I was watching Bonus Round, Episode 306 Part 4 on GameTrailers last week. They were answering user questions. What caught my attention on this episode is Shane Satterfield’s answer regarding video game developers moving from one company to another:
Q: What do you think about all the corporate company shifting? Like John Shappert moving from Microsoft to EA? Does it hurt a company when their talent moves from one place to another so often?
I think gamers are wrong for being attached to these people. At the end of the day, this is their job. Nobody's going to sit there and be like "Well gee, I can make like an extra 200 grand working for EA, or say Microsoft. Oh, but the kids. The kids won't like me anymore!" Noone's going to do that. This is the real world, where people have to put food on the table or they want to buy a new car. Whatever. I don't think gamers look at it realistically as "These are just people who have families and concerns with their own lives".
At the end of the day, it's life. Sometimes it's hard to separate the video game world from the real world. But at the end of the day, these are real people with real concerns and I don't think we can fault people for trying to do good, bigger and better things.
‐ Shane Satterfield
Even though the question is geared towards larger video game developers and publishers, Shane Satterfield’s response about being attached to individual video game designers immediately made me think about myself as a fan of Star Control, Paul Reiche, Fred Ford, Alex Ness, Chris Nelson and the rest of Toys for Bob.
Shane is absolutely right that a video game developer is just like any other job; it helps pay off bills, debts and most importantly, putting food on the table. Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do and I respect that.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling attached to game developers. It’s no different from being attached to Stephen Spielberg, Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, Dave Gibbons, Boris Vallejo, Frank Miller, Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp or Tim Burton. If someone admires a person’s style and creativity, it’s only natural to learn more about them and feel excited for whatever they have planned next.
I remember the first time I discovered the names of Paul Reiche and Fred Ford. I was in my final year of high school, I was playing Star Control II on DosBox. Before finding the open source version, I never had the time to get into the DOS game very much because of homework and studying. I wasn’t even aware of the 3DO version or even the existence of the 3DO console itself until someone told me about the Ur-Quan Masters and that’s when I started to get more into it. I started to read the UQM Sourceforge page and the Path of Now and Forever pages. I slowly started to learn about the people behind Star Control and the fact that TFB released the 3DO source code which lead to the creation on the Ur-Quan Masters. When I first installed UQM, the first thing I said was, “Wow. I didn’t even know there were voices.” At this point, I was aware of Paul, Fred and Toys for Bob, but I did nothing more than play the game whenever I had any free time. I also realized that they were responsible for Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure and Madagascar, which was strange to me; I didn’t know much about the video game industry at this time.
Just after I finished my final exams for my first year of college, Alex Ness announced that they would like to make a new Star Control game. Like many fans, I just felt surprised and I really wanted this to happen. Star Trek Enterprise was canceled and forgotten because of ratings and fans being “split apart” and I didn’t want this to happen to Star Control. I had a sudden rush and started writing letters to as many people as I could. First, I wrote to Alex, then I started writing to other developers and video game news sites. Even though I rarely receive a reply from these people, I appreciate the few who had the time to write back to me. As I continued reading information and writing letters supporting Star Control, I started to see the video game industry in a different way. I learned about things such as Intellectual Properties, Al Lowe’s disconnection from Leisure Suit Larry, and the real reason why Activision pushes so many sequels and movie-based games.
That’s a brief description of the flashback I had when I heard Shane Satterfield talking about gamers being attached to people. Until Alex’s announcement about wanting to make another Star Control game, I never thought about video game developers and publishers. I just wanted to play video games and wait the another sequel without caring about who is behind it and whether or not they took their time. That news posting was the first time I have ever heard of a developer wanting to work on something of their own instead of what the publisher wants them to do; at this time, I thought video game developers were free to do what they want. If I didn’t get into Star Control, learn about Paul Reiche and Fred Ford and write to people, I’d probably have 3 versions of Guitar Hero, Rock Band and a bunch of Spider-Man games without even thinking about why there are so many in such a short time. It’s really been a great learning experience and I would have never had a blog like this. I respect whatever contract is between TFB and Activision-Blizzard and I hope that someday, TFB will get that chance to bring back one of their most beloved games. Our loyalty to Toys for Bob is not the result of desperation, nerdiness or ignorance; it is the result of our respect of them. If someone can release source code to the public, respond to our messages and arrange IRC chats, we deserve to give something back to them and support whatever it is they would like to do next.
Thank you Shane Satterfield for your honesty. It gave me a lot to think about.