Each of them created works of deep cultural significance. They changed how we consume entertainment. But only three of those names are famous for it. The Strong Museum of Play in New York has opened a ‘World Hall of Fame’ for gaming, an event that should be cause for celebration. Upon closer inspection, however, there’s something not quite right about the whole thing. All six of the inaugural entries are, well, ones and zeroes. They are Super Mario Bros, DOOM, Pong, World of Warcraft, Pac-Man and Tetris. Kubrick and Bergman can hold their heads high in a hall of fame for cinema. Hendrix and Franklin stand proud in any roster of musical genius. In a hall of fame for gaming, however, only the games themselves achieve recognition. Their creators remain largely unconsidered.
The Strong Museum is one of the largest museums in America, devoted to “learning through play”. It houses historical examples of toys and electronic entertainment.
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“Electronic game play is increasingly influential and important,” Strong Museum president and chief executive G Rollie Adams said, fending off hordes of children desperate to take his job. “It’s changing how we play, how we learn and how we connect with each other across boundaries of geography and culture.” If that’s the case, shouldn’t we recognise the names behind those important works? It’s true that games are often made by large teams, making it difficult to attribute credit to one person alone, but that’s certainly not the case with these first six inductees. Aside from World of Warcraft, each game has clear and obvious creators. Allan Alcorn didn’t direct Jaws or write ‘Yellow Submarine’, but he did make good use of a paddle – he is the man behind Pong.
As for the others? They are Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario), John Romero and John Carmack (DOOM), Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man) and Alexey Pajitnov (Tetris). That’s the real hall of fame.
These days, developers seem to attract infamy quicker than fame anyway. No sooner was Fallout 4 announced, after six long years of waiting, than fans started bickering about how dissatisfying the trailer was. “It hasn’t changed a bit,” complained some diehards, who had previously been desperate for more of the same.
Thankfully, creators Bethesda needn’t worry. While the game engine doesn’t seem to have progressed much, there’s plenty to love about the new trailer. It has tons of colour, scope and detail, with hints towards intriguing changes. Will the main protagonist be fully voiced this time? Is that helicopter a sign of controllable transport? Does the dog play a major role and, more importantly, does it have a taste for supermutants? It might be a while before we find out for ourselves. There will be more information revealed at E3 next week, but don’t expect every detail to be released. Bethesda are famous for making their fans wait.
Amazon, on the other hand, became famous for selling books. Then, in an ironic effort to make even more paper, they made the switch from hardbacks to hard-drives. After successfully creating direct-to-download TV shows and films, the online giant has now decided to make a large-scale game.
“Amazon is committed to gamers, and building great teams who are excited to use Twitch, the AWS cloud, and technical innovation to radically evolve gameplay,” Amazon said in a prominent job listing. “We believe that games have just scratched the surface in their power to unite players and will produce some of the future’s most influential voices in media and art.” Rumours have been circulating that the game will features zombies and an infectious disease. It’s especially interesting to note that the developers will make use of Twitch, the gameplay-streaming service that Amazon bought for $1bn last year. Twitch and gameplay streaming is only likely to get bigger in the coming years.
While Amazon has made Facebook games since 2012, this will be its first big-budget title. They have an all-star team, too. Among the employees are Kim Swift, who created Portal, and Erik Nylund, the writer for Halo. Future hall of famers? Let’s hope so.