The Back Story (July 2005)

Movies, Monoliths, and Mission Control


David Kushner is no stranger to the computer game industry. He has partied with the men who make its music, and he's spent a lot of time with the two Johns, Carmack and Romero, who came up with the video game Doom and revolutionized the industry a decade ago. But seeing Sony Online Entertainment's operations center in San Diego for this issue's "Engineering EverQuest" was something else again, he says.

He took on this writing assignment expecting to see a version of NASA's mission control but for a video game world, and that's what he got. The engineers who keep more than half a million people playing EverQuest and EverQuest II are a different breed from the typical game developer, Kushner discovered. "It was much more the scientists in lab coats than kids with Nerf guns," says Kushner. "This is a serious operation."

It was Kushner's first trip inside a big server room, and it left an impression. "It was kind of like seeing a row of monoliths from the movie 2001 ," he recalls. "It felt like walking into the brains of the whole setup. You really got the sense that these machines are keeping all these [virtual] people alive out there."

As Kushner writes in his article, the video game industry has become a major player in Hollywood, and now he's been personally touched by the convergence of gaming and film. Naren Shankar, the executive producer of the hit TV show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," read IEEE Spectrum's review of Kushner's book, Masters of Doom , about the computer game industry, and he's working on a movie script based on the book. It's now in development for the Showtime cable channel.

Will there be a movie version of "Engineering EverQuest"? Stay tuned.