Fame; is it a blessing or a curse?
Celebrities. They’re everywhere these days and the gaming industry is no stranger to them. You can find famous gaming figures in every part of the industry, from the Phil Fish’s of indie game development fame way up to the big corporate face of Reggie Fils-Aime. But these kinds of celebrities are of a very different breed to their mainstream brethren. Gamers don’t particularly care about their personal lives, or whether they’re going on Big Brother; instead we pay close attention to what they’re up to in the gaming industry and what they have to say about it.
What makes a gaming figure so popular though? Often it’s in admiration of their work; creative auteurs like Peter Molyneux and Hiro Kojima are well known and respected for bringing their visions to life and in the process creating great, memorable games. As a result, any future comments they make will be considered important, any future actions they take will make gaming news and any future games they make will be highly anticipated. Knowing this, it’s no wonder why BioShock Infinite (the development of which was being led by BioShock creator Ken Levine) was anticipated that much more than BioShock 2 (in which Levine was not involved).
Sometimes it’s a case of pure personality. Gamers often take a certain love for quirky or animated characters, which inevitably leads to a torrent of memes which only enhances the popularity of said character. This is notably the case with gaming industry executives; only a few months ago was Shuhei Yoshida (rightly) called the most adorable gaming executive around by our own Stephen Daly. Social media also helps; well-known individuals like David Hayter and Major Nelson are always tweeting about their work, thoughts and shenanigans.
But are these kinds of figures a good thing? Well it is certainly comforting to know that game development and publishing isn’t just being run by a homogeneous mass of men in suits but instead by rather charismatic and interesting people who clearly love games. Additionally these celebrities can act as channels of communication between gamers and producers, in that the former often uses social media to express their interests to the latter, who can then use their influence in the gaming industry to pursue these interests.
At the same time, big personalities can sometimes seem to exploit the trust and respect they know that gamers have for them. Kojima seems to have done this when clearly overpricing what was essentially a glorified demo with Ground Zeroes, knowing that the game would sell well with his name so publicly attached to it. Similarly, I clearly remember Peter Molyneux being the voice and face of Fable 3’s advertisement and publicity, despite recently claiming that he himself thought the game was a “trainwreck”. Figures can also sometimes be infamous for their annoying qualities rather than their charm…. for me, David Cage comes to mind.
Gaming celebrities, then, are an interesting compliment to the gaming industry. They may not always be a healthy part of it, but they never fail to entertain and you often can’t help but love them.