By: Marlene Sharp March 16, 2022
‘More importantly, after my earliest exposure to computers in high school, I realized they had a potential to entertain. And I found it pretty satisfying when I could use them for that purpose. I wasn’t exactly the class clown as a kid, but I loved to laugh and make other people laugh. I didn’t see myself as a performer, though—I lacked the confidence to get up on a stage in front of people (although that changed somewhat in college and ironically set me on a road to becoming an actor as well as a video game designer).’ – Warren Davis in Creating Q*bert (Santa Monica Press 2022)
Opinion and spoiler alert! The most satisfying nugget (Easter egg?) from Warren Davis’s new book Creating Q*bert is the aforementioned quote. In addition to being a game guru of epic, iconic, and nostalgic proportions, Warren Davis is an accomplished, Los Angeles-based actor and all-around theater nerd. His stage and screen resume includes an unforgettable performance in the short film Bad Jew and sound design in The Blank Theatre Company’s production of Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them. The point: Warren Davis is as relatable as he is talented, especially in the eyes of a former co-star/geek-themed article writer who shall remain nameless (but obvious). His preternatural gift is in speaking to everyone: hardcore gamers, thespians, and lovers of compelling true stories alike.
Indeed, relatability is Warren Davis’s currency. Early in Creating Q*bert, he states, ‘After attending numerous retro-gaming events, meeting up with old colleagues, sharing stories, and seeing the passion that still exists for these old games, I realized there’s a genuine interest in stories like mine. There are a lot of books about the video game industry, but almost none of them have been written by people who were actually there.’
Well, Warren was there . . . and he is also, very much here. He writes about all of it – even the engineering nuances – in common parlance with uncommon entertainment value. By conducting unofficial qualitative research (as a long-time fan-con favorite panelist and presenter), Warren has tapped into what fanboys and girls want. The result is a late 20th/early 21st century diary of generation-defining game ideation in which Warren plays key technical and creative roles. Anecdotal highlights include behind-the-scenes of Q*bert (perhaps his magnum opus), Us Vs Them, Joust 2, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Revolution X. The book also includes a foreword by Ed Boon, legendary creator of Mortal Kombat.
On the other hand, it is not all metaphorical fun and games inside Creating Q*bert. Warren dishes on the somewhat soul-crushing nature of show business as it relates to interactive offshoots. Especially eyebrow-raising is the account of his Disney tenure, which almost went bust after his cross-country move from Chicago to Glendale, CA for the job offer at hand. Somehow, this superstar programmer’s on-site arrival slipped through the cracks of a corporate Mouse House regime change. From there, he dodged regular mass layoffs for four or so years until his eventual resignation from the fabled Disney Imagineering unit.
Warren covers his computing innovations with an easily digestible mixture of humility, detail, and layperson’s terms. One highlight is the description of his work on the groundbreaking digitization system for actors and other photo-realistic imagery folded into action games (e.g., Mortal Kombat, Terminator 2, and NBA Jam). Another crowd-pleaser is Davis’s contribution to Us Vs Them; it marks the first time video game integration of live action story with arcade-style graphics. Then there is the whole Bunny Bondage affair . . . which is must-read material for its clever title alone.
Creating Q*bert is more than a compelling memoir: it is a vehicle that parks itself and delivers now-stalgia in Q*bert-style leaps and bounds. Warren Davis is your friendly, neighborhood, savant-like driver. Expect Warren to roll up to GDC 2022 and bring an in-person Q*bert post mortem with all requisite bells and whistles.
About Marlene Sharp
Marlene Sharp is a creative and business-savvy entertainment multi-hyphenate who originally hails from New Orleans but is now a (San Fernando) Valley girl. Firmly ensconced in LA life, Marlene is top dawg at Pink Poodle Productions and Head of IP Strategy and Acquisitions for Rainshine Entertainment. Noteworthy clients and collaborators include BoredPanda.com, WeFixYourScript.com, ToonBo, Society Cabaret, Euramco Pictures, and The Center for Learning Unlimited/Brainstorm Productions. Prior to Pink Poodle and Rainshine, Marlene served as Director, Production at LEVEL-5 abby, home of YO-KAI WATCH and other Japanese hit video game-based franchises.
Formerly, as Producer, TV Series, at Sega of America, Marlene worked on much more than Teen Choice Award-nominated Cartoon Network series SONIC BOOM. For example, her extensive Hedgehog duties took her to the heights of nerd-dom as an official San Diego Comic-Con 2017 panelist. She also consulted on the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog feature film.
As a freelance journalist, Marlene concentrates on pop culture for noteworthy fan destinations, such as GameDeveloper.com, DOGTV, ToonBarn.com, Geekified.net, and CultureSonar.com. As a short film auteur, she has snagged recognition at La Femme Film Fest, Austin Comedy Film Festival, KIDS FIRST! Film Festival, Canine Film Festival, and San Luis Obispo Film Festival. Marlene is the proud winner of the 2019 LA Shorts International Film Fest Script Competition (an Oscar- and BAFTA-qualifying fest), at which her backdoor sitcom pilot received a staged reading courtesy of The Groundlings.
As a human being, basically, Marlene Sharp loves all kinds of pups. For proof, please see her website www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.