#10: Will Wright
You know him for: SimCity, Sims, Spore
Short bio: Born in Atlanta, he is of French, English, Italian, and Native American descent, making him a child of the half of the world. He studied mechanical engineering before converting to computers and robotics. His dreams and ambitions were about when humans colonize space. During his time as a student he experimented with spare electronic parts. After graduation, he realized that he was so busy playing games that it could be a good idea to make them as well. So he created his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay (1984) for the Commodore 64, a helicopter action game.
Following the architectural theories of Christopher Alexander and Jay Forrester he came up with an idea for a game, SimCity. Then he formed with Jeff Braun the Maxis company, and they published the game by EA. The success was massive. His company continued to be successful and later they created an even more revolutionary game. The Sims. So a game which looked like- in Braun's words- an interactive doll house, rocked the world. He has continued to create great games and has one many awards, including "Lifetime Achievement Award" at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2001, induction to Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 2002, and the fellowship of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2007.
His personal interests are car races and collecting weird gadgets. He supported John McCain in 2008 American presidential election.
His style: All of his games are nontraditional in comparison to mainstream gaming. They resemble real life whether on personal level, (Sims) or urban and social, (SimCity) or biological (Spore). The gameplay is often easy but very addictive, involving matters not found in other games. The games are realistic and deal with issues every person might experience. There's no plot as the games are concerned with a situation and not story telling. Wright's games are always casual and entertaining, making them very unique.
#9: Peter Molyneux
You know him for: Theme Park, Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White, Fable, The Movies
Short bio: Born in Guildford in the UK, he began his career as a video game salesman, and later by creating The Entrepreneur, a text-based business simulation game. The game was a failure and he stopped game creating and exploring beans to the Middle East instead. But Commodore International mistakenly thought he was still a game designer and employed him. Using this money he founded with Les Edgar Bullfrog Productions in 1987. He invented the god game genre with Populous and he rose to fame. The company was bought by EA and he worked as a vice president there, creating another successful game, Dungeon Keeper.
Later he left his original company and founded Lionhead Studios. With a small staff he created the best game of his career, Black and White. He paid $6 million of his own money for the game. Later, he began working for the Microsoft. He is now a very famous figure for the media and has won prestigious awards such as induction into the AIAS Hall of Fame, Order of the British Empire, and Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
His style: First of all, like a true auteur, his burning ambition drives him to push all the borders and aim for the best. His Icarus flights sometimes ends in disaster, and he's forced to apologize for over-hyping his games. His games have a fantasy approach towards reality, but they're mostly nonviolent and family friendly (some aspects of Fable is a departure from that). Their worldview is simplistic and sweet, like old fairy tales. Their atmosphere and setting also reminds you of your bedtime stories. Also, the games feature a linear, black and white morality which usually affects the physical nature of the setting and characters as well. Despite all these, the games are deep, magical and convincing.
#8: David Cage
You know him for: Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain
Short bio: His real name is David de Gruttola and he's French. He began as a musician. He created the company Totem Interactive in 1993 working on music. He also composed original music for television, film and video game. He founded and became the CEO of Quantic Dream in 1997. There, he is the director, lead game designer, and screenwriter. He has directed 3 games so far: Omikron: The Nomad Soul (1999), Fahrenheit (2005), and Heavy Rain (2010). He has 2 children.
His style: He prefers minimal gameplay. The gameplay of his games seem like a collection of mini-games and quick time events, but in fact they are more than that. The fact that the tense atmosphere of the game makes you experience it first hand and therefore the games are really affective. He loves mystery and his games are dark and serious, like a film noire. Plus, the story is truly suspenseful and you need to follow the game. The topics he handles are usually more mature than the average games, and he's not shy to show nudity in his games. His characters are believable and deep.
Unfortunately, it seems all his games suffer from bad endings and plot holes as well.
You know him for: Final Fantasy, Parasite Eve, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey
Short bio: Sakaguchi was born in Hitachi, Ibaraki, Japan in 1962. He studied electrical engineering at Yokohama National University, but dropped out without getting a degree. He joined Square as the Director of Planning and Development. He designed the first Final Fantasy and he decided that if the game doesn't sell well he'll return to university. But the game was successful, and he began a fruitful career which resulted in some of the biggest games of all times, he also worked as the executive prodcuer of many great Square and later Square Enix games. He departed from Square Enix in 2004, starting his own company, Mistwalker. He wasn't as successful there as his Square career. His next project is a game called The Last Story.
