It’s funny how we often idolize video game creators, isn’t it? In a society where we adore our rock stars, rappers, movie stars and athletes, here we are, fawning over people who code software, write video game scripts, and lead development teams. When I was young Alex whipping Dracula, dropping Bowser into lava pits, and escaping colorful ghosts while eating fruit and pellets, I never thought that I would know game makers by their first and last names – even Shigeru Miyamoto.
Now I can spell Miyamoto’s name in my sleep. At least, I should be able to after four years of writing about video games.
I can’t pinpoint the shift, but perhaps I came to know David Jaffe, Tim Schafer, Masahiro Sakurai, Hideo Kojima, Hideki Kamiya, Satoru Iwata, Ron Gilbert, Keiji Inafune, Shinji Mikami, Cliff Bleszinksi, Peter Molyneux, Jonathan Blow, Ted Price, and Peter Moore when I started reading blogs. These days, it’s hard to escape those names.
Better yet, we’re reading more about not only the biggest names in the industry but also up-and-comers. Vander Caballero, creative director of Minority, shared his past relationship with his abusive alcoholic father, an allegory at the core of Papo & Yo.
A lauded few I knew before the explosion of video game blogs; however, other than Miyamoto and Ed Boon, co-creator of Mortal Kombat, I wasn’t able to name many of the people who had an impact on my childhood. I played a lot of Mega Man, but I didn’t know who Keiji Inafune was to save my life. Back then, it was all about the games and very little about the creators.
Now we not only enjoy the games, we want to know more about their creators. It’s not that tabloid filth that you get from celebrity stalkers and paparazzi, though.
Game creators come to conventions like the PAX shows, and they genuinely like to meet fans. I got a few minutes to chat with Ed Boon at PAX Prime 2010, and it was a highlight of my life after college. What’s more, I got to interview The Behemoth co-founder and lead animator, Dan Paladin, which was too cool for words.
If blogs and video game news sites can make names and faces out of Michael Pachter, Bobby Kotick and John Riccitiello , I think they can do the same for almost anyone. How else could so many people come to know Robert Bowling, who is now president of his own development studio?
I mean, we don’t necessarily idolize him, but how often do you see Reggie Fils-Aime? He’s the face of Nintendo of America, and his confident and sometimes arrogant demeanor has sparked jokes and memes among gamers.
These people aren’t entertaining audiences of millions on a basketball court, baseball diamond, silver screen or concert stage, but thanks to blogs that will try to make news out of anything, we “see” and “hear” game creators more often than we see members of our families.
As video games have become increasingly popular, their creators have taken more of the spotlight and earned more fame. The queue at PAX 2011 to meet David Jaffe was long. Too long. I am a fan of his work, but I didn’t bother.
I like to see video game creators get their due. Traditionally, the medium has been viewed as puerile and immature, but as video games get more attention, so do the hardworking and creative people who make them. You only need look at the careers of the BioWare doctors, Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka, recently retired, and how many of their creations have made so many happy memories for gamers.
We should admire video game makers for their work. The video game industry is like any other creative medium; as with movie directors, actors, book writers, bands, musicians and comedians, we latch on to certain names and faces. So I guess it’s not funny. It’s normal. Video games are important to us, and now more than ever, we want to know who made them and, hell, which games the developers, directors, and producers like to play. And as access to our favorite game makers has expanded, we’ve engaged them and used Twitter and the like to get their attention. They aren’t rock stars – but don’t tell us that.