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Game Developer's Top Deck 2008
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Game Developer's Top Deck 2008

December 11, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 8 Next

8 of Clubs: Alex Rigopulos, Harmonix

It's probably the cultural and stylistic forces at work at Rock Band (and original Guitar Hero) co-creator Harmonix that enchant us the most, and lead to Rigopulos' appearance in the Deck for Ambassadors. By which, we mean -- Konami has been making music games for years that have cultural resonance in its homeland, but Harmonix has always understood how to infuse the passion of music into games.

The downloadable content around Rock Band and Rock Band 2 is some of the most careful broadening of the market in some time -- sure, we get Metallica, but The Grateful Dead? Jimmy Buffett? Delightful.

7 of Clubs: Lane Merrifield, Club Penguin

Subscription-based MMOs are often described as the exclusive realm of the hardcore, but Lane Merrifield's bright, surprisingly soulful Club Penguin proves otherwise. In his keynote speech at Austin GDC this year, Merrifield explained why this company runs the virtual world, with its grin-inducing stories and charming demeanor.

Basically, it's not because they were waiting for Disney to buy them -- rather, that they love the kids who play the game, and want to serve them above all. That's pretty ambassadorial, selfless, and above all, genuine, which is why this grassroots creator has gone on to so much success.

6 of Clubs: Pauline Jacquey, Ubisoft

No third party has understood Nintendo's hardware and target demographic as well as the Paris-headquartered Ubisoft, a key to its recent success. From the more whimsical Rabbids through the tremendously popular Imagine and Petz series, the latter franchises have sold multiple millions of copies.

Ubisoft's casual titles -- while perhaps not of interest to many of the core readers of Game Developer -- have distinguished themselves by being well-made non-shovelware, and productions that don't try to take advantage of the innocence of the target market. Jacquey, who heads up the casual division at the firm, should take pride in the sales, the marketing broadening, and most of all, the way the company has gone about it.

5 of Clubs: Jim Greer, Kongregate

Ex-Pogo staffer Greer formed Kongregate with a simple idea-to take the Pogo "stickiness" and bring it to bear on free, ad-supported Flash-based web games. For many in the regular game industry, it might be a little scary how competent many of these titles are, and the layers of Web 2.0 chat, rating, and achievements make the site even more intriguing.

Of course, the monetization is relatively unproven for end users, at least in terms of making a living easily, but Kongregate is a key site in the democratization of gaming, and that's a wonderful thing.

4 of Clubs: Rusty Buchert, Sony Santa Monica

Some of the most interesting creative endeavors out of Sony recently have been birthed from Sony's Santa Monica studio, and veteran Buchert has helped facilitate a lot of these more esoteric first-party wonders.

From indie console breakthrough Everyday Shooter through ThatGameCompany's upcoming Flower to the unique interactive demo-scene project Linger in Shadows, Buchert is facilitating some of the titles that are truly giving the PlayStation Network its personality-and showcasing how a first-party should juice up its lineup with truly different productions.

3 of Clubs: Cliff Bleszinski, Epic

Most critics and developers agree that the game industry needs "faces" in order to be accepted by the mainstream in the way movies are. Gears of War's Cliff Bleszinski is such a face.

He's personable, perceptive, and with a successful enough game series to wind up on television, but also with the intelligence and care for the industry to actually say something interesting once he gets there. Bleszinski may be a little smoother than the average INTJ game developer, but for the future profile of the game industry, isn't that a good thing?

2 of Clubs: Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Q Entertainment

Very few Japanese creators have a distinctive style and a cross-media bent -- perhaps only Masaya Matsuura has a similar profile -- and Q's Mizuguchi is notable for his ability and his firm's ability to take abstract puzzle and action concepts (see: Lumines, Rez) and make them resonate worldwide.

His devotion to synaesthesia has, in some ways, prefigured the music game boom, and most of all, his ability to skip from games to elsewhere -- whether it be the holographic Al Gore he created for Live Earth or his virtual Genki Rockets pop stars -- makes him a cultural figure beyond the obvious game creator-geek.

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