Latin America has had a long game development history, but much of it has gone under the radar, being too far afield to achieve mainstream success in Asia, North America, or Europe. Slang has taken it upon itself to not only popularize Latin American game development, but to also target Latin American consumers at home and abroad. The first major game to come out of this arrangement, Lucha Libre AAA Heroes del Ring, is being created by two different Latin American game studios, Immersion Games, and Sabarasa Entertainment.
Spokesperson Federico Beyer, first party liaison and director for Slang, has also made it clear that he feels the Latin American gamer population is underserved, and he aims to bring them into the circle of game development.
Often called a travel journalist or simply a writer of short stories, Tom Bissell writes for proper journalistic publications, like Harper's Magazine and The New Republic. So when he turned his eye on video games, with his new book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, he took a much different approach than others who have tackled the subject.
In clever language, he discusses the importance of games as a cultural and social movement, arguing their validity as an artform, but without preaching to -- or necessarily appearing to be part of -- the crowd.
As an author, serious games designer, and art game creator, Bogost has consistently challenged the game industry to take itself and the work that it does seriously. To Bogost, games should not be designed as clever time-wasters. Rather, they need to bring tangible meaning to player's lives.
His Facebook game Cow Clicker was created as a satirical response to what he saw as the emptiness of some social games. However, the game did its job too well and ultimately reached 50,000 users, leading some to wonder if the industry might be headed toward tulip mania. If it does, we can't say we weren't warned.
Entertainment Software Association
The Entertainment Software Association got a new leader in 2007 -- Mike Gallagher, former assistant secretary of commerce for communications, and chief telecommunications and policy advisor to the Bush administration. For a time, it seemed as though Gallagher was not living up to the high bar set by his predecessor, ESA founder Doug Lowenstein.
But in the last year or so, the ESA has kicked into high gear, funding research, and donating money to pro-electronic software political initiatives, while making all this information available to the public. Along with the EMA, the organization has also filed a brief in the current case on violent video games in the Supreme Court. On top of this, the ESA has awarded some $90,000 in scholarships to aspiring game developers. It's clear that the ESA is doing work for all of us, and Gallagher is at the head of that movement.
Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn
Tale of Tales
Positioning themselves as somewhat of a Jean Cocteau of video games, the development duo Tale of Tales is a staunch believer in the transformative power of games. There is no question that games are art in their perspective, and as such, games should strive to touch players on a deep level, beyond simple neuro-motor stimulation.
It's a stance that doesn't always win them friends, but their constant questioning of what games are and what they could be is absolutely essential if we want a future beyond adolescent power fantasies.
Institute for the Future
As a leading proponent of alternate-reality games and games for change, McGonigal has continually challenged the notion of what a video game is or can be, striving to integrate games into the social world outside the screen.
Recently, her games have taken a more ecological and political bent, attempting to get players to confront or assess the realities of their world, through organizations such as the Institute for the Future (Superstruct), and the World Bank Institute (Evoke). McGonigal has consistently pushed the boundaries of games and interactive media -- but adding social responsibility to that mix is what puts her on our list.
Steve Meretzky and Brian Reynolds
Playdom and Zynga
When it comes to evangelizing social games to the game development public, Meretzky and Reynolds have been two of the most vocal participants. With long careers in both traditional and casual game development, when social gaming emerged, both of these fellows were right there alongside, attempting to show other developers why this platform should be exciting and encouraging, rather than frightening and daunting.
Though the two are not associated -- Meretzky works for Playdom, and Reynolds for rival Zynga -- their messages are similar: Social games are the future.
Adam Saltsman and Chevy Ray Johnston
Flash Game Dojo
Saltsman and Johnston are two accomplished Flash game makers, each with his own free-to-use development tool (Flixel and FlashPunk respectively). The two have paired up to make Flash Game Dojo, web site dedicated to tutorials and FAQs about free Flash development.
The tools are so easy to use that non-programmers and non-artists can get started with ease. This is the truest and most pure sort of game evangelism -- Saltsman and Johnston have effectively lowered the barrier to making games, meaning that if you've got an idea, you can make it happen -- within reason.
Game Developers Conference
Though Meggan Scavio works for the same organization that publishes Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra (UBM Techweb Game Group), there is no denying that the Game Developers Conference does a lot to bring game developer awareness to the world. GDC is the premier venue for game developers to meet up en masse and discuss the issues that concern them, even as the industry evolves and platforms fragment (and then reconvene).
Under Scavio's stewardship, the conference has grown, and its impact on developers has increased, as the sessions and summits focus more and more on valuable takeaways, and less on panels and general discussions -- that's left for the hallways!
Guillermo Del Toro
Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro is unapologetic in his love for "culturally suspect" material such as monster movies, comic books, and video games. Fortunately, when he says that he considers Left 4 Dead to be a family game, even people who may not exactly get the joke will still listen, because his films have moved so many.
Del Toro is quick to extol the virtues of games as a story telling medium, and with hints of a large-scale game project to be headed by Del Toro in the works, we may soon get to experience his brand of the outré in our game consoles.