The generation that grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) probably didn’t know Shigeru Miyamoto from a hole in the wall. Nowadays, the maturation of the earliest gaming generations combined with the Internet’s vast information databases and communication potential has elevated many veteran game developers to near-celebrity status. In some instances, fans can even reach out to their heroes via email, Twitter, and, if you somehow manage to become BFFs, Facebook.
This world of open communication carries blessings and a curse. It’s wonderful to talk to the men and women who work on the games we love, and to be directly inspired by their work. On the other hand, while developers love their jobs, that’s exactly what they are: Jobs. Like any other business, game companies get torn up, people move on to other jobs, and sometimes we take the departure of certain individuals personally.
The departure of long-time developer “Master Takahashi” from Hudson in May, for instance, reminded people that the industry is changing, and sooner or later, the people we consider part of the “old guard” will fade away from the trade. None of us like to deal with change, especially the kind that reminds us of our age. That’s why, while we should continue to admire the people who make our favorite games, we shouldn’t cling so firmly to nostalgia that we become resentful when the landscape shakes up.
The industry’s obsession with social gaming admittedly makes it difficult for some of us to accept that the developers we’ve respected for years are going to get shuffled around or will switch their specialty genres altogether. Every real-time strategy fan would love to see Brian Reynolds ditch Zynga and return to Civilization (so to speak), but Reynolds has stated repeatedly in interviews that he enjoys working on social games, and is content to stay where he is. Understandably, core gamers feel a little betrayed, even abandoned, but it’s not their call. If a developer makes the decision to change his or her direction, it’s better that he or she does so instead of languishing away and letting his or her skills get stale at a passionless job.
Similarly, it’s not much use getting angry at a company that restructures and spurs developers into leaving. Some speculate that happened to Takahashi when Konami acquired Hudson, canceled Hudson’s roster of Nintendo 3DS games, and put the staff to work on social and mobile games.
That said, sometimes you just can’t help but shake your fist at circumstances that cause a developer to leave his or her roost. It’s okay to get upset, but remember that video games belong to a multi-billion dollar industry, and publishers are always going to be shuffling staff around. Even if said shuffling seems boneheaded from our viewpoint, sometimes there is rhyme and reason beneath. And if a developer leaves a company of his or her own volition and opts for a complete change in scenery, we should respect that decision and wish him or her well.