Damage Control

Game Designer Richard Garriott Says “Words Taken Out of Context”

Game designer Richard Garriott—or Lord British—released a statement via Portalarium today in response to the community backlash over an interview published on PC Gamer. The original article quoted him as saying “Most game designers really just suck” and “I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is as close to as good a game designer as I am.”

“Wow did I strike a nerve! In the midst of a much longer more contextual conversation, PC Gamer noted “Wow, you just gave me my headline!” At that moment, I knew to brace for an out of context backlash…The variations of headlines where I either disparage others, or glorify myself are inaccurate representations of the intent of my full commentary.” Game Designer Richard Garriott

If one looks at yesterday’s headlines, (Leggo My Ego, for example), it could be noted that those statements might be a tad inflammatory. If you grab a single sentence out of a long interview, it would be easy to take it out of context. However, PC Gamer used entire paragraphs in block quotes—it’s hard to take those out of context. The rest of the article largely applauded the RPG pioneer and even went so far as to explain what Garriott was trying to say:

“I inferred that, rather than condemning the entire industry, he was pointing out flaws he perceives in how design talent is assessed and promoted in specific parts of the industry.” Tyler Wilde-PC Gamer

It was the rest of us that took the individual comments for what they were: mean and arrogant. “But, please let me clarify! By no means did I intend to disparage others who have led the many great games of each era in gaming history.” OK, so lets take a look at Garriott’s cleanup letter and see what it is he says he meant.

“I really do see a major challenge to our art form, specifically in the area of design. The design of a game is simultaneously 1) the most valuable aspect when it comes to the potential of success of a game, 2) the hardest part of game development to improve over previous efforts because of competition, and 3) the skill set with the least formal and informal training available to game developers.”

Perhaps my statement that has been quoted so often in recent days could have been presented in a more eloquent fashion” – Richard Garriott.

Game designer Richard Garriott goes on to talk about the history of game design and how in the old days only one person made a game. That person was a programmer, artist and designer. “The first artist I ever hired was FAR better than I ever was,” he says. “Some programmers who my companies have hired have been better than me, some worse, as I would expect.” It seems that he is trying to be humble but just can’t get it right. “There are designers whose work in many areas is far better than mine. But I also think some of the work I have done as a designer remains a top contribution for its time.”

Oh we get it. There are certainly a few good designers out there, but he is still the best. He says that he can easily hire an artist better than he is, and he can easily hire a programmer better than he is, but when it comes to finding a designer at his level, he is stumped.

Richard Garriott says of game designers:

“It is far more difficult to hire a designer who is clearly capable of leading a top 10 game. For any company, growth only comes when the company finds another leader who can make a top 10 game. Origin only grew when we found people like Chris Roberts and Warren Spector. Most other attempts at creating new game lines failed when we gave the reigns to junior people looking to advance.”

So now it’s the younger guys who can’t design games.

What Gariott needs to hire is a publicist that won’t let him issue statements clarifying his points that contain the same pompous language as the original interview he is cleaning up after.

His unrelenting attitude is unfortunate, because underneath the conceit is an idea that makes a lot of sense.

“Sadly for people who really are passionate about designing the next great game, “game design” remains a hard skill to learn…Designers, who never coded and never drew art, have a far harder path ahead of them. After all, we are making “computer games,” and a deep knowledge of the computer is mighty helpful.”

He laments the fact that it is hard to go to school to learn to be a good designer. He mentions Guildhall at SMU, an expensive private university, as being a good place to go. But other than that, folks with a passion for game design pretty much have to be self-taught. There are plenty of art schools and plenty of programming classes, but would-be designers are often out of luck.

“Perhaps my statement that has been quoted so often in recent days could have been presented in a more eloquent fashion. But I stand by the point I was making, that game design is the hardest profession in our business to understand and to learn.”