How Sierra Adventure Games Inspired Me to Be a Creative Entrepreneur
PC "Quest" Games from the late 80s and 90s force you to think differently than the games kids play today.
Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, most of my time was spent playing Sierra Adventure Games on my PC. Now—you might be thinking to yourself, aww... poor kid, he never had any friends. Quite the opposite actually — I had A LOT of friends, and for the most part they were all nerds and geeks like me, who sat at home playing Sierra adventure games. And we played them all: Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Hero’s Quest, Quest for Glory, Manhunter, Gold Rush, The Adventures of Willy Beamish,the Black Cauldron, and let's not forget Leisure Suit Larry (when our parents were away, of course).
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a member of an exclusive club of geeks who would become successful in life, just by playing these pixelated adventure games. You see, back in my day, you had to be a true geek to own a PC — that means you had to have a high-level of technical aptitude just to operate the darn thing. This was before the friendly graphical user interface of Microsoft Windows became the preferred operating system. We were using DOS as the operating system, and so we had to be comfortable typing down actual command lines like programmers would: “C:\> Run Larry.exe”.
Playing these games taught me a lot about myself and how I react in certain situations. It has served me quite well as an entrepreneur, in opening up my own creative design studio in Toronto. It also taught me the importance of creating an immersive user-experience, where storytelling played an important part of everything I did for my clients.
When I was a teenager, I was a bit of a train wreck.
Academically I didn’t really excel at school — I was what you would call a “C Average” student. But I wasn’t going to let my inability to comprehend Organic Chemistry get in the way of defining the person I want to be. These adventure games offered me a sense of escapism — all of a sudden I was Roger Wilco, the hero of the Space Quest series, who could be considered the ultimate overachiever, as he went from space-janitor to saving the galaxy from the villainous Sludge Vohaul.
But I digress, here are some of the lessons I learned from playing these games, that I was able to adapt to the real world, especially when it came to running my own business.
1) Problem Solving
Yes, I work as a Creative Director in Toronto for my own design studio (Rayvn Design). My job consists of solving problems creatively for all my clients. Playing adventure games, gave me that trait at a very early age. Like when you’re playing the young knight Sir Graham on a quest to destroy the wicked witch Dahlia and find three treasures in order to become the new king. The larger mission is broken up into smaller tasks, an as you accomplish each small task successfully, you see your score at the top of the screen increase — getting you closer to your goal. If only real life, came with a score card at the top, so that you could gauge how well you are doing. Nevertheless, these games taught me to look at every obstacle and problem I face as a challenge, and that there is always a creative solution around everything. Philosophy I employee in my work to this day.
2) Never Give Up
The most simplistic parallel between playing these games and my life as an entrepreneur comes from the concept of never giving up. Despite hard times, always be open to new possibilities, and keep your eye on the prize. Gold Rush! is centered around the California Gold Rush, and you play the character Jerrod — who travels from Brooklyn to California in search of gold, and meet your long-lost brother. It’s a lesser known Sierra Game, but it was one that I was hooked on and played over a span of two to three years. And there were no walk-throughs I could download off the internet, as this was pre-internet era — so I had to employ constant trial and error. Even though I’d get eaten by ants in Panama, or get scurvy on the boat — the story-line was so intriguing, that I just had to keep pushing on.
I wanted to win. I hated losing. I still hate losing. Losing, in the business sense, provides an instant closure that someone out worked me that day. So, I took it upon myself to not let that happen. I started to work harder and pushed beyond what I believed my limits were.
When you run your own design studio, there are days when you’re tired and on the verge of a burnout. Unexpected client feedback, tight deadlines to deliver, no vacation days — it can take a toll, but then I remind myself why I got into this business in the first place. The mental battle can be hard. But once I find my zone, the job is going to get done.
3) Find your tribe
When playing these adventure games, you get killed — and often have to restart or back track some of your moves. I remember the countless times while playing Police Quest, your character, Detective Sonny Bonds, would killed by the criminal mastermind Jessie Bains... it’s frustrating and unexpected, especially when you vested so much time into it — but you just gotta pick yourself up, and come at the problem in a different way... The best way to cope with these problematic situations is to stay positive and surround yourself with other like-minded people (your tribe) who are in the same boat as you... me and my troupe of nerds from back in high-school would have three-way-calls talking about how to solve a baffling puzzle, or get past a certain level. It was all that we would talk about — at lunch time, in the library, on the bus going home. For us, it was no longer a game — it was a way of life, and we were all personally invested in the characters we were playing. Again, the key is to surround yourself with great people, remain positive and laugh the negativity off.
4) Believe in Yourself
Confidence can be severely affected by negativity. They say if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ve already lost. I learned all about confidence through Mr. Larry Laffer from the Leisure Suit Larry series (yes, go ahead and laugh... but if you’re laughing that means you’ve played the game, and you’re just as guilty as me... LOL). Yup, LSL taught me all about the birds and the bees… in fact, I talked to more nubile pixelated women in that game than I’ve talked to real women in my life. Not that I fancy myself as a white-polyester wearing Lothario... but often in the game, you get to choose what you say to these women — the right choice can lead you to a happy place with fire-works and champagne with Passionate Patti; however the wrong choice of words and actions can have you leaving Leftys with the realization that the “hooker gave you a little more than you bargained for,” and then end up dying of venereal disease... LOL. Pretty soon you start developing a bit of confidence and swagger, and start making more right choices than wrong ones. Same way I would walk into a presentation, confidence is mandatory for success.
This is not to say that I always have great meetings when I am confident (or I’ve used some of Larry’s lines in real life... which is never a good idea) ... but having that confidence has made my life a significantly better and have lead to more conversations.
Playing Sierra Adventure games has taught me many things over the years, including problem solving, hard work, a positive attitude, and high confidence. If it were not for these traits, there is a good chance I would not be running a successful business.
My current goal is to continue my personal growth in my business by focusing on the above four characteristics. As my professional career progresses, I know I will always be able to rely on the lessons I learned from playing those computer games to succeed.
Have you played any of these games? If so, I'd love to hear from you—what games did play, what were you stuck on? Connect with me on Linked-In, and be part of my tribe :).