Making games may be largely a team effort these days, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge the individuals who make outstanding contributions to the industry as well.
Gamasutra and its sister site Game Developer magazine have put together a "Power 50" list of people in the game industry who have stood out for doing work in the last year that is new, different, or better.
Here, we've highlighted ten evangelists in the game industry who've helped advance the medium and raised its profile, championing the designers who inspire us to do better. We are also recognizing talented individuals in the fields of Art
, and Business
in separate posts.
The following are not ranked -- they are listed alphabetically by last name.
What makes Anna Anthropy special is that not just that she's living a brave creative life by sharing her unique perspective with the world through games; she's encouraging everyone else to take the necessary steps to do it, too.
Recognizing the homogeneity of the game development scene, Anthropy champions the emergence of new perspectives. It's her talks on inclusiveness, her own games—such as Dys4ia
, which quickly and cleverly takes the player on a journey through the difficulties Anthropy has encountered obtaining gender transition treatment and being recognized as a woman—or her 2012 book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters
, which encourages both "freaks" and "normals" to make the games that the mainstream isn't making, that make her an invaluable voice in the expanding community of game developers.
Dr. Elizabeth BrounDr. Elizabeth Broun
Smithsonian American Art Museum
This year, the Smithsonian American Art Museum featured an exhibition called The Art of Video Games
from March 16 to September 30, with still images and video footage from 80 games across 20 systems, developer interviews, historic consoles, and five playable games to represent their respective artistic eras: Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst,
While the exhibit was curated by Chris Melissinos (with input from an advisory board and public polls), we wanted to acknowledge the Smithsonian American Art Museum's director, Dr. Elizabeth Broun, for giving the exhibit the go-ahead. We know video games are an artistic medium, and we know you know this too, but it does us no small amount of good to see that fact recognized by a major American art institution.
Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner has made industry news headlines a few times in 2012 (he's got a Karateka remake
that just released, and the iOS remake for The Last Express
also just came out), but we wanted to acknowledge him for something a bit more mundane—going through his old stuff in his attic and posting the contents on his blog.
Before you rush off for some premature spring cleaning, let us explain: Mechner and his crack team of digital preservationists managed to find a box with floppy disks containing the original 1988 Apple II source code for Prince of Persia
, salvage it, and post it
on Github for everyone to see.
The medium of video games is still young, and the tech-obsessed part of our industry makes it easy to forget the old in our ceaseless pursuit of the new. But take a second to imagine how many of you reading this article have fond memories of Prince of Persia
, and you'll understand why we wanted to give Mechner a Power 50 spot for evangelism. Developers: We want you to preserve your stuff, no matter how old and busted you think it is, because we don't want anyone to forget about your hard work.
Yes, you read that right: "Peter Molydeux," the novelty Twitter account that describes itself as "just a twisted parody based on the legendary British Game Designer," is one of Game Developer's Power 50.
has been around for a while now, tweeting whimsical, emotionally evocative ideas for games in under 140 characters. Examples range from "If I made a zombie game, it would feature just one dangerous zombie, your child. You must sneak out avoiding society, trying to find help," to "Platformer where if you fall in a pit you're trapped forever unless you can emotionally manipulate nearby enemies to pull you back up." Of course, these tweets are inspired by the real Peter Molyneux's bombastic descriptions of the work he does (or wants to do).
At first, we simply laughed at our industry in-joke. But then a strange, wonderful thing happened: People across the world, devs and players alike, realized that, well, some of these ideas sound pretty good, and we'd rather spend a weekend trying to make and play those games instead of the ones we spent Monday through Friday making and playing. Yes, the parody Twitter account accidentally inspired a worldwide grassroots game jam called "What would Molydeux?"
—and Molyneux himself even showed up to the London chapter!
Wherever you are, @PeterMolydeux: Thanks for the laughs—and the inspiration.
(pictured at the top)
Last year, Street Fighter
steward Yoshinori Ono made the Power 50 for his design work bringing the franchise back. This year, he's making the list again—but for evangelism, not design.
In a remarkably candid interview
with Eurogamer, Ono explained that he had endured a medical emergency brought on by work-induced stress—a medical emergency involving an ambulance and a blood acidity level "on par with someone who had just finished a marathon." During that interview, he called Capcom out for overworking himself and other employees, scheduling an unreasonably intense promotional tour, and forbidding its employees from organizing a union.
