Game Design As The New Rock

Game designers are the new rockstars, pushing the likes of Bowie and Lennon out onto the cold, dark, antiquated streets of obsolescence (may the Rock Gods have mercy on my soul). Indeed, this is a bold statement. And please don’t get me wrong, if I were to catch sight of so much as a Radiohead pinkie, I would surely start trembling like a hormonal adolescent on speed. But as much as I would love to meet the group, I would also love to meet the likes of Ken Levine, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, and the ultimate dignitary, Keiichirō Toyama.

We have witnessed an entire culture develop around games. Think back to the early days of Atari, around the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the days when Nolan Bushnell ran the show with the likes of Warren Robinett, Howard Scott Warshaw and David Theurer. We now know it was commonplace for Atari to hold ‘meetings’ in Bushnell’s outdoor hot tub whilst consuming large quantities of recreational drugs and enjoying a group of naked females (spot the poetic licence). There’s no doubt about it; Atari was the Happy Mondays of the videogame industry.

Nolan Bushnell
The man himself – Nolan Bushnell

Moving forward to the early ‘90s, we see a designer materialise with more cadence in his hairdo than Chris Martin has in his entire body. Making a cameo appearance as his own skewed head in the second game of his franchise – Doom – John Romero is generally hailed as a games industry star.

And what about Cliff Bleszinski, aka Cliffster, Cliffy B and Dude Huge; the creator of the Gears of War franchise and the Dave Grohl of game design? Okay, so Bleszinski dropped these ego-entertaining monikers when he said it was “time to grow up”, but that’s not to say we agreed with him. We were too busy conceiving more cool names to even notice that he was speaking.

I have a lot of love for the oldskool designers, Warren Robinett in particular for his awe-inspiring answer to designer obscuration. Early designers were denied the recognition that their modern-day counterparts enjoy by having anonymity forced upon them. The solution, as defined by Robinett, which many of you will already be familiar with, was to quite literally put his name up in lights. Activating a single pixel included on one particular wall in his game Adventure led the player to a screen bearing the colourful words “Created by Warren Robinett”.

You could argue that Robinett’s rebellious feat helped to establish the games designer as a cultural icon. It certainly created the concept of videogame Easter eggs. We have a lot to thank Robinett for. I rather want to throw my knickers at him right now.

Yes, I did just say that about this man
Yes, I did just say that about this man

I’m presently working at a games developer, Milton Keynes-based DR Studios, and feel fortunate to spend quality time in such a creative environment. The Lead Designer, Mete Djemal, is just what you would hope him to be – pleasant, funny, creative and charismatic. As far as sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll go, well, he’s a happily married guy with a kid, a mortgage, and a slightly unhealthy obsession with rice cakes. However, he does enjoy the occasional jam on the Guitar Hero peripheral… whether the game is actually playing or not. That’s pretty rock ‘n’ roll in my book.


Mete has been working as a games designer for about ten years, and explains that he always feels “proud to tell people what I do. It certainly has more street cred these days… I don’t feel like such a nerd anymore…”

Of course, not all games designers can reach a Bleszinski level of acclamation. “Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on too many cool games” explains Mete. “…Malice was cool at one point but it faded into obscurity… I guess I will have to continue to wear my baseball hat turned to the side for now to try and remain cool.”

Perhaps my chief question to Mete was this: “Has anyone ever thrown their knickers at you?” His answer: “Unfortunately no, maybe a rotten tomato if I tell them what games I worked on. You can be the first one if you like”.

Mete at work
Mete at work

Mete and Celeste
Mete and Celeste







4 responses to “Game Design As The New Rock”

  1. Rhyle avatar

    Were you the first one..? Or did you ‘politely’ decline the offer..?

  2. Michael avatar

    Interesting article, Celeste. Personally, and perhaps wrongly, I’ve thought that games design (and the industry in general) these days has far less… opportunities for individuals to stand out purely because of the scale of it right now. The big names that spring to my mind started way back – Miyamoto, Molyneux, Spector, Kojima and so on. It might be that it’s simply a matter of their reputation being built over time or that teams were smaller and becoming a luminary, a focus for this side of the industry, was a bit easier. I can’t think of many modern counterparts, barring Bleszinski in the “AAA” game camp. On the flipside there’s Jonathan Blow who is, of course, known for making a “small” game…

  3. Fran avatar

    I can really relate to the quote, “maybe a rotten tomato if I tell them what games I worked on” 🙂

  4. Nickie avatar

    It’s a shame that hard working creative designer’s don’t get the reconition they deserve these days. I wish Mete all the best as he Roooocks!! PS Loved Malice

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