Along the way, during the 40 plus years of my career as an illustrator and writer, I worked for Knowledge Adventure, a company, owned by Universal Studios. KA, as we called it, designed and produced educational software for K-12 children.
I loved working there. It was very laid back and our production offices were in Glendale, California, right down the road from DreamWorks and Disney Imagineering. Our building was a huge warehouse located right next to the old Glendale Airport which had been closed down for years, but had been used extensively by Howard Hughes and part of the movie Casablanca was shot there.
So there we were, dozens of crazed cartoonists, animators, illustrators, writers and producers toiling away in this building where our workspaces were separated by bookshelves at weird angles, and our desks were doors laid across filing cabinets. It was the best!
My first project there was as lead artist for an educational game called BABY. Yes...BABY! It came with a specialty mouse that was a large ball the babies could bop as they reacted to the games, colors, music and charming animation. The babies quickly learned how much they could control what they were seeing on the computer screen when they bopped the mouse. What can I say, we all loved playing it too. What else might you expect from the wonderful crew of silly artists that we were.
Pretty much everyone believed computers were going to become a huge part of our lives so introducing babies to this technology was the thinking behind this project, and they were right.
During one of our production meetings I learned that the prison system in California had purchased the entire KA catalogue and prisoners had access them in their libraries. I could certainly see how using these games to improve math, science, reading and writing was a seriously good idea, but made a joke about them not acquiring BABY.
WOW, was I wrong. Oh my, the entire meeting just ground to a halt and everyone was staring at me. I froze, looking around, wondering if I had just sprouted bright silver horns or something and then one by one, everyone started to laugh. They clearly knew something I did not.
The games were packaged in a brightly colored box that came with a manual on how to install and play along with a CD that you used to load it onto a computer. They looked just like this one for Toddlers.
The problem was, the prisoners would take the CDs and hide them on their person, take them back to their cells and then snap them in half to make shivs. BABY, apparently, was their favorite one to make these nasty weapons from. It seems, the irony of stabbing their cell mates with a weapon made from a game called BABY suited their sense of humor.