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'I think most game designers really just suck' - Richard Garriott

'I think most game designers really just suck' - Richard Garriott

March 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose

"I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck."
- Richard "Lord British" Garriott, industry veteran and Portalarium founder, believes that the video game industry is dramatically underskilled.

Off the back of his Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter success, Garriott was extremely candid in an interview with PC Gamer, explaining that most of the designers he has worked with in the industry lack the skills necessary to create good video games.

"I think there's really very few great game designers," he said. "I think Chris Roberts is one of them, Will Wright's another, Peter Molyneux is another. They clearly exist, but on the whole, I think that the design talent in our industry is dramatically lower than we need, as an industry. It's a very hard skill to learn."

Garriott suggests that a lot of video game designers take up the role because they lack the necessary skills for other roles. "If you like games, you eventually get to the point where you'd like to make one," he noted.

"But if you had this magic art talent as a youth, you can refine your skills and show a portfolio and say, 'Im a good artist, go hire me.' If you're nerdy enough to hack into a computer, programming on your own, you can go to school and learn proper structure, make code samples and go 'Look, I'm a good programmer, hire me.'"

He added, "But if you're not a good artist and not a good programmer, but you still like games, you become a designer, if you follow me. You get into Q&A and often design."

Garriott goes on to say that he believes most artists and programmers are, in fact, just as good at designing games as the dedicated designers are. "They're often better, because they understand the technology or the art," he adds.

"So we're leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they're not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer," he reasons. "It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer."

Garriott isn't finished there. He continues, "And every designer that I work with - all throughout life - I think, frankly, is lazy," although he follows this up by suggesting he is over-exaggerating for the sake of giving PC Gamer "another zinger."

"But if you follow," he continues, "they generally say, 'You know, I really like Medal of Honor, but I would have bigger weapons, or I would have more healing packs, or,' you know. They go to make one or two changes to a game they otherwise love versus really sitting down and rethinking, 'How can I really move the needle here?'"

The Portalarium head notes that he pushes his own team to really think about the whole picture when it comes to design, considering the "why" alongside the "what."

"What's your motivation for being into it?" he says. "What are the side stories? If you have these characters in there, what were their lives before they showed up on this map? If you didn't think of one, go back. Do it again. I want you to know it."

[Update: Garriott has responded, noting "My point was, that game design is the hardest, but also the most valuable skill to build in the industry." You can read his full comment below.]

[Update 2: Garriott has released an official statement as a follow-up to this story. We're providing a link here without further commentary.]

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