A little story first.
“My son. He’s such a geek”, my mother ribbed at me in her familiar Québéçoise accent. She flipped over the jewel case in my hands and looked at the back cover, and shook her head.
I looked up at the cashier, my eyes pleading for some way out of this. She giggled instead, and I blushed. I gave my mother an “Aw mom!” look.
I was 15 years old, and we were standing at the checkout of a London Drugs store in the city. The store carried everything, from diapers and bee-sting kits, to Polaroid cameras and Froot Loops. I was here for the computer games.
The back of the store had a bargain shelf lined with computer games..most of them were crap shareware titles like PKWare Utilities and the occasional decent Crazy Nick’s Software Picks: Robin Hood’s Game of Skill and Chance. Among the rows of CD’s and floppies, a Dynamix logo on a white jewel case caught my eye. It was a game I had never heard of before, and it was on CD-ROM! A talkie adventure game. For $19.99. I rescued The Adventures of Willy Beamish from the shelf and carried it back to the cashier like a sacrificial offering.
At the time, my mother didn’t understand. She probably hoped that my crazy obsession with games would pass.. along with saturday morning cartoons and remote control cars. Or maybe she thought it was just another game that I would play for a couple of hours and lose interest in.
But it was a Sierra game. It had Sierra artwork and Sierra music. I played Willy Beamish for months. I relished the stunning artwork and expressive animation. I had never seen a game before – other than Dragon’s Lair – that had every character hand-animated in each scene (instead of using a repeated walk animation). The rich (256) colour palette rotated with night and day. For a nerdy fifteen year-old living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Willy Beamish’s little suburban neighbourhood and treehouse was a real place to hide out in. The art, the animation, the music and voices, all conspired to create a place for daydreaming.
Fast-forward 15 years. I get a call from a friend of mine, Eriq Chang, whose artwork I featured in an article some time ago. Apparently – for several years – Sierra enthusiasts Brandon Klassen and Eriq Chang, have been secretly working on an Art Book that tells the graphical history of Sierra On-Line adventure games. Eriq would not tell me any more than “we’ll send you some teasers before launch.”
In this article, Brandon Klassen tells us just what The Art of Sierra is, and what the project means for him personally. Brandon and Eriq have generously sent me two promotional teaser shots of the upcoming book (included, see below), and let me tell you: I can’t fucking wait.