His style: Skaguchi to a great extent has defined the way we look at RPGs. His games follow the logic of an anime, like many JRPGs, but they are similar to the great anime, not mediocre ones. His games follow the traditional RPG gameplay, while they have certain innovations too. He tells the stories which take place in a dreamy world, either in a remote past, or in a world where medieval and sci-fi elements are mingled effortlessly. This fantasy elements make his game beyond time and place, as they either happen in distant past or far future. In his games, humans and monsters interact and many elements are weird, and the appearance f the characters are also anime-like and strange. Some characters look completely modern while other completely medieval.
In this strange dream-world, we meet with engaging, realistic and plausible characters that we fall in love with. His characters are complex and round and dynamic, and if he adopts his setting and plot from fantasy or sci-fi world, his characters come straight out of a 19th century character novel. His games are very emotional, and his characters go through great sentimental journeys, but yet they are believable. The result is a great collage of different genres which is unique and uniquely enjoyable.
#6: Fumito Ueda
You know him for: Ico, Shadow of the Colossus
Short bio: He was born in Tatsuno, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan in 1970. From the early childhood he was interested in arts and living things, and his unique taste was shaped in his childhood. He graduated from the Osaka University of Arts in 1993. He first attempted to become an artist, but then moved on to become a video game designer. He began his career as an animator for the game Enemy Zero under the designer Kenji Eno. The project was behind the schedule and the team had to work very hard. Finally, he joined Sony and there he designed Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which brought him cult status and fame. His future project is The Last Guardian.
His style: His style is incredibly easy to recognize, yet very difficult to describe.There's a certain chemistry of elements which distinguish his games, but the uniqueness relies more in experiencing them. His atmosphere is always gloomy and sorrowful, yet not depressing. The sorrow of his works is serene and soft. All things point to great, majestic, ancient atmosphere in its ruins, and a lone hero being dissolved into the sorrow of the environment. The colors are cold, and yet not the settings are green. The structures look ancient, and much more significant than the protagonist.
The pace of the games, likewise, are slow and graceful. There isn't much action in the games, and the feeling they arise in the gamer are calmness and a deep sense of sorrow, yet unaccompanied by anxiety. His games are like a solemn elegy, elegy to a lonely protagonist up to an impossible task and an ancient traditional world that is no more.
One cannot make definite verdicts about his games. They simultaneously honor the bravery of the lone hero and the serenity of the colossal ancient world which opposes the hero, and therefore are true works of art.
#5: Shigeru Miyamoto
You know him for: Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, Pikmin
Short bio: Miyamoto was born in Sonobe, in Kyoto in Japan in 1952. His gaming career was greatly influenced by his childhood wanderings around forests and a cave. Miyamoto graduated from Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts but found no job. He first attempted to become a manga artist but moved on to become a game designer. He started working for Nintendo, and designed the company's first original coin-operated arcade game, Sheriff. He helped with the later games until the company branched out to America, and became famous world-wide. Then he created the greatest and the most popular series of the company, bringing Nintendo to the success it now enjoys.
Most of the games he has created have met with enormous commercial and critical success, one can argue that he's the most popular and successful game creator of all times. Furthermore, he has been the teacher of many other great game creators, including Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri. He was the first inductee of Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. In 2006, Miyamoto was made a Chevalier (knight) of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettre. He was one of the heroes in TIME Asia's "60 Years of Asian Heroes". He was later named as one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of the Year in both 2007 and 2008.
His style: He's somehow like the Steven Spielberg of gaming. He doesn't stick to a specific genre, he's not a great artistic innovator, and he's not even seem to have any artistic inspiration. So what makes him a great auteur? Miyamoto is one of the greatest game creators of all times because he knows his stuff more than anybody else. Sure, most creators on this list have brought us untimely masterpieces, but he has brought us the most fun games. He knows his gamer, he knows what entertains him/her the most. He knows the chemistry of entertainment. He's an unquestioned master of game making techniques, he knows the form. Therefore, he stands above most his colleagues. Will people play Mario and Zelda 100 years later? Probably.
#4: Shinji Mikami
You know him for: Resident Evil, Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry, Vanquish, God Hand
Short bio: Born in 1965 in Japan, he graduated in a major unrelated to gaming (commerce) but joined Capcom in 1990, and began his career as the creator of a quiz game called Capcom Quiz: Hatena? no Daibōken and three Disney adaptations (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Aladdin and Goof Troop). Aladdin was very successful critically and commercially and guaranteed his success as a game creator. But he rose to his present fame when he watched a movie called Zombie by Italian director Lucio Fulci, a movie which seems to be important only because Mikami hated it, and set out to create a game to show the world how to handle zombies in response to that film. The game is known as Resident Evil. This franchise didn't invent the survival horror genre, but it set its conventions and defined it. The success of this game was so immense that it made survival horror a respectable genre, assured the victory of PlayStation as a game console, and crowned Mikami as a the king of the genre. Since then he has moved from one studio to another in Capcom, working as the producer, director, and executive producer on major games, resulting in a miraculously fascinating resume, matched by maybe a handful of people.
