We don’t celebrate our heroes. The people who make games, we don’t celebrate them. Not in the way that we should. Oh we celebrate the games well enough. You would be hard pressed to dredge up a human that doesn’t know who Mario is. Hum a few bars of Super Mario Bros. theme music among strangers, and someone will probably start humming along with you. At the very least you will have put that song in their head for the rest of the day. Games, at least those particular games, have permeated popular culture to that point. Now ask that same person who wrote that music, and they probably won’t know. Now ask the same person who Kurt Cobain is. Ask them who Paul McCartney is. Kurt Cobain wrote some good songs, but nothing that will stick with you like a Koji Kondo tune. Paul McCartney wrote some of the most instantly recognizable music from the last couple hundred years. The exact same can be said of Koji Kondo. The music from Legend of Zelda can evoke four emotions from you simultaneously while you gladly listen to it for six hours straight. Koji Kondo is an artist to celebrate, yet to the majority of the public, he is invisible.
There was an announcement of a new movie being manufactured based on Tetris. Tetris. Now before you say
“How can anyone make a movie about Tetris? How can this simple geometric puzzle game become a movie? It doesn’t even have a story!”
There is one, exactly one, tremendous movie to made about Tetris, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the game. It is the story of a humble, cherubic computer programmer working as a researcher in the Soviet Union during the late days of the cold war. It is the story of a dynamic Dutch-American polyglot game developer working deals in europe, Russia, North america, and Japan.The movie would be about Alexey Pajitnov and Henk Rogers.The Tetris movie would be a dozen other small human stories about the bizarre dealings of Soviet bureaucrats, dynastic Japanese family businesses, and the adolescence of a juggernaut industry. The actual game, Tetris, would be relegated to a plot device. As it Should be. The Tetris movie would be about people.
For an art form that used to redact the names of the creators as a standard practice, the video game industry has taken great strides in recognizing artistic and creative talent with awards shows and the like, but they tend to be a lot of preaching to the choir. The Audience that likes to know about the people who make games will watch those shows, and that’s about it. There is something to be said about formalizing the respect of peers, but it does little to legitimize games as an important part of culture. Respect requires recognition. Recognition of the people who create games, not recognition of the games themselves. Games, after all, are just products and they don’t really give a flying fart who likes them. People who create great works of popular culture deserve some recognition. We should celebrate our heroes.