By The Game Doctor at www.j2games.com
Barry Friedman is almost a mythological character in the history of videogaming. Never in on the creative end, he served as a representative for everyone and everything from the package art that appeared on the early game boxes to serving as agent and advisor to a generation of some of the most important people at the dawn of the computer and videogame age.
He was tight with people like Ken and Roberta Williams when Sierra OnLine was still just Sierra (prior to a legal dispute over the name) and the whole business operated out of a mountaintop cabin in Coarsegold, CA where the only diversion for the programmers was a brothel at the foot of the mountain. He had a nose (a regular one) for the right people and befriended them all. He was tough to deal with if you didn’t plan on honoring his contracts, but he only wanted what was agreed to. As Arnie used to say: “He’s a shark, but he’s OUR shark.”
He eventually became our agent, my partner and a longtime friend.
In his early days, he hung with many of the legendary computer hackers (he is even referenced briefly in Steven Levy’s “Hackers” as having “Peter Lorre eyes”) and served as a kind of technological Merry Prankster (at one early tech expo he and his pals reprogrammed all the demo robots; hilarity, as they say, ensued).
And, of course, he owned a Dicknose.
Barry and I first met in 1982. I was covering a coin-op convention and manning a booth in a corner of the hall that was so dead a Whack-A-Mole machine was drawing all the most attention. I was there with the late Jim Bender; who was there to develop coin-op ad revenue, while my job was to collect editorial info.
Suddenly, this wild-eyed hippie reared up in front of me, checked my name badge and confirmed that I was indeed the person he was looking for. He introduced himself as “Barry” and gave me a business card from ICG (International Computer Group), a partnership that was already well on its way to dissolution. He then flashed a 5.25″ floppy disk at me labeled “Miner 2049er” and insisted that he had to find an Atari 400 or 800 on which I could play it.
Being at a coin-op show in 1982, you would be correct if you guessed that Atari computers were not exactly plentiful. I don’t think there was a computer, as such, at the entire show – this was the AMOA, which was the E3 of coin-op shows when Pac-Man ruled the planet – because, well, why the hell would an arcade game manufacturer (even Atari) want to demo an Atari computer game?
But being Barry, the lack of an Atari 800 in our immediate vicinity was hardly cause to give up the quest. So he dragged my ass through the hall, up into the hotel and the adjacent mall where he spotted and commandeered a software store where he booted up Miner 2049er for a store full of people to shockingly little objection from the store manager.
The game would prove to be a massive hit and Arnie, Joyce and I gave it a big push in Electronic Games. Barry even got the artist who did the cover art for the game box to donate an original piece as the cover of the issue.
The game (by Bill Hogue) wasn’t just a good product; Barry had transformed it into a game changer by packaging SKUs of the game for almost a dozen different console, computer and handheld game systems. This had never before been done on such a scale and Barry virtually invented the multiple-SKU paradigm that runs the industry to this day.
Well, I could tell Barry Stories all day but I’m still hoping he’ll write his memoirs at some point. If he tells it straight, he’ll make “Confessions of The Game Doctor” look like it was written by an Eagle Scout. But since he has shown no signs of doing so, I’m going to tell the Dicknose story myself.
It was the mid-90s and Barry and his family were planning to relocate from LA to a small Canadian town called Bouctouche. His wife, family and housekeeper left by air but Barry stuck around an extra few days to tie up loose ends, close up the house and prepare for an epic drive all the way to Canada.
So he was running around, collecting the last few items left in the LA house and jamming them into his Volvo’s trunk. These items included dozens of rolls of toilet paper (US quality) since the Canadian wipes were a little rough for their coddled American butts. Then there was an entire box of his wife’s jewelry that he tossed, loose, into the trunk, along with (for reasons unknown) enough fireworks to keep an Indian Reservation in business throughout the 4th of July season.
That was when he spotted the Dicknose glasses. This was a novelty item that he’d fallen in love with at some truckstop and he loved to wear them while driving in order to freak out fellow motorists. They were like the Groucho glasses that were popular back in the 50s except instead of a nose it sported a large, dangling rubber penis.
“There they are!” he exclaimed, sighting the glasses and stashing them in his pocket before starting the car and heading to the Great White North.
He made it past the border and was tooling along the Canadian highway when several Mounties closed in on him. They had been taking calls for several hours now from outraged motorists reporting a driver with a Dicknose and glasses, driving along as if it were the most normal thing in the world. They were sure it was a disguise he had used to rob a bank or something and insisted he was up to no good.
The RCMP ordered him out of his car and asked if he would open the trunk, which he gladly did. There they beheld a sight that I’m sure they still tell stories about to this day: the fireworks, the scattered jewelry and the other odds and ends, casually displayed across a soft, white bed of toilet paper.
And, of course, there was the matter of the Dicknose.
At first, they probably thought they’d caught the Unibomber, but his paperwork was all spot on and while they seized the fireworks, they let him keep everything else and eventually sent him on his way with a warning to keep the Dicknose glasses in his pocket since he was upsetting Canadian citizens. So he shrugged, shook their hands, and continued on the way to his lavish new home without further incident.
That was so Barry.
Anyway, that’s the story of Barry and the Dicknose, short version. And if he doesn’t write his memoirs soon, I’ve got a lot of other stories I can tell. So get on it, Barry!
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