I’ve been aware just how cynical and hard to please the videogame crowd (present company mostly excluded) is for a while now. Since becoming a member of the industry as a journalist and being a gamer myself, this awareness has deepened into an understanding of sorts.
When you’re a gamer I believe it’s easy to be critical of developers for two reasons. Firstly, games are not cheap, you’ve spent your hard earned cash on this title and you feel you have the right to complain if you’re not happy. Secondly, you’re probably quite isolated from game development, you may have watched developer interviews, read about games and even feel you’re qualified because you play games, but the reality is that you’re pretty far removed because you’ve never actually met the developers.
Now I understand that getting the chance to meet developers is not something that everyone has the chance to do. But perhaps you’ll allow me to give you a little insight that I’ve gathered from my fortunes of meeting different development teams over the past few years.
I suppose it’s easy to put developers on a pedestal of sorts. They did after all create our favourite gaming franchises, and in our minds become legends. The first time I met Charles Martinet, the man behind the voice of Mario, I was truly awestruck. Since then I’ve met a number of industry greats, people like Warren Spector, Peter Molyneux and Kaz Hirai, as well as some of the development teams behind some very successful gaming series. It’s been a humbling journey, and I can honestly say that it never grows old and it always feels awesome.
I’ve often felt that the videogame industry as a whole is too harsh on the games that it produces. Journalists in particular are quick to hand out harsh judgments with phrases like ‘cash-cow,’ ‘lazy,’ and ‘movie tie-in’ often being thrown about without regard. This type of criticism has never felt right to me, in fact the aforementioned phrases are officially banned in my review guide.
Yet I still see them cropping up on the internet, and it causes me endless frustration. Now I do understand that not everyone is in the position I am, to have had the opportunities to meet developers and get ‘behind the scenes’ insight, but allow me to give you a glimpse into my understanding and hopefully this will help to break the perception and give you the chance to understand developers as I see them.
During Capcom’s Captivate 2012 event recently held in Rome, I was given the chance to meet a few recognised and highly regarded developers. But over the course of the few days of the event, I was once again shown just how developers are normal people like you and me. When I arrived at the reception dinner a group of Japanese folks from different Capcom development teams were huddled over a Nintendo 3DS, enjoying a game and laughing together. Such a simple picture, yet a strong reminder that developers are gamers at heart. When they are not at their jobs, they probably sit back, relax and take time to enjoy a game, not so different to you and me.
The next evening the very popular Yoshinori Ono, Street Fighter X Tekken Producer, was walking around the hotel taking pictures of himself and his figurine Blanka, genuinely happy to be in Rome to talk about games – just an ordinary guy, just a gamer at heart. At breakfast the following day Kenji Oguro, the creator of the Lost Planet series and franchise creative director, who I had interviewed the day before, walked by my table and waved Hi to me – just another example of an ordinary guy who most definitely is not too important to say hello to the little folk on the ground like me.
I will be the first to admit I was completely in awe when I met the Resident Evil 6 development team, the creators of one of my most revered franchises. Yet it soon became apparent that Executive Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Director Eiichiro Sasaki and Producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi were all nervous to be showing their game to us. In fact during the presentation they got the order that they were supposed to be speaking in mixed up, had a good laugh about that and then apologised for the mistake, saying they were very nervous to be talking to us. Who would have thought such industry legends would be nervous talking to a bunch of gamers like us who loved their games?
Later that day I was playing Dragon’s Dogma when the Assistant Producer, Tomohiro Saito, came to ask me what I thought about the game. We chatted a while, and he gave me some advice on how to beat the drake on the level I was playing. Before he moved on he asked me if I was going to the dinner that evening, and said maybe we could chat more then. Well that night he came and sat next to me and we had a grand evening chatting not only about gaming, but about South Africa, Japanese comedy shows and the birds and frogs of Brazil (in no particular order), which information came from my new Brazilian friends who also sat at my table. We also discussed our favourite Street Fighter X Tekken characters, because the Street Fighter team was at our table as well, which led into a heated debate about fighting games in general.
These experiences combine to show me (and hopefully you now too) that developers are just gamers at heart. They’re doing what they love, but they work hard at what they do and I can assure you that I have yet to meet a lazy developer or a developer that has only half-heartedly worked on a game. They put their all into their games, and they work harder than you and I could ever imagine. Hopefully you’ll keep this in mind from now on, and when you’re playing their games give them the respect they deserve, and remember they’re not that different from you and me.