Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Bruce Shankle, when he spoke at my school in January '07 about breaking into the game industry, pointed out that even the most famous names are often not recognized by experienced gamers. How many know who Carmack and Romero, or Will Wright are? But mention their works (Doom and Quake, The Sims) and they're recognized. Sid Meier is recognized primarily because his name is part of some game names.

My students generally don't have a clue that I am a little bit famous--after all, I "don't do electronic games". I was amused one day at the game club when a student said he'd talked to a friend in Florida and told him his instructor had designed Britannia. The friend got excited and said something like "oh, that's my favorite game, he's famous". No. Hardly anyone in the game industry is famous. But many people worldwide recognize my name (which is fortunately nearly unique), or the game Britannia, or what I did with D&D and Diplomacy variants ages ago. Measured by that number of people, I'm likely the most famous (or better, least unfamous) person the students know, but they don't think in those terms.

I'm going to edit in a more recent story: Another student (Frank) told me that in his history class is an older man, who obviously knows the history instructors well, maybe working on another degree? He and some other folks have been working on an historical game for 10 years and are about to publish. Frank said, do you know the game Britannia? Yes. The designer of Britannia is teaching game design at Wake, you ought to talk to him, Frank says. The gent got quite excited. Though I haven't heard from him yet!

The "me" generation generally isn't impressed by anyone but themselves, of course. In a high school class I taught last year, about one quarter of the 20-some students thought they would be famous at some time. This is evidently a common "delusion" amongst the younger generation. (I say delusion because, barring extreme chance, you'd not have even one "famous" person come out of a group that small.)

So what can a teacher do about this? Nothing that I can think of. Sometimes only time/experience lets people shed illusions.

1 comment:

Ian Schreiber said...

What can a teacher do about this? Well, you could at least mention it. If your students have never heard the name Shigeru Miyamoto before -- and he's arguably the most well-known person in the entire industry -- then why should they think that everyone will know THEIR name, even if they match Miyamoto's accomplishments?

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle