5 Revolutionary Game Designers
August 9, 2013
•IADT General, Game Design and Production
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The first five inductees to the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences have on things in common: innovation. Each of these men changed industry norms – and consequently bettered the gaming world.
Founded in 1993 by Andrew Zucker, the Academy awards designers for their achievements in videogaming, computer gaming, online entertainment, individual work and groundbreaking technology. In 1998, the Academy began inducting noteworthy individual designers into the Hall of Fame. Their contributions to game design and technology have dramatically impacted the industry; without them, gaming would not be what it is today.
Learn from – and be inspired by – these five revolutionary game designers:
1998: Shigeru Miyamoto
Born November 16, 1952, Miyamoto is the Japanese video game designer and producer behind some of the most successful video game franchises of all time, including Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong and many games for Nintendo’s Wii™ series.
As The Business Pundit notes in its article, Miyamoto is “widely seen as the most influential video game creator of all time.” He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement prize at the Game Developers Choice Awards and, in 2008, was ranked #1 on Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People of the Year.
Miyamoto started his career as an artist. In an interview with Time for Kids, Miyamoto tells Yusuf Halabi that he was originally “hoping to help create fun and interesting toys. [But,] shortly after I joined Nintendo video games started to become popular. I helped out with the video games by drawing the artwork and characters.” He worked closely with technical engineers at Nintendo to learn video game techniques.
He currently works for Nintendo’s Kyoto, Japan headquarters.
1999: Sid Meier
In her article “The Web’s Most Popular Game Makers,” Lauren Wainwright calls Sid Meier the “Father of Computer Gaming.” Others have described him as the ideal role model for any aspiring game designer.
Born February 24, 1954, the Canadian-American programmer and designer is the brain behind several successful strategy video games – the most popular and notable being Civilization. The Business Pundit describes him as “a pioneer in the strategy game arena.” Many gaming organizations have awarded him for his influence throughout the industry. In 2008, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Game Developers’ Conference and, in 2009, was ranked second by IGN on their list of “Top Game Creators of All Time.”
Meier co-founded Firaxis Games in 1996. He currently works there as Director of Creative Development.
2000: Hironobu Sakaguchi
Writing for The Guardian, Steve Boxer describes Hironobu Sakaguchi as “the man who defined the Japanese RPG genre.” This genre is characterized by “stunning, anime-influenced artwork, strong storylines and turn-based battling.” This is completely embodied in Sakaguchi’s work, most notably his Final Fantasy games.
Sakaguchi was born November 25, 1962. He is a Japanese video game designer, director and producer. He has also worked in film. His work was done primarily while he was at Square (now, Square Enix); however, he left the company in 2004 to found Mistwalker. His work at Mistwalker has included the well-received and notable The Last Story, the first game Sakaguchi directed since Final Fantasy V.
Sakaguchi offered advice to Game Design and Production students in his interview with Boxer: “Looking back, my pre-Final Fantasy games failed because I kept copying what was on the market. So free yourself, and do what is good for the game.”
2001: John D. Carmack
Born August 20, 1970, John Carmack is an American game programmer and is the co-founder of id Software. His work includes commander Keen, Wolfenstien 3D, Doom, Quake and Rage.
The Business Pundit writes of Carmack: “from the primitive graphics and gameplay of Commander Keen to the immersive, multiplayer, first-person shooter environments of Quake and Doom, John Carmack has always been at the cutting edge of video game programming and design.” His work on Quake’s 3D technology is still utilized by modern game designers.
Carmack was awarded the Technology & Engineering Emmy Award in 2007, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developers’ Conference and was ranked #2 in Develop Magazine’s survey of Game Design and Production heroes.
He is described as a generous man for his work with various non-profit organizations, and Carmack is held in high esteem inside and outside of his industry.
2002: Will Wright
An American video game designer, Will Wright was born January 20, 1960. He is the co-founder of Maxis, now part of EA™.
Wright is best known for his highly successful franchises SimCity and The Sims. The Business Pundit notes of The Sims, it “is the best-selling PC game of all time, and has spawned a successful franchise that is popular even with those who are not fond of traditional antagonistic computer games.” He is regarded as a key figure in gaming, technology and entertainment. Wright has received a Game Developers’ Lifetime Achievement Award and was the first game designer to be awarded a fellowship by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, according to Wainwright.
He is described by TED as “a technical virtuoso with boundless imagination, Will Wright has created a style of computer gaming unlike any that came before, emphasizing learning more than losing, invention more than sport. With his hit game SimCity, he spurred players to make predictions, take risks, and sometimes fail miserably…. all the while preserving the addictive fun of ordinary video games.”
Wright’s last game, Spore, was released in 2008. Shortly after release, Wright left EA to direct the entertainment think tank, Stupid Fun Club. This think tank works intimately with EA.
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences continues to award designers and producers today. Since 2002, 12 other designers have been recognized for their achievements and contributions to the industry. Learning from these five designers and their contemporaries can inspire you to be more innovative and thoughtful as you complete your studies in Game Design and Production at IADT.