The Games Industry on the Best Games of the Last DecadeJune 7, 2020
Please note that we haven’t included all responses, and some responses have been edited for length.
In the first part of this feature, our roundtable members answer the question:
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: There have been so many outstanding games over the last ten years, and all for very different reasons, be that innovative and fun gameplay, amazing characterisation, brilliant storytelling or groundbreaking technology. Based on that list, there’s one game which hits all of those areas and then some, and that’s GTAV. It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to why, but having such a vast and beautifully constructed lifelike playground, where the most believable and most obscure things could happen at any time instantly pulls you in. You can waste hours doing nothing more than driving round sightseeing. I’m also always a sucker for a good story and character driven game and GTAV hits both of those perfectly. You instantly get each of the characters, and their personality types and lifestyle decisions! The script writing is second to none and guaranteed to provoