Discuss: Celebrity in Gaming

Discuss: Celebrity in Gaming

Yesterday, Twitter personality and community manager extraordinaire SixOkay, through the 15 Minutes Of Game podcast he co-hosts with Twitter personality and game industry marketing extraordinaire Weezul, issued a bit of homework for writers and bloggers concerning the lack of true “celebrity” within the gaming industry. I’ve always hated doing homework, but something tells me this is one assignment I might enjoy.

The first thing that comes to mind is a question; What is celebrity? I, personally, don’t really understand the concept in its entirety; that is to say, I understand the definition, but I don’t fully understand the widespread appeal. I suppose, in theory, the true purpose of “celebrity” as a concept, rather than as an individual, is the celebration of particularly impressive talent within any field. While that does sound good in theory, in practice it seems that when most people hear the word “celebrity” it seems to contain an inherent reference to movie stars, TV stars, and people who are famous simply because they are famous (or: the dredges of society). This is the way things are.

Why is this the case? Why is “celebrity” so incontrovertibly linked to, more than anything else, the film industry in such a widespread and permeating way? Why doesn’t this environment of worship, reverence, and fandom exist in the gaming industry for its pioneers, revolutionaries, and geniuses? Justin mentioned the fact that we tend to associate fame with the face, and while that’s very easy with film and TV, since the faces are real, it’s more difficult with video games, where the faces are fake. He compares the fame of Tom Cruise to the fame of Marcus Fenix. I partially agree with that thought; visual association is very powerful. On the other hand, I think there is a larger reason why, within the gaming industry, there are fewer revered names.

I think the lack of visual association necessitates alternative criteria for the definition of “celebrity” as it applies to the gaming industry, and I think some of these criteria are difficult for those in the gaming industry to live up to and aspire towards. First and foremost, in my opinion, is the need to stand out as an individual in an industry where team effort is absolutely necessary. There are a few who stand out in this regard: Cliff Bleszinski, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Will Wright, and Sid Meier are the first ones that roll off my fingertips. No man is an island, be they a superstar game developer or not. These men all had a great deal of incredibly talented individuals working with them to bring wonderful games to our platforms. They, however, put a face on the success of their titles, and have, in my opinion, become true gaming celebrities.

This, then, is the winning combination: do something worthy in the gaming industry, and have the force of will to put your personality forward and associate it with what you’ve done. As an introvert, I would find it very difficult, nigh impossible, to practice what I’m putting into words, and I can only imagine that this is the case for many of the brilliant developers and superstars within the gaming industry who are not on the list of gaming household names. If these individuals were able to take a page from successful community figures who have become such well-known and well respected members of the gaming industry’s public face, they could take a good first step at becoming iconic game industry celebrities. If not, then I think our list of well-known heroes in the gaming industry will remain woefully short, and that is a terrible shame.

What are your opinions on the scarcity of true celebrity within the gaming industry as a whole? Who are your gaming heroes, be they real or fake? Who do you think deserves more accolades and recognition than they get? Do you think I’m full of crap and make a frightfully invalid point? DISCUSS!

I'm the Ambassador of Kickyourassador. I am the Walrus. I'm on a highway to the Danger Zone. I am the Kwisatz Haderach.I do things with words that have a generally geeky gist.
  • I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said, and would like to expand on that. On the subject of introverts, I think that characteristic greatly impacts the industry far more than people care to recognize. I may be wrong, and somewhat bold, in saying that a majority of the people in the industry are introverts, but there isn’t a lot of evidence out there to dispute that assumption. For example, Sony has hired an actor to portray a man named Kevin Butler, a faux Vice President, who is used as a marketing tool. Sure it is very successful because many gamers, even those who don’t own PS3’s, known who Butler is and find the commercials to be hilarious. Butler is charismatic, witty, and has an immense following. The guy has his own Twitter (with a ridiculous amount of followers I might add), and he even appeared during the Sony press conference at E3. That is how effective he is.

    I do have a problem with the idea of Butler, and what it could lead to though. Sony clearly lacked a public figure, so they hired one. That could set a rather unfortunate trend, because if actors and faux personas are what people associate with when thinking about a gaming company, what happens to the people who put in all of the hard work? It would be doing a great disservice to the developers if the Butler Trend came to be, and I think it might happen more and more as there is already a lack of connection amongst consumers.

    Consciously or not, Sony has hindered their chances of having a true celebrity amongst their employees, and the corporate heads don’t count, nor will they ever. Like I said, I do feel that Butler is a success as he does what he is paid to do, but it is just something that will prevent those who work on the games from becoming a true icon in the eyes of everybody. When you think about it, only the fans of the games/companies know the names of the individuals who work on them. They aren’t a commonly known thing, or a household name like Reese Witherspoon, for example. The only main exceptions are the likes of Sakaguchi, Miyamoto, Boon, and others but even then, if a person isn’t a fan of Mortal Kombat, they might have no clue as to who Ed Boon is.

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