Designing your own video game is a commendable feat in itself, as it’s certainly no easy task. A game designer must command the vision of a movie director, and then he or she must think in a dimension beyond sight in order to make the game a compelling, interactive experience.
We here at Game Theory tip our hats to every developer who’s hard at work on the next great game, whether it’s an indie project being birthed in a garage, or the next multimillion title from EA. That said, we’d like to take a moment to single out ten developers whom we feel have been especially important to the advancement of gaming in general. In no particular order:
Will Wright — The co-founder of Maxis is also the designer of the immensely popular Sims franchise. Schoolkids still learn the basics of urban planning through the SimCity games (don’t put houses next to nuclear power plants), and then graduate to the basics of playing God through the Sims titles. Basically, Will Wright’s work demonstrated that games of incredible depth can be stuffed into floppy discs and game cartridges. Wright isn’t with Maxis or EA anymore, but his Sims franchise continues to find success: when The Sims Social launched on Facebook in August of 2011, it immediately found a large and eager audience.
Hideo Kojima — Kojima designs, writes, and produces games. He’s currently the head of his own production company, Kojima Productions. Pretty impressive stuff, but then again, he has a pretty impressive Resume. Kojima is best known in North America for his work on the Metal Gear series (including a heck of a lot of in-depth story writing), specifically 1998’s Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. Outside of North America, however, he had established himself as a director and a storyteller some years beforehand with cinematic PC games like Snatcher and Policenauts.
Gabe Newell — Newell is notable for founding Valve, which, in turn, gave birth to some of the most ingenious video games the modern era has to offer. But as important (and awesome) as Portal, Team Fortress 2, and Half-Life may be, Newell’s other notable project, Steam, has helped shape online game distribution and sell it as a viable form of retail. Also, Newell has a special talent for aggravating fans by simply avoiding all use of the number 3.
Brenda Brathwaite — Brathwaite has put in over three decades of much-appreciated service into game development, including game design, level design, and scripting for the Wizardry series of role-playing games–which would subsequently influence franchises like DragonQuest and Final Fantasy. Brathwaite has also made big contributions to the social game genre with Ravenwood Fair, a hit social game that she developed alongside John Romero.
John Romero — And speak of the devil, we tip our hat to the man who first took us to hell. Romero is the co-founder of id Software, the studio behind Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D. These works all popularized the first-person shooter genre, which still has a couple of fans hanging around.
Richard “Lord British” Garriot — Garriot’s Ultima series include some of the most important entries into the Western RPG genre, and Ultima Online helped give rise to the popular massively multiplayer online RPG sub-genre. Given that Lord British graced us with so many firsts, it makes sense that he’d enter history as the first game developer to go up into space. Cool!
Dona Bailey — Bailey worked on Centipede, which is still one of the most recognizable arcade games of all time, and one of the first games to utilize artificial intelligence (a little widget that still pops up in video games from time to time). Bailey was one of a very small number of female game developers working in the industry at that time. Interestingly, Centipede quickly attracted a large female fanbase.
Gunpei Yokoi — Yokoi’s unfortunate death occurred before the internet got a foothold as a household staple, thus his legacy as a game designer and a hardware engineer is still undersung. Yokoi’s contributions to gaming irrevocably altered the way we play, as it was Yokoi who determined that commuters would probably love to fiddle with games during long, boring train rides. He invented Nintendo’s Game + Watch System, as well as the Game Boy, and produced Kid Icarus and Metroid. Bonus fact: Yokoi also invented those little robo-extendo arms that let you grab stuff from a distance (namely, your beer–if you’ve had some practice).
Alexey Pajitnov — Pajitnov developed Tetris, which is far and away the most popular puzzle game of all time. Everyone is familiar with Tetris, from the kid who started gaming yesterday to the little old lady pushing her grocery cart in the supermarket. Pajitnov continues to develop puzzle games today–and, happily, he began making royalties from Tetris in 1996 after 11 years of having to do without as a result of working for the Soviet government.
Shigeru Miyamoto — It wouldn’t be right to talk about influential game designers without mentioning Shigeru Miyamoto. There’s been some debate in game communities over whether or not Miyamoto still “has it,” but seeing as how his games (including Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and Nintendogs) helped push Wii sales to astronomical levels, we’re content to say that this ever-smiling developer still has it.
Even if you don’t agree that Miyamoto contributes anything imaginative to the modern game industry, his previous accomplishments–Super Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, among others–should never be downplayed or denied.