spent. Valley pet projects include a $135million north-south extension on the Orange line, a car-pool lane on the northbound 405 that carries a $730million price tag, and a $606million car-pool lane on the 5 between the 134 and the 170. “My impact on the bonds is that we are going to spend those dollars prudently,” Chiang said. [email protected] (818) 713-3735 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more