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Today we are living in the “golden age” of gaming. The world of video games has never enjoyed the glory it does today and it has become an undeniable part of human culture. No matter what way you look at it, be it financially, philosophically or academically, gaming has become a monolithic industry that is taking the world by storm.
But it would not enjoy the success it does today if was not for the blood, sweat and tears of certain individuals who poured their very hearts and souls into this phenomenal world of bits and pixels.
So we here at Gearburn have decided to pay tribute to these incredible people in a series of articles to honour them for their immense contribution to the world of gaming.
Here is part two of Gaming Industry Greats.
Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock ‘n roll.
Image: Vincent Diamante via Flickr
The Japanese game creator’s array of monolithic contributions to this wonderful digital medium has earned him the title of “the father of modern video games”. In May 1996, Time Magazine even called him the “Spielberg of Games”. He is also the first person inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.
Miyamoto is best known as the creator of some of history’s most prolific gaming franchises such as Donkey Kong, Mario and The Legend of Zelda. He has also been credited with almost single-handedly resurrecting the game industry after it almost totally collapsed in the mid 1980s.
Miyamoto’s story starts in 1977 when he joined Nintendo as a staff artist just after finishing his studies at the Kanazawa Municipal College of Arts. Initially he was interested in pursuing a career as a professional manga artist but fell in love with gaming after playing the arcade classic, Space Invaders.
Read more: 7 mythical heroes who defined gaming
Donkey Kong is one of the most easily recognisable characters in any art form, and indeed one of the oldest. Image: Farley Santos via Flickr
As an artist he spent the next few years working on two titles for Nintendo, namely Sheriff and Radar Scope. Both of these titles found very little success in the rapidly declining gaming market (especially in America) and Nintendo sat with thousands of unsold arcade units. It was in these desperate times that Miyamoto got the opportunity to prove himself as a master gamesmith.
Hiroshi Yamauchi, the CEO of Nintendo at the time, approached his staff and asked them to come up with new game ideas to replace the Radar Scope machines. Miyamoto came up with the idea of a love triangle between a princess, a gorilla and a carpenter named “Jumpman”. This idea later turned into Donkey Kong.
Yamauchi loved the idea and put Miyamoto in charge of the project, even though he had no technical experience in the world of game development. It was the first time in history that focus was put on the story and characters before the actual gameplay mechanics and it would forever change the way the world looks at video games.
Donkey Kong became a world-wide phenomenon and firmly cemented the art of gaming as a respectable entertainment industry, one that has only ever grown since then. Today it holds seven Guinness World Records, including “First Use of Visual Storytelling in a Video Game” for its innovative use of cut scenes.
This major success forever put Shigeru Miyamoto on the path of video game design and he would go on to create The Legend of Zelda, seen as the pioneer of the RPG genre, and the iconic Super Mario Bros., a game that even after 30 years is still one of the top-selling gaming titles in history.
Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.
Image: QuakeCon via Flickr
John Carmack is the technical wizard king of gaming and probably the greatest video games programmer ever. He is what Albert Einstein was to the world of maths and what Steve Irwin was to nature shows.
Carmack is best known as the co-founder of Id Software. Here he has drastically developed the technical capabilities of gaming, especially in the realm of 3D graphics, and created a game development engine (Id Tech Engine) that has served as the foundation of all development engines that followed. In short, gaming would not be where it is as today without his major contributions.
He is also known as the one of the pioneers of the FPS genre and was the lead programmer on some of history’s most influential FPS titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.
Carmack has carried his love for computers with him from a very young age. He loved computers so much that at the age of 14 he and some friends attempted to steal two Apple IIs from a school, using a concoction of thermite and Vaseline Carmack created to burn a hole through a window.
Unfortunately, one of his overweight accomplices couldn’t fit through the hole to open the door for them and they were arrested by police. Carmack spent the next year serving his sentence in a juvenile home. In my books, he is definitely one of the most badass nerds in history.
Fortunately though, it was a minor hiccup in Carmack’s mind and it didn’t deter him in the slightest to pursue his path of greatness.
A few years later Carmack dropped out of the University of Missouri-Kansas City after two semesters to become a freelance programmer. Soon after, he was hired as a programmer by Softdisk. Here he met most of the key founding members of Id Software, including game designer John Romero.
In 1991 he, and the other members, left Softdisk to form Id Software. Here he pioneered his great innovations in gaming such as adaptive tile refresh, shadow volumes and his plethora of game engines (Id Tech range and Quake Engine).
The Oculus Rift is perhaps the most promising of all the virtual reality headsets under development today.
In 2013 he resigned from Id Software after 22 years and is now currently Chief Technology Officer at Oculus VR.
The American programmer carries a plethora of awards behind his name for his revolutionizing innovations and considerable contributions.
Gamespot named him the “Most Influential Person in Computer Gaming” in 1996. Computer Gaming World gave him the same honour in 1997. Time Magazine named him one of the “Most Influential People in Technology”.
More recently he was honoured with a Life Time Achievement Award at GDC in 2010. He is also the fourth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what honours have been bestowed upon him.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that complexity can come out of such simplicity.
Image: Kevin Krejci via Flickr
Will Wright’s degree of innovations in gaming is, I think, the reason why the term “thinking outside of the box” exists. In a time when a game could only end in two ways, winning or losing, Wright thought to himself, “Why does it ever have to end?”
The American visionary and game designer is best-known for his creation of the “simulator” genre, which lead to him designing some of history’s most iconic gaming titles such as SimCity, The Sims and Spore.
But where did all this start? What swayed Wright to abandon the notions of victory and defeat and create a perpetually rewarding experience?
It was the early eighties and Wright had just concluded five years of college studies between Louisiana Tech and The New School in Manhattan. Within these years he filled up his spare time by collecting spare parts from hardware stores and dabbling in his love for robotics.
But gaming became more and more of an obsession in these years and started to consume all of his time, up to a point where he decided that gaming was undoubtedly the career path he had to follow. So he started to work on his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay (1984).
SimCity 4 is one of the many simulation games birthed from Wright’s city-building imagination. Image: haljackey via Flickr
In this game, you played as a helicopter that had to bomb the factories of the “Bungeling Empire” in an attempt to prevent them from building a war machine that will destroy Earth.
The various buildings that the enemies owned behaved in an extremely sophisticated manner (especially for those days) and, while designing the game, Wright realised that he enjoyed building these buildings and making them function more than bombing them down with a helicopter.
It was from a combination of this head space, and Wright’s love for the work of two architects and urban theorists (Christopher Alexander and Jay Forrester), that the first SimCity was born, a game where you are able to build up and sustain your very own city.
Wright had a bit of trouble convincing publishers to take interest in SimCIty as it was so different from the nature of other games at that time. Fortunately Wright met Jeff Braun in 1986, an investor who was interested in entering the wonderful and mysterious world of video games. After realizing that they shared the same passions and goals they formed Maxis the very next year and SimCity was finally published.
SimCity became a world-wide phenomenon and received critical acclaim for its innovative approach to gaming. Today it is considered as one of the most influential games ever created.
Wright had found his niche and since then has dedicated his life to evolving the simulator genre through the creation of SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCity 2000 and eventually the game that would cement him as the one of the most influential game designer in history, The Sims.
Will Wright is the fifth person to be inducted in the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.
Feature image: The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek via Flickr