7 of the most creative people in the video game industry
From 'Uncharted's' Neil Druckmann to 'Tomb Raider's' Rhianna Prachett, these are the forces behind some of gaming's greatest adventures.
Of all the video games released each year, only a handful manage to leave an impression that leaves players anxiously awaiting another chapter. The men and women behind these titles are some of the most creative talents in the industry, with skills in storytelling, direction, design and art direction to rival that of any major Hollywood production. Below are just a few of the stars making every post-apocalyptic world or adventure in another galaxy a game worth hitting start for.
Neil Druckmann | Naughty Dog
Israeli-American Neil Druckmann is considered one of the best storytellers in the gaming industry. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons)
One of the more recent stars to rise in the game industry, Neil Druckmann is an Israeli-American writer and creative director for studio Naughty Dog. After cutting his teeth as a game designer on the first two "Uncharted" games, Druckmann scored a massive hit as creative director for the acclaimed 2013 survival-thriller "The Last of Us." Critics and gamers alike praised Druckmann for crafting a post-apocalyptic zombie story with heart, a storytelling trait Druckmann says came from playing classic adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts while growing up in Israel.
"Simple stories, complex characters… That’s how it should be," Druckmann told Game Informer. "I hate games that have all this extra exposition that’s unnecessary and I love exploring complex relationships, so that’s always what I strive for.”
In May, Druckmann and Naughty Dog struck another emotional chord with gamers in "Uncharted 4." Possibly the last game in the franchise, the action-adventure title was lauded for its gorgeous art direction and, as expected, dramatic storytelling.
"Uncharted 4 is like a book that you literally swallow page by page, but at the same time you are sad to see the diminishing count of unread pages," praised Games.cz. "You don´t want it to end, you know what is coming but nothing can be done. Nathan Drake's adventure ends, but it's probably the best final chapter you could wish for."
Jenova Chen | Thatgamecompany
Jenova Chen, a Chinese game designer, is responsible for not only some of the most beautiful games in recent years, but also some of the most relaxing. His creations, such as "Journey," "Flow" and "Flower," offer a dazzling mixture of beautiful artwork, challenging gameplay and stress-free indulgence. In a departure from nearly every other game, Chen also makes it a point for his games not to feature any talking.
"My games are designed for human beings," he told KillScreen. "It needs to be simple and intuitive so a kid can maybe be better than their parents. On the other end, it needs to be relevant and reflect some kind of humanity."
While Chen has yet to reveal the nature of the game he's working on next, he's hinted that it will be similar to his award-winning "Journey."
"It’s kinda heavy and you have to be in the right mood to take it in," he added.
Amy Hennig | Visceral Games
Considered one of the most influential women in the games industry, American Amy Hennig knows a thing or two about crafting a successful adventure. Her most notable project to date came as the lead writer and director for studio Naughty Dog's highly acclaimed "Uncharted" franchise. In 2014, after handing the reigns over to Israeli-American Neil Druckmann, Hennig joined Visceral Games as creative director for their yet-untiled, highly anticipated "Star Wars" adventure.
"If you’re going to do it, do it as well as you can," Hennig told VentureBeat last year about telling a good story. "That means taking the right amount of care and investment and approaching it in the right way. Maybe not all game developers do. Maybe story and character are afterthoughts sometimes. It takes a lot of nurturing."
At the 2016 E3 conference this year, glimpses of Hennig's new "Star Wars" game were finally shown, with confirmation that the story's central plot will revolve around a group of entirely new characters. The game is set for release in our own galaxy in 2018.
Hideo Kojima | Kojima Productions
Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima made waves at this year's E3 with the announcement of "Death Stranding," his first-ever title under his newly independent Kojima Productions. While the trailer for the game is decidedly cryptic, it's classic Kojima; a man who for decades has enthralled gamers with titles such as the "Metal Gear Solid" franchise, "Snatcher" and "Castlevania."
"I want to do something that gives a lot of freedom and interactivity," Kojima said of his upcoming game. "Like I did in the past, I want to make something that has a very strong, dramatic story. That's what people want from me and that's what I want to do."
In a separate interview, Kojima shed a bit more light on "Death Stranding," saying that while it's not exactly open-world, those who enjoy action-adventure titles like "Uncharted" or "The Division" will take to it quickly.
"When it is announced, you might think, 'That's not outstanding,' but you'll understand when you see it and play it," he told Gamespot. "The genre is action."
Michel Ancel | Ubisoft
Michel Ancel, the French video game designer behind such celebrated franchises as "Rayman" and "Beyond Good & Evil," is prepping yet another mind-bending adventure with "Wild." Set in prehistoric times, the game allows players to take control of any animal – wolves, sheep, fish, bears, etc. – and use them to move through a massive dynamically generated environment.
"The world is just huge, you can go wherever you want, there's no fakery," he told Gamespot. "The project is very vast. We wanted freedom. In most games now you have missions that are very rigid. We wanted something where you had choices."
As for the highly anticipated and long-delayed (8 years and counting) sequel to "Beyond Good & Evil," Ancel and Ubisoft continue to insist that development on the title is moving forward. At E3 this week, French Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said the game will eventually be revealed. "It's coming along, but he [Ancel] has to spend more time on it so we can see it faster," he told The Verge.
Rhianna Prachett | Writer
English writer Rhianna Prachett has been the storytelling force behind such acclaimed hits as the "Tomb Raider" franchise reboot, "Bioshock Infinite," "Mirror's Edge" and "Thief."
"Even if you're not putting story at the heart of your game, players are still looking for stories," Prachett said during this year's DICE gaming awards. "We are narrative creatures. Stories engage the heart and make players care about your game."
In an interview with Polygon, Prachett says that part of her inspiration for applying her writing talents to the gaming industry was the opportunity to tell more female-driven stories.
"I really love 'Game of Thrones' and the diversity of female characters," she said. "The female protagonists we have in games, by and large, are good. There just aren’t that many of them. I’d like to see more diversity in representation across the board, for men and women."
Shigeru Miyamoto | Nintendo
A legend in the games industry, Shigeru Miyamoto is responsible for such well-known classics as "Mario," "Donkey Kong," "Star Fox" and "The Legend of Zelda." The latter in particular is currently the star of this year's E3 conference, with Miyamoto and co-creator Takashi Tezuka showing off the latest adventures of Link in the gorgeous fictional open-world of Hyrule.
"The most important thing about interactive entertainment like video games is the way the player thinks about what they can do with the game," he told Time. "What’s important to the player is to think creatively, then try out what they’re thinking and then see it [come to life] in the game."
Based on early impressions of "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," it's clear that Miyamoto's talents in crafting grand adventures have not diminished with age. You can check out the latest from this gaming legend in 2017 when games are released on both the Nintendo Wii U and the as-yet-unreleased Nintendo NX.
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