LOS ANGELES -- Ken Goldstein spent 10 years helping first Broderbund, then its spinoff Red Orb create award-winning games such as the Carmen San Diego series and Riven.
Then, when Broderbund was bought up last summer, Goldstein got a call from Jake Winebaum, the head honcho of Walt Disney's Internet efforts.When Goldstein, who lived outside San Francisco, said he might consider a new job, Winebaum invited him to dinner in Los Angeles. That night.
Goldstein caught a plane and has been busily transforming Disney Online as its general manager and senior vice president virtually ever since.
If you want to see what Goldstein's been up to the past six months -- and if you're a parent, gamer or animation buff, you should -- mosey over to Disney Online at www.disney.go.com, where a major site overhaul was unveiled last month.
The biggest and most overdue change is a merger of Disney.com with the separate subscription-based Disney Blast premium site.
"We see a lot more frequency (of use) because, by taking two worlds and merging them into one world, we've given them a lot more," Goldstein said.
You can find areas devoted to the Disney Channel and its heavily trafficked Zoog Disney area, Radio Disney, movies, cartoons, trivia, archival animation and much more.
To keep customers coming back, Disney Online has added or expanded wrinkles such as instant messaging, Disney-themed e-mail, animation archives, online-store discounts, parental controls, multiplayer games and access to the company's myriad entertainment-related ventures, such as travel booking.
Though many areas will be accessible, the subscription-based Club Blast will provide access to the instant-messaging, store discounts and some other premium services at $5.95 a month or $39.95 a year.
"We'll start everything in the club, then roll it out to the rest of the area after 60 to 90 days," Goldstein said.
Goldstein said a new emphasis will be put on community, just as is happening with other major sites on the Internet (memo to Internet buzzword watchers: Portal is passe; community is in).
"It's about community, friendship and family play," Goldstein said. "It's now about how you, your family and friends can share."
That means, for instance, that games such as Mickey's Bingo will not only allow you to play bingo but chat with up to 23 other players at the same time. The game areas will even include canned taunts to hurl at other players.
Just as with the larger Go Network's emphasis on parental controls, the site will allow parents to decide who their children will be able to communicate with while on the site, whether it's in game/chat areas, the instant-messaging service or e-mails.
But the whole idea is to let children and adults play with others, safely.
The networked universe "is forcing us to rethink the experience of playing computer games," Goldstein said.