The Coin-Op: Gaming celebrities

Name dropping has never really gotten gamers anywhere. Do you know anyone who has honestly never heard of Martin Scorsese? Or what about anyone who’s never heard of Stephen King?  But, what about Peter Molyneux? Or Cliff Bleszinski? Will Wright?  Bing Gordon? Dave Jaffe, Richard Garriott, Hideo Kojima, Sid Meier, Suda 51, Tim Schafer, Jonathan Coulton?

This is exactly what I’m talking about.  People like this are well-known throughout heavy gaming communities, but nowhere else.  Sure, movies have their Stanley Kubricks, and books have their William Faulkners — the people who are only there for the really interested.  But games don’t have anybody that everyone else knows.

It’s also not as if these people aren’t interesting.  For example, Peter Molyneux is a brilliant game designer, but has a big mouth.  When marketing Fable 3 he actually made up features of the game on the spot to keep people interested.

Richard Garriott created the first MMORPG, and he was also the first creator to actually be killed in his own game, by other players.  He also insists people call him Lord British, and went to space.  None of this is a joke.

Suda 51 is actually named Goichi Suda, and is completely crazy.  No More Heroes and Killer 7 are well-noted by game enthusiasts as being off the wall, as in, eyes swiveling to the back of your head, screaming about horses on in your breakfast and 200 other types of insane.

See, the fact isn’t that gaming celebrities aren’t interesting; it’s that they aren’t recognizable.

I challenge you to find one person who does not honestly know who Mario is.  Mario has been in so many games and has been given so much love as a character that he’s immediately recognizable.  When you think of Peter Molyneux you rarely think of the balding, British man who can’t quite figure out when not to talk.  You’re thinking of Fable or Black and White.

Celebrity status in gaming is limited mostly to the most immediately successful designers.  The most outreaching designer names are probably Sid Meier (Civilization series) and Will Wright (The Sims series).  The simple fact is that we don’t know the names of movie editors or book publishers. Celebrities like that are really only privy to those who live and breathe the medium.

This reaches our patently obvious problem.  The stars of the film industry are actually stars: They’re Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock. They’re people you see on screen all the time but, in gaming, the only celebrities we have are all animated: They’re Mario, Sonic and Master Chief.

Not everyone in the world is going to know Sam Peckinpah, even though he’s one of the most respected directors ever, and not everyone is going to know Cliff Bleszinski even though he carries a lancer from Gears of War and shows up randomly at press events pretending to be a fan. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that gaming celebrities will always be a rarity among the non-gaming inclined.