As a child I was totally captivated by the magic of animation and the fantasy worlds of children’s picture books. I imagined going inside storybooks, such as Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!, to play with all the weird musical instruments and contraptions in Whoville. I followed my artistic passion as I grew, received a degree in Fine Art from California State University, East Bay, worked as a book publishing art director, and then went back to school to study traditional animation at San Francisco State University.By 1986 I was a parent with Nintendo guilt. As the father of three boys, I watched their passion for Mario Bros. and dedication to achieving “level” mastery, but couldn’t find a single program that was educational and fun enough to hold their attention in the same way. My boys, and their friends, would cooperate and work diligently for hours to get to the next level, but getting them to do 20 minutes of homework was an entirely different story. That was a big aha moment for me. My children inspired me to create programs that combined the attention-grabbing play aspects of great games with meaningful content. I wanted to develop titles my kids would love and learn from, and to inspire all children to follow their innate desire for play and learning through self-directed exploration and discovery. Imagine waking up on Christmas day and seeing playground equipment in your back garden?
My software career began as a freelance digital artist and animator for early floppy disc PC games like Where in The World is Carmen San Diego? But I already had a vision of highly interactive animated picture books for children, which was my inspiration for creating Living Books. Brøderbund Software, where I had taken a job to try and sell the concept of interactive storybooks, believed in my vision enough to allow me to create a small prototype in-house. Philips, the Dutch electronics hardware manufacturer, happened to come through on a tour and, based on my prototype, gave Brøderbund $500,000 to make a title that would run on a new television set-top box player they were developing. All of a sudden, my little demo concept became a development group, and we dived into the problem of turning the single-speed CD-ROM drives of the day into responsive multimedia players.As the first full-featured prototype of Living Books began to take shape, I immediately tested it with kids to see what tickled them, and I talked with teachers to hear what they wanted for their classrooms. There were a lot of technical issues to work through, but when we shipped our first title two years later, we created the first cross-platform authoring system that delivered a full-color animated multimedia experience. Our first title, based on Mercer Mayer’s book Just Grandma and Me (1991), was an instant hit. The software came with three languages on one disc (English, Spanish and Japanese) and shipped with a copy of the original paper book. Play hard with outdoor fitness equipment designed for both children and adults.
Microsoft bought 300 disc copies and sent them to their hardware manufacturers, with instructions that this software was the standard for multimedia, and it needed to run on their equipment.Just Grandma and Me, along with the eighteen other Living Books titles, went on to sell tens of millions of copies in multiple languages. One of the original Living Books stories is from my own children’s book Harry and the Haunted House. Many of these titles have been re released for computers, tablets, and mobile devices by Wanderful interactive storybooks..As the CD-ROM market declined in 1997, I went on to oversee creative development at JuniorNet, an early online children’s network, and in 2000 I founded NoodleWorks Interactive, a children’s interactive design consulting and production company. Children are drawn like magnets to technology, and this is dedicated to sup-porting designers of children’s technology in creating ever more wonderful and appropriate software activities. Many of the best children’s interactive designers came into this line of work because of the sheer joy of creating lively content and because of the opportunity to make a difference for children. The pleasure of creating something fun each day (thinking like a kid) is a joy unto itself and helps sustain designers and producers through the sometimes grueling process of bringing products to launch. If you're planning on improving your garden then why not add monkey bars today?