Darwinian color selection

The Filth Epiphany

Does gaming have auteurs? My latest Slate column

Slate has just published my latest gaming column — in which I ask the question, are really good video games the product of single visionaries? Does gaming have auteurs, as does film?

Assessing the recently released Doom 3 — which kicks all manner of ass — I answer the question “yes”, and go on to speculate about why game designers labor in anonymity:

One reason game designers aren’t typically considered auteurs is that their artistry isn’t necessarily on the screen. The most important innovations in video games are invisible, deep in the guts of the software. Much like Venetian artists perfecting the camera obscura to trace figures from life, or George Lucas creating high-end special effects so he could shoot Star Wars, the best designers create new tools to midwife their games into existence. Carmack’s brilliance came in coaxing the low-power chips of 1991 to display a speedy “first person” view of a 3-D world. Will Wright conjured new artificial-intelligence models to govern the behavior of his Sims. Peter Molyneux hired a philosopher to help him craft the moral galaxy of Black and White.

Molyneux, Wright, Miyamoto—odds are you’ve never heard of these guys. How about Alexey Pajitnov? Probably not, though I’d wager you’ve played his game Tetris. That’s because the mainstream media almost never profiles the creators of games or talks about how games get made.

You can read the rest of the column here for free, and if you’ve got any thoughts on it, visit The Fray, Slate’s discussion forum!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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