Game developers know they're in a tough business, with many grueling schedules and unforgiving crunch periods. But while it's one thing to acknowledge the business as a whole is tough, it's another thing entirely to speak on the record about how bad your employer is for your health. Shoutouts to Ono for saying what needed to be said.
While the Game Developer and Gamasutra staff were hashing out the Power 50, one of us scribbled the following note next to Gearbox Software cofounder and CEO Randy Pitchford's name: "Evangelism—talking all the time." Really, that kind of sums it up.
Pitchford and Gearbox are positioned at the center of the American game industry; they've worked across over a dozen platforms
, with several publishers, on everything from Half-Life
to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
and Samba de Amigo
. They've even shown that they can grow and nurture their own IPs (see Borderlands
) in addition to working with others. We think that Pitchford's experience, combined with his willingness to speak frankly about our industry, is an invaluable asset for the industry as a whole. Randy, thanks for talking all the time.
Deep Plaid Games
When Zynga bought Draw Something
developer OMGPOP and offered all of its employees jobs, designer/programmer Shay Pierce made news headlines
simply for saying, "No, thank you." Pierce's reason was simple: He had developed his own game in his spare time called Connectrode
, and he couldn't get Zynga's legal counsel to agree to an addendum in their employment contract that would ensure Connectrode
remained Pierce's property.
Given the choice between potentially giving up his baby or giving up a job, he chose to quietly walk away from the deal and instead revive Deep Plaid Games, his own one-man development studio. Connectrode
may not be a big seller, Pierce, but darn it, we're glad you fought to keep it.
Epona SchweerEpona Schweer
In 2009, burnt out on crunch, Epona Schweer turned down a producer's job at L.A. Noire
developer Team Bondi to teach aspiring game developers in Sydney. By the time the course ended in 2010, she realized there was nowhere for her charges to work, thanks to the near-total collapse of the Australian development scene.
Her solution? Beef up the local indie game scene
by throwing meet-ups and holding talks, collecting the power of individuals who had worked in isolation, and helping to form a thriving local scene. The lesson here is that building community requires work and ingenuity, but people fundamentally want to connect—if you can enable them.
Game Developer / Necrosoft Games
It might seem a little self-serving to include our own editor-in-chief in our yearly Power 50—but since Brandon Sheffield has left GD Mag to focus on starting up his own game development studio
(except for the occasional column and Gamasutra editorial, anyway), we figured he deserved an evangelism nod as well.
Over the last eight years (100 issues, actually!), Sheffield has worked hard to make sure Game Developer could offer devs a way to share their successes and failures with their colleagues so that others can learn. Internally, he has served as a sort of underdog's advocate for both the GD Mag and Gamasutra staff.
When all our attention was on the U.S. and Japanese game industries, Sheffield was paying attention to the nascent Korean game industry; when we're following triple-A, Sheffield was following the indies; when we're following the major indies, Sheffield was spending his evenings sorting through obscure Xbox Live Indie Games.
Sheffield's advocacy extends to the people in the industry as well; he is unafraid to use the editorial pages on GD Mag and Gamasutra to point out the industry's deficiencies, blind spots, and controversial issues when he feels that something needs to be done. Thanks, Brandon—let us know when your games come out!
This year, we're including a special Power 50 candidate: Valve Software. We could have easily padded out this list with Valve nominees across the categories, but we didn't think that would be fair (and due to Valve's notoriously decentralized internal organization, we weren't sure we'd be able to find individual devs willing to take credit for specific achievements!).
Instead, we decided to give Valve Software itself a nod for evangelism. Every industry needs to have a company that reminds us we can (and should) do better; we can treat our customers better, we can treat our employees and colleagues better, we can make better products, and we can even make a bit of money doing all of those.
For us, that company is Valve. To consumers, Valve is nothing but player-friendly, known for excellent support—and seasonal Steam sales that somehow make us excited to empty our wallets. To developers, Valve seems like the place to go if you want to focus on building cool things with talented people.
And to everyone else in the industry, Valve is taking measured steps to push the envelope, whether it's by turning a five-year-old core title (Team Fortress 2
) into a runaway free-to-play success, starting an internal hardware development lab to prototype some virtual-reality goggles, or hiring an economist just because it sounded kind of useful to have one on staff. In an industry that seems more mercenary now than ever before, it's nice to know Valve is still there doing the Valve thing.
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