His style: Mikami is similar to Miyamoto. He isn't artistic or personal per se, but he's an auteur in his handling of established genres. Yet, he's a great innovator. I think it's fair to call him the father of survival horror. There were many survival horror games before Resident Evil, but no one considered it a genre in itself, and the scary games would appear as point and click or action adventure games. In RE trailers, the term was coined, and it became a genre. Mikami either invented or amended the controls, archetypes, and conventions of the genre. Many greater games (e.g. Silent Hill) imitated RE a lot and owed this game considerably. These conventions remained the same until they changed in Resident Evil 4, which rebooted the genre with new conventions. Although not as much as the first game, Mikami had a great role in RE4 as well and so we can say he was crucial to the genre not once, but twice. As the executive producer, he played a similar role for action genre in Devil May Cry, a game responsible for some great elements we find in the games to this day. Recently he has become more radical and personal in his innovations, and I can't wait to see where he's going next. So, Mikami is important as a genre-definer in the history of gaming.
#3: Goichi Suda
You know him for: The Silver Case, Flower, Sun, and Rain, Michigan: Report from Hell, killer7, No More Heroes, Moonlight Syndrome
Short bio: He was born in 1968 in Nagano in Japan. He began working as an undertaker, and one ad led him to apply to work in video gaming industry. He was looking to fill an opening at Human Entertainment, and he was hired, working as a writer on 2 games in the series Super Fire Pro Wrestling, showing his strange persona early on with a horrifying ending in one of the games. He began working on his own game, Syndrome series, until the Human Entertainment was disbanded in 1998, and he moved on to found Grasshopper Manufacturer, where he still works as the CEO and lead designer. There he created his great weird masterpiece The Silver Case, and later his other masterpiece Flower, Sun, and Rain. Although his career was fascinating by now, he wasn't known outside Japan as none of his games were released outside Japan. He moved to international scene with his greatest masterpiece to date, Killer7. The game didn't sell well but brought him international fame and cult status, as it was appreciated by the critical and more serious gaming communities. His next project, No More Heroes, was successful both critically and commercially, finally providing him the success he truly deserved always.
His nickname, Suda51, is related to his name, as in Japanese, "Go" means 5 and "ichi" means 1.
His style: He's an avant-garde. It's funny that the video game industry not only has many artists, but now an elitist one, who creates strange works of art appreciated by the most hardcore gamers only. His stories are strange, ambiguous and disturbing, they follow a radical non-linear narrative, and have many crazy elements. You can interpret the story in multiple ways, even giving different plots. This is most evident in Killer7 and least in No More Heroes, but exists in all of them. His gameplays are also radically unconventional, one may even call them experimental. He repeats different methods in different games, for example a video game is imbedded within a video game, he forces the gamers to cross an excessively long passageways, sometimes he sets forks in the road which force you to go through the same path again and again, he heavily uses "Film Window" style of editing text in cutscenes which consists of bouncing text. He uses the number 51 heavily in all his games, one can consider this his signature. His games are also richly allusive, referring to other video games, literature, film, and anime.
To describe his style in one word? Surrealistic.
#2: Tim Schafer
You know him for: Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Brutal Legend
Short bio: Born in 1967 in Sonoma, California. He studied computer sciences at UC Berkeley University. He then applied to work for Lucasfilm Games company (now called LucasArts). The humorous nature of his career began as early as his interview. He said that he was a fan of Ballblaster and then was informed by the interviewer that this game is in fact a pirated version of Ballblazer. His chance seemed dim now, but in order to compensate, he attached a humorous comic of this interview to his resume. There he did some things on others' games until he teamed up with Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, and they became the most creative trio of video game industry, and their work was the crazy masterpiece we know as Monkey Island. They worked together on 2 games in the series: The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. The main creative force behind these two games were Gilbert, not Schafer, but his contributions were invaluable nevertheless. He worked with Gilbert again to create Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle.
Schafer finally went solo and created Full Throttle, which was deeper than his previous games, and also Grim Fandango. He was now an acclaimed game creator. In the year 2000 he left LucasArts and founded his own company, Double Fine Productions. There he created Psychonauts. This timeless masterpiece met with great critical acclaim but flopped at sales. His latest crazy game is Brutal Legend, a combination of humor, heavy metal and medieval art. He has won multiple awards that I won't mention for the sake of brevity.
His style: First of all, his writing. He's one of the greatest writers of all times. His lines are witty and comedic. The dialogues of all his works and memorable and quotable, And play a great role in his characterization. Most of the times his dialogues are allusive or have double meaning, and they convey many different layers of the personality of his characters, or they hint to a subtext of the game in general.
But his style isn't limited to his great dialogues, there's a common theme connecting all his games which makes him a real auteur. All of his works focus on one man against the current forces of society (Ben is a rebel, also Raz, Grim and Eddy). Their professions are professions associated with rebellion: Ben is a biker, Grim is a private eye, and Eddy is a Heavy Metal roadie. They're all individualistic and have to face the problems alone, and mostly these problems include them being misunderstood. They struggle with inappropriate love lives, and they remain alone anyway, whether the outcome is tragic or happy. Schafer may seem to switch settings in each game, but all of them associate with strange and bizarre, the world of bikers, film noire, insanity, or medieval era.
So, Schafer is a romantic humorist, the Lord Byron of video game industry.
#1: Hideo Kojima
You know him for: Metal Gear, Snatcher, Plicenauts, Tokimeki Memorial Drama, Zone of the Enders, Boktai, Metal Gear Solid
Short bio: Born in 1963 in Setagaya, Tokyo, Japan. He moved when he was only 3 to the western Japan, and from early childhood he had to deal with death a lot. As a child, he was left alone a lot at home, having to entertain himself with no friends but with TV. At first he wanted to be an artist, but the fact that his uncle was an artist who struggled with financial problems discouraged him. He then tried to become a writer, but none of his stories were accepted by the magazines. He then seriously turned into film making, but finally, some of his favorite games, including Super Mario Bros. and Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken set his mind on video game industry. At first he couldn't make it to this industry either, as his ideas were repeatedly rejected. He didn't give up and finally Konami employed him. At first he was ridiculed for his lack of programming skills and strange ideas and he even considered quitting, but he stayed. He began working as an assistant director and his first game was rejected.
He was asked to work on a game called Metal Gear. He turned the game from action to stealth, funnily because of software limitations. His next project was Snatcher. These two games finally assured his position in the industry. He went on creating great games until with Metal Gear Solid he became an international celebrity, achieving a fame enjoyed by only a few game creators. Now his every move would make headlines, and everyone looked to buy the next Kojima game. When he announced that he won't work on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, many were dissapointed, and his announcement that he will work made everyone happy.
His style: Long, LONG dialogues and cinematic cutscenes are the first things that come to one's mind. But this is only a bi-product. His years of flirting with fine arts, literature and cinema haven't gone to waste, as he exhibits all the positive aspects of these mediums in his games. Great landscapes and an eye for correct picture, moving and deep dialogues, and exciting and awesomely directed cutscenes are all features he has borrowed from outside the gaming world.
But he is a great game creator, and ultimately his games are great as games. One must add great gameplay, and game-world logic to his games. The form of what he makes is superb. Entertaining, and effective. We can see the same variety in his content. His games are a mixture of stealth and action, and his stories a mixture of Japanese anime and American sci-fi, fantasy and love romance. His characterizations are superb and they sit on a greatly narrated story.
His stories are very deep. On the surface they are a conspiracy theory plot of an espionage story, but they go deeper. Kojima cites many influences, but he goes beyond most of them. In his world politics itself is the villain, which causes wars and poverty, but lone heroes go against it to make their own individual stories. They are heroic, and meaningful.
Kojima is the master of paradoxes, bringing together the opposites: old and modern, love and hate, war and peace. His video games capture life in an exaggerated state, but the whole life, not a piece of it. So we can safely call him the epic writer of video games. His personal touch is recognizable from his start menus to his endings, and he's definitely the most artistic individual of the industry.
Honorable Mentions: These people could have made on the list but didn't make the cut. The bold ones who accompany a short note are the ones who should've made the list but didn't due to the limited entries.
Clive Barker: Known for his special brand of scariness
John D. Carmack: Creator of Doom series, he has had a great influence on gaming industry and he's notable for the violence and darkness depicted in his games.
Eric Chahi French designer of Another World, and Heart of Darkness, I even wrote his entry
Ron Gilbert: A great humorist, got him covered (almost) in Schafer entry
Koji Igarashi producer of the Castlevania series
Ken Levine creator of Bioshock and Thief: The Dark Project Series
Colin McComb designer for Planescape: Torment
Sid Meier Civilization series, my biggest disappointment, I wrote his entry too. Due to his great influence on the industry, he was the hardest to put aside
David Mullich The Prisoner, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, and many other games, creator of great philosophical games.
Ray Muzyka & Greg Zeschuk co-founders of Bioware
Warren Spector System Shock, Thief series, Deus Ex
Yu Suzuki designer of many classic Sega games
Satoshi Tajiri creator of Pokemon game
Jon Van Caneghem
Richard Vander Wende
Roberta Williams diverse in topic, but a very great game creator. Known for King's Quest and Phantasmagoria, the only woman who could've made it to the list
So that's it! I hope you enjoyed the list.
List by Nazifpour (06/10/2011)
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