‘Alexa, turn my shoes on.’
A genial old fellow on stage at the Alexa Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee smiles as the soles of his shoes begin to glow red. Later, he asks Amazon’s virtual assistant to make his shoes green. Lo and behold, green shoes.
The man is Nolan Bushnell, and he’s the former founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. Once upon a time, he was also Steve Jobs’ boss. Now, addressing an audience of developers as CEO of X2 Games, Bushnell and his LED shoes are trying to make the point that the age of voice is brimming with possibility.
For Bushnell, a veteran gamer in every sense of the word, that possibility spells a new era of interactive board and card games that you’ll play using Alexa.
‘I’ve always liked to do things a little weird,’ he tells the crowd. ‘Believe it or not, a lot of people who bought video games were weird. There were even states that outlawed them. Then, imagine if you would, going to a venture capitalist and saying, ‘I want to build a pizza parlor that’s 10 times bigger than any you’ve ever seen, and it’s also going to be an arcade, and it’s also going to have animatronics.’
‘It seems like trying to do new things is really hard,’ he finishes.
That certainly isn’t stopping him now. Still 75 years old when we spoke to him (he’s now 76), Bushnell and his company have just announced plans to release six new voice-controlled, Alexa-centric games in 2019. The first of which, a board game called St. Noire, is now available for preorder on Amazon. Bushnell pauses his presentation to ask Alexa what the game’s all about.