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Blue Sky Rangers Reunite at
1999 Game Developers Conference

Front row (left to right): Eric Del Sesto, George "The Fat Man" Sanger, Karen McConathy, Dave Akers, Ernest Adams. Back row: Tom Kahelin, David Warhol, Ray Kaestner, Stephen Roney, Keith Robinson, William C. Fisher

Intellivision Productions prez Keith Robinson demonstrates Intellivision Lives! on a PC.

Blue Sky Rangers Eric Del Sesto and William C. Fisher.

Reporters compete on a Colecovision.

Famed computer game composer George "The Fat Man" Sanger and pioneer game designer Ernest Adams.

Tom Kahelin, composer of the original music for Intellivision Lives!, and Blue Sky Ranger Karen McConathy.

While the 13th Annual Game Developers' Conference (GDC) was a showcase for the future of video games, one event was a showcase for their past: a reunion of the Blue Sky Rangers - the programmers who designed Intellivision, Atari 2600 and Colecovision games at Mattel in the early 1980s.

The lunchtime reunion happened Thursday, March 18, at the trendy Agenda Lounge in San Jose, across the street from the convention center where the GDC was taking place. Sponsored by Intellivision Productions, the pizza party was a chance for reporters covering the conference to meet the Blue Sky Rangers and to try out the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM.

Reporters and programmers were able to compare a real Intellivision with Intellivision Lives! on a PC. Biplanes (in the Triple Action cartridge) was one of the favorite games played by the programmers back at Mattel, and Blue Sky Ranger Bill Fisher was curious as to how it would play on the PC. Using two Gravis GamePad Pro hand controllers plugged into the computer, Bill and Blue Sky Ranger Keith Robinson were able to engage in a spirited battle. While happily blasting Keith's biplane out of the sky, Bill declared the Gravis controller more responsive than the Intellivision's.

In addition to the Intellivision, guests could play an Atari 2600 and a Colecovision, the two other popular game systems of the era. A number of the reporters were excited to play Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man on the Colecovision. This Colecovision cartridge, programmed by Stephen Roney at Mattel in 1983, was never released and hasn't been shown since the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Eight Blue Sky Rangers attended. Also present was almost-a-Blue-Sky-Ranger George "The Fat Man" Sanger, the most famous composer of computer game music. While never an employee of Mattel, George got his professional start in 1983 contributing (as a freelancer) music for the Intellivision cartridge Thin Ice.

Ernest Adams, a pioneer of computer gaming and one of the founders of the Computer Game Developers' Association, stopped by. Ernest has been advocating a Hall of Fame to celebrate and preserve the best video and computer games. Intellivision Productions has pledged to help if such a project ever gets off the ground. In addition to the classic games themselves, Intellivision has extensive files, photos and videotapes chronicling the early days of video game development.

Shown at the reunion was a faux-60 Minutes expose of Mattel Electronics. Shot in 1983 by the Blue Sky Rangers for one of their parties, the tape had never before been seen publicly beyond the clips used on the Intellivision Lives! CD-ROM.

After two hours it was time to leave the 1980s and reenter the present. Some Blue Sky Rangers needed to get back to the conference. Others had to return to work. And most importantly, the pizza had run out.

Photos by Lisa M. Dawson

©Intellivision Productions, Inc.