Jason Della Rocca
As the executive director of the IGDA from 2000 through early 2009, Della Rocca has played a key role in advocating for game developers and the games industry in general on a multitude of issues. His strong leadership on elements such as quality of life issues and game crediting was important in growing the IGDA by a massive factor during his tenure.
While his departure -- to run a consultancy devoted to counseling local and national governments on attracting game development talent -- was surprising, his selfless work deserves both mentioning and honoring here.
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
As far as evangelists within the community, Holkins and Krahulik are practically bar none. Their discussion of games is intelligent and relevant, if occasionally too spiky for developers, and their Penny Arcade Expo is an undeniable nerd haven.
But they also promote the goodwill of gamers and developers alike through their Child's Play charity, which donates money, games, and toys (to the tune of $1.4 million in 2008) to children's hospitals in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. Their good work reflects well on all of us, partially because we are participating directly in their successes.
Before McCauley, there were no journalists dedicated specifically to the intersection of games, censorship, social issues, and politics. With his site GamePolitics.com (which he recently left to pursue non-journalistic avenues), McCauley essentially created a vital news beat all of his own.
Though the web site was purchased by game consumer advocacy group the ECA in October 2006, and McCauley is no longer involved in running the still-extant outlet, his work in documenting and reporting on the legislation (and Florida-based lawyers!) that affect games, and the information that allows game developers and players to get involved in shaping the course of our own industry, has been vital.
For a sustained period, Finnish indie creator Purho made a game every single month. Purho's efforts have not only inspired further indies, but his theatrical, whip-smart attitude to both game development and public speaking help exemplify the role of the independent game creator as the neglected personal angle.
Nowhere was this better demonstrated than his "creation of an entire game in five minutes" at his 2009 Indie Games Summit rant session, something he was asked to replicate at several other worldwide shows. Whether the feat was true (spoiler: it wasn't), it wrapped the glory of performance and the joy of game creation into one breathless whole. Bravo.
Brutal Legend is the result of a strongly-realized vision by Tim Schafer and crew, but more important for the industry, Schafer makes games look cool.
Not just his own game, with its mass of big stars with cultural cache, but through his humorous and personable appearances in the public eye, most notably on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC, Schafer has managed to make game developers look like real, funny, witty people. While Will Wright holds up the supernerd end, Schafer pushes forward the personable and sociable side.
As the head of IGDA Japan and a prominent game columnist and media commentator, Kiyoshi Shin has done a lot of work to bridge the gap between Japanese and Western developers. Aside from his work advocating for independent development in Japanese outlets like Nikkei, the two-year-old Sense of Wonder Night is one of his most notable achievements.
The event is held during the Tokyo Game Show, and like GDC's Experimental Gameplay Showcase for an international group of indies, gives creators 10 minutes in which to present their games to a global audience. The cultural sharing and networking gleaned from this event is not to be undervalued.
Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall
Video Games Live
Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall have been very active in promoting their traveling worldwide concert, Video Games Live, for several years now. The show brings game scores to the masses via live orchestral and rock performances, highlights and features on stage the creators of many of these scores, and helps to keep game music from being relegated to background noise.
Indeed, the Brazilian government subsidized the group's show in the country as furthering the artistic development of students. Anything that advances popular and governmental recognition of games as an important entertainment medium warrants a place on our list.
Yoichi Wada is the president and CEO of Square Enix, but he's on this list because of his chairmanship of the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA), Japan's equivalent of the ESA. Wada has become increasingly vocal about Japan's reasons for falling behind in the game software world, citing the country's lack of development hubs and discussion forums, which would promote an exchange of ideas, as well as Japanese companies' tendency to solve the same problems separately.
Wada and CESA -- through outlets like Japanese developer conference CEDEC and Tokyo Game Show roundtables -- are serious about helping the Japanese industry reclaim some of its lost luster.
Stupid Fun Club
Though he no longer works at Maxis, where he created SimCity and The Sims, and has moved on from working exclusively on games, Will Wright may now glow even brighter as a beacon for electronic entertainment.
Freed from the burden of Spore, he can innovate anew, and anyone who can discuss games and Russian space technology in the same breath is helping to elevate games from the "murder/smut simulator" stigma which at times has threatened to seep into the industry's pores from popular opinion.
An active indie developer himself, Yu's games, from Diabolika to IGF Award-winning Aquaria to Spelunky, provide inspiration for the independent games community. But we're honoring him here for running TIGSource, which is a wonderfully random and helpful indie game community.
Not only has Derek and the site been active in helping defend indies when they get raked over the coals for unexpectedly fragrant issues (see the Edge Games controversy), the regular TIGSource competitions birth often brilliant games on startlingly esoteric topics.
[EDITORS' NOTE: As with when this story was printed in Game Developer magazine late last year, past the normal controversy about specific people not being mentioned, there's been complaints - particularly from Channel 4's Alice Taylor - about the lack of women on the list.
We will simply note that we regret not having women game developers on the list, and the list was the people we felt had major accomplishments in the year to somewhere around October 2009, divided into those categories. In addition, we do have a record of feature-length articles and charts on women in the game business, and indeed, our 2008 Top Deck list - this list's previous iteration - featured multiple female honorees alongside male. In addition, the Frag Dolls' Rhoulette has prepared a list of game industry women to know as a counterpoint to this list's original publishing.]