Who Directed Star Wars?
Imagine a conversation with a recent film school graduate about the greatest films in recent memory. It would not be uncommon for such a student to mention Star Wars. After all, the film’s impact on culture was tremendous, and its effects are still felt daily among those in the video game industry. Some have joked that nearly every game made is merely some kind of retelling of some Star Wars meme. So, with this scene in mind, imagine the following conversation:
Me: “Star Wars: A New Hope – do you know who directed it?”
Recent graduate: “No.”
Again, I ask, can you imagine? No, of course you can’t. Such a conversation would be embarrassing, ridiculous, and a statement of failure upon the film school that graduated such a student. Similar comparisons could be made to an architecture student who knew nothing of Frank Lloyd Wright, or an art student who could not identify Michelangelo but was totally aware of the majesty of the Sistine Chapel.
I had a nearly identical conversation tonight with a recent graduate of a game program. I wish I could say it was uncommon. However, I regularly encounter graduates of game programs who know nothing of game history. They can talk about Final Fantasy, DOOM, the Sims, Age of Empires, and WoW, and acknowledge them as foundational in some way, yet they know nothing of the key minds behind these same games.
This has to stop, and we don’t need full-on game history courses to correct the problem. What we do need is early and regular reinforcement of the creative and technical people behind these games. Architects care about Frank Lloyd Wright because he was innovative and influential and they have much to learn from him. Likewise, I care about Dani Berry because she was innovative and influential, and though deceased, I still have much to learn from her. In most cases, the answer to, “Who made this game?” is as simple as a Mobygames.com search.
Sometimes, we fall back on the old, “Well, lots of people made that game.” Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t build those houses by himself nor did George Lucas make Star Wars all on his own.
Students are paying thousands of dollars for an education. They have a right to get one.