Alex Seropian was following his interest in computer programming by pursuing a degree in mathematics with a concentration in computer science (the Department of Computer Science didn’t offer undergraduate degrees at the time). Shortly before graduating, he says, he was living on his father’s couch, debating whether to get a job or strike out on his own and form his own video-game company. Seropian asked his father for advice. “His advice to me was to take a job with another company to get experience first. The next day I went out and started a company. My dad is a master of reverse psychology.”
Seropian’s company, Bungie Software Products Corporation, eventually set up shop in an apartment on Hyde Park Boulevard. It had a pair of successes in the form of the games Oni and Marathon; in 2000 Microsoft bought the company—and hired Seropian. Microsoft wanted Bungie’s next project, a first-person shooter, to become the flagship game for their new X-Box game system. That game, Halo, became a major success, spawning two sequels and solidifying Microsoft’s place in the video-game market.
“Hail to the Chimp started as this idea that we can make a game for everyone that shared a lot in common with the things that we have developed during our past making a competitive action game,” says Seropian, adding that he wanted a video game he could play with his children. As the development team sifted through ideas in early 2006, they realized that an election theme could be fertile—and timely—grounds for comedy. The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “insanely enjoyable.”
Although video games have become commonplace with the young, they as yet have limited currency with older generations. Despite Seropian’s best efforts, the electronic pastimes he creates may always remain so. But if you end up playing a party game on an Xbox or a Nintendo Wii at your great-uncle’s retirement party in a few years, you’ll know who had a hand in making it a reality.