Nolan Bushnell: The key to success is “fake it till you make it”

by Michele Elan

Predicting human experiences decades ahead is a skill very few people have. Nolan Bushnell, with his rich and an extraordinary track record, is such a visionary. Bushnell is best-known as the founder of Atari, Inc, Pong, and Chuck E. Cheese. Nicknamed ‘the father of the modern video games field’, he co-founded Modal VR, an end-to-end industrial-grade virtual reality (VR) platform, that is specifically intended for enterprise use.

At Silicon Valley Forum’s fourth annual Visionary Salon Dinner, 2002 Visionary Award Honoree Bushnell spoke about the impact of the internet on our time space, his achievements, and the present state of the VR world. Flirting with life, Bushnell has created digital and media entertaining experiences for everyone around the world.

“Life is about having fun,” Bushnell declared. He talked about his life and his views towards life. “With love, I would try to create illusions in my children lives by tell them lies,” he said with a twinkle. His purpose? “To challenge them to think, to question, and not accept what things seem at first.” Such attitude has driven Bushnell throughout his life, where  the creation of illusions, looking at life with humor, and fun experimentation are very important. How many people can say they invented a company in a sailboat in the middle of the ocean? Well, Bushnell did…

The highly accomplished and master-visionary Bushnell is humble. He thinks our society should not focus on what he has done, but should look at what he plans to do next in his newest company Modal VR. VR technologies have come a long way and have serious applications beyond the familiar domains of sports, gaming, entertainment, and media. Bushnell gave usage examples in military and security forces, like providing training models in VR to police forces, firemen, homeland security personnel, and more. There are applications in education and workforce development: with the right tools/programs, VR can help a person learn, expand skills, and explore his or her ‘uncharted waters’, while using better intuitive learning concepts through VR. In medical applications, Bushnell believes that through VR we can use psychological interventions that can change the brain in positive ways and help people increase their intellectual performance.

What would happen when VR will be indiscernible from real life?

Bushnell said that through research conducted by his company they learned that the average child can distinguish between reality and the game world. What will happen when people cannot grasp reality away from the virtual world? In his ever-present humor, Bushnell replied “then life in VR will be better; there will be no pain, no troubles. We will always be successful and happy”. That would be a very tempting disposition for most adults!

What’s next for Bushnell? He wants to go to Mars.

Reported by Michele Elan (ME)
Former Tech Executive, Silicon Valley
She can be reached at

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