David Mullich ’81 (Computer Science) has shared his creative talents and storytelling tactics with the video gaming industry since 1978.
Working as a video game producer and design consultant, Mullich’s experience has ranged from the Walt Disney Company to working with legendary fantasy and science fiction author Harlan Ellison, who wrote classic episodes of television shows such as Star Trek and The Outer Limits.
Mullich came to California State University, Northridge in the late 1970s as an undecided major and planned to take a variety of general education classes until he figured out what he wanted to do. He knew he would gravitate toward a creative field, but wasn’t sure which one.
“I wound up taking a computer course to fill a general education requirement and, at first, I was totally confused,” he said. “I was more of a creative thinker, so thinking logically and using the computer did not come naturally to me until a few weeks into it. It was like a light switch went off in my head. I learned to think completely differently and to figure out how to get a computer to do what I wanted.
“It suddenly occurred to me that I could use a computer to do storytelling,” he said. “I ended up typing out a Star Trek game, and that got me all excited about interactive storytelling.”
He spent part of his academic journey at CSUN at The Daily Sundial student newspaper, working as an editorial cartoonist. The newspaper gave him free rein. Mullich drew cartoons reflecting the political climate of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
He also took a business programming language class, where his instructor, Gene Sprouse, noticed Mullich — a huge Star Trek fan — printing out pictures of the show’s starship Enterprise, which Mullich used as inspiration for science fiction poetry.
“My instructor saw what I was doing, and I thought I was going to get in trouble, but instead he offered me a job,” Mullich said. “He and a couple other CSUN professors owned a store called Rainbow Computing that sold personal computers. He asked me to do some programming for him.”
During his time at the store, Mullich networked with other video game publishing companies, which commissioned him to write video game stories.
“I ended up writing some video games based on some of the classes I took at CSUN,” he said.
The first video game Mullich wrote was a role-playing game called Space II, based on an anthropology class. The game was about colonizing planets in the Milky Way galaxy.
As Mullich worked his way up the career ladder, he had the opportunity to work for Disney, which he called one of the best periods of his career. Disney hired Mullich as the company’s first video game producer in 1987.
“I applied for the position [listed] in the want ads of the newspaper, and they brought me in. They asked if I could name all Seven Dwarves,” he said. After he answered the question correctly, he got the job, Mullich said. “For the first three months [of my new position], I was in heaven.”
He worked at Disney for four years, on properties such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and DuckTales, and he created video games of some of Disneyland’s theme park attractions.
Mullich gained notoriety when he worked with Ellison in 1995. He wanted to work with the famous author, he said, when he learned that the video game company Cyberdreams was designing a game based on one of Ellison’s most famous short stories, I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. Mullich worked with Ellison to create the game, now considered a classic.
Today, Mullich is lead faculty in the Los Angeles Film School’s game production program. He also serves as a guest speaker at various colleges, writes blogs and continues to be a consultant in the video game industry. His son, Timothy Mullich is attending CSUN and following in his father’s footsteps, majoring in computer science.
Over Mullich’s long career, he has worked on more than 65 game titles.
“If it was not for the computer science classes I took at CSUN, I would not have found my way into the video gaming industry,” Mullich said.
For more information about David Mullich, please visit https://davidmullich.com