Who Makes Games?
The lacking media coverage of these creators' deaths is part of a much broader problem: With the exception of a few auteurs, creative people in the videogame industry are still not properly recognized for their contributions. We still don't know who makes our games, because creators are regarded simply as employees of a developer, which in turn often takes less prominence than a title's publisher. And as people move on, their ideas are farmed out to other development teams. How can anyone be expected to know when someone has died when that person's creations live on under someone else's name?
One example is the Metroid series. While Director Yoshio Sakamoto is still with us, the series' original producer, Gunpei Yokoi, is not. How many people watching videos of the recently announced Metroid: Other M , co-developed by Nintendo and Team Ninja, paused to contemplate that one of the series' original visionaries has been gone for over a decade? Likewise, how many fans of Metroid Prime, developed not by the original team at Nintendo but instead by Texas-based Retro Studios, are aware that the Prime trilogy's lead programmer, Mark Haigh-Hutchinson, passed away in 2008? He also programmed Zombies at my Neighbours back in the day and designed Metroid Prime's camera and Wii control scheme. Now that Metroid Prime: Trilogy has now been re-released for the Wii, all traces of the original creators are hidden behind the publisher's name and a credits screen few will read.
I realize game development today is too large to place everyone on a podium. You could make the comparison to film, where directors are honored but few recognize the names of individual screenwriters. But in videogames, even our most prominent figures leave the world without so much as an acknowledgement from the people whose lives they enriched.
Tears in the Rain
My biggest concern is that the lives of these remarkable people will be forgotten. Creating a piece of entertainment that hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed should entitle them to more than just a three-sentence obituary on a web page. Furthermore, all the knowledge they've acquired, the stories they could tell us, is being lost forever. My experiences of talking with now-deceased members of the industry have reminded me of a sobering fact: Your questions and the responses they elicit might be the last record of a person's life and work.