Video games are still estranged from old media in one sense. There’s no culture of stars in video game design and production. Yet.
There should be.
There are a few exceptions, of course; Shigieru Miyamoto and Will Wright, maybe – but their names are still mostly known by fanboys. Everyone knows who Super Mario is, but few people know that Miyamoto created him.
Huge numbers of people played Halo 3 and Grand Theft auto, too, but few know who made them, either. People know the companies, yes. Halo? That’s Bungie. GTA4? Rockstar!
But that’s because when you pop the DVD in your console drive, a honking big logo animation pops up. It’s like the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning of Star Wars. Hard to avoid.
Try this: who made Titanic? Lord of the Rings? Apocalypse Now? The Godfather?
I’ll bet you knew most of those.
But Grand Theft Auto 4 was easily as significant a cultural event as Titanic. People love it, spent hours -days!-playing it. The same can be said of other games. Call of Duty 4 matched it in impact and acclaim, and it’s a masterpiece of game design. The buzz surrounding the release of the sequel is as big as that for many movies.
But who’s making it? We don’t know. Oh, their names are out there – you’ll find them with a single google search, to be sure. But game designers aren’t bandied about by PR departments like film directors are. Wham the next Coen Brothers movie comes out, it’ll be impossible to avoid knowing that they’re behind it.
I think games designers should be treated the same way. Their names need to be on the posters, on the front of the packages, right on the banner ads online.
Of course, as a recognition of what they’ve achieved.
But also for the rest of us, because having those names up there is a sign that the experience on that disk has meaning and value; that it was crafted and designed by dedicated people to give us, the players, a unique experience.
Beacuse if I start seeing those names, as a game player (and most of us are game players these days), then I’ll feel like the game experience has more value. I’ll humanize the experience. All creative arts are about communication, and games are no different. Knowing who designed the experience I’m having means I’ll relate to it better. I’ll enjoy it on a personal, as well as a visceral, level.
And (you listening, games companies?) I’ll probably buy more games if I can build up a relationship with their auteurs.