Five years ago in 2017 I actually found and contacted McMacken. Turns out he lived in Astoria, Oregon, which is a charming little town right on the northwestern tip of Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia river where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. If that town sounds a little familiar it is because it is where Goonies was filmed, as well as Short Circuit, Free Willy and quite a few other well-known movies.
Anyway, it was a total surprise and thrill when McMacken wrote me back. I soon bought a signed print of the original cover art, which I've had hanging in my retro-cave/office ever since.
Back in 2017 he had an actual storefront studio and shop in Astoria. I'd traveled down there previously not even realizing I could have gone there. I wish I had known. I would have loved to have met him in person and maybe snapped a photo with the artist who had such an impression on my imagination as a kid.
When he wrote me back he sent me a little advert of his store, which I saved.
Dave not only did a few video game box covers, but he had painted album covers for a wide range of artists, including Frank Zappa, Cat Stevens, The Beach Boys and many more. You know, back when albums and album art were a vital part of the entire experience of getting into the minds of your favorite bands.
A couple of weeks ago, as is often the case, I got to thinking about the Dougherty twins and their (often more fun and beautiful than the originals, IMO) "Ultima clone" series of games. This would include Questron, Questron II, Legacy of the Ancients and finally The Legend of Blacksilver. And, McMacken popped back into my head. I typed in his website and... the URL never resolved. A mild feeling of unease washed over me as I couldn't seem to find anything on Dave online anywhere.
Except for this. It is a posting of a gated (!) obituary for McMacken dated November 4, 2019. There is a very short audio file that lists his next of kin, and that was about it.
I was able to find a short introductory blurb outside of the walled site stating:
It is with deep regret that the family announces the death of David McMacken after a short fight with cancer. He leaves...
Even though Dave had nothing to do with it as far as I know, I've decided to finally play the final installment in the series: The Legend of Blacksilver, for C64. I've often heard some say they felt it was the strongest of the entire batch of games, if a bit harder than LotA. I have an original boxed version that's just been collecting dust.
In Dave's honor, I'm going to dust that box off and go all-in on playing the massive 8-bit adventure. It spans two continents with seemingly a gazillion towns, dungeons and multiple temples and "archives" or buildings that contain portals. It looks... impressive, if a bit intimidating. But it's well past time.
I'm sad to discover Mr. McMacken is gone, but his work will live on. His dynamic image will forever be a part of my childhood and my best gaming memories, and will live on in the hearts and minds of those of us who got sucked into his magical world.
For more on Dave, here is a lovely 6-minute video by Shady Pines Media, where he discusses things from his collaboration with Frank Zappa to working on Joe Camel and even Playgirl magazine. A truly gifted artist and wonderful snapshot into his work.