I got this book from the kids for Christmas, but hadn’t started it yet because I honestly don’t have a lot of time to read and the few books that I have been going through lately have been audio books.

That said, I absolutely devoured this book!

I literally blew through it in five days because between the nostalgia factor and the intriguing insight from Sierra’s leader, I just couldn’t put it down. I was huge Sierra fanboy back in the height of their fame, but only being a kid in high school and with the Internet only just beginning to grow, I had no idea of the business happenings taking place that ultimately led to my favorite game company’s untimely demise.

I think what I loved the most about this book, and what made it such an easy read, was that Ken’s writing really flows like an old friend telling a story. Grab your favorite drink and pull up a chair by the fire, and watch the hours just melt away strolling down memory lane with all sorts of great details that only the co-founder of the company could have to share.

Plus, he’s an earnest storyteller and has no problem admitting his own faults along the way, which is a refreshing perspective from a former CEO after now having spent a couple of decades in the corporate world myself…

It’s really amazing to read through the entire story and fully realize just how many products Sierra released – there’s a timeline at the back of the book that’s literally 12 pages long, listing every single one from 1979 through 1999! And I had a lot of them on my own shelves growing up, from the usual favorites like King’s Quest and Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry to more obscure titles like Rama and The Incredible Machine and even Mission: Asteroid that started it all for me before I even knew what Sierra was!

It was neat to read all of the insider stories behind these beloved games and the thought process for how Sierra grew to become the powerhouse that it once was. I’d like to think that if I wasn’t eight at the time, it would’ve been a really fun place for a guy like me to work. 😉

Always pushing the edge and never afraid to try new things, it’s hard to imagine a software shop today operating with the adventurous spirit that maybe comes from pioneering the genre of adventure games! It wasn’t until the bittersweet end that you saw that risk taking attitude and ambition give way to marketing projections and stock prices as the whole thing eventually came crumbling down.

By far I think my biggest takeaways from this book – what really made up the essence of Sierra – was their passion for making games and telling stories, and their commitment to quality, and how they set a standard that still today most don’t achieve of making the enjoyment of their customers the most important thing in their world.

To cobble together a few different quotes from Ken that embody this message…

“I wanted the customers to identify with the values of the company. Our reputation for quality and customer happiness were everything. We were running a giant fan club in which we listened to what customers want, found people who were passionate about it to build the product, and then delivered it to our friends (the customers).”

As someone who still hopes of running a creative company one day myself, there’s a lot to take away from Sierra’s story … and not just the part about selling it to a global conglomerate lead by a bunch of fraudsters! It’s so clear that for the 20 year journey of this icon, the people behind it were having the time of their lives. Sure, there were lots of ups and downs, but they explored lots of new avenues that nobody else had done before them, they prided themselves in creating vast, new worlds for other people to enjoy, and they built a brand around personal enjoyment during a time when personal computers were big and bulky and games were the last thing on the operators’ minds.

I can’t highly enough recommend this book for anyone else who grew up on Sierra’s legacy, and now I really want to find a computer that will still run some of these things to see if I can continue this fun trip down memory lane!

book thoughts – The Wisdom of the Shire

February 9, 2013 7:12pm
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I’ve always felt a little bad that as a writer I honestly don’t really read that many books. Let’s try to change that! 😉

wisdom_shireThe Wisdom of the Shire is a fun, little book that I picked up at the book store earlier last month while my wife and I were in the middle of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy for her first time. Barnes & Noble had a huge display of Tolkien-related material out because The Hobbit was still in theaters, and after skimming through all of the random titles that they had gathered, I ended up walking out the door with this one. I guess it stood out to me because it was a relatively short read – important for somebody who really doesn’t read books these days! – and it also seemed to do a lot of relating hobbit life to human life, which was something that intrigued me…

You could probably say that I’ve been sort of romanticizing the Shire ever since watching those movies – I dunno, I guess it just seems like hobbit life might be a little simpler than this crazy one that I’m surrounded with these days, and thus as it’s not exactly feasible for one to pick up and move to Westfarthing myself, the next best thing seemed pretty appealing throughout this book in comparing and contrasting the two worlds and finding little ways to make this crazy, human world just a bit more relaxed and hobbit-like!

Things like taking the time to stop and enjoy your surroundings, welcoming time with family, and learning to deal with the negative forces in your life. Peculiarly enough, it’s where my whole bizarre gardening kick sprouted up from (see what I did there?!), and in a way I guess it was just a nice, simple read pointing out the obvious that more often than not most of us nonetheless take for granted.

At the end of it all, I think the essence of being a hobbit is simply in making the best with what you’ve got and enjoying every last morsel of it. Life doesn’t always have to be fast – every once in a while it’s important to slow things down, whether it be with a pint of beer, some smoke rings from a fresh bit of pipe weed, or even just a good book.

Next on deck is The Fellowship of the Ring … me thinks it’s going to take considerably longer to make my way through that one’s tiny print as compared to this read, but I’m also really looking forward to revisiting the original trilogy that got me hooked on Middle Earth more than 20 years ago just the same… :mrgreen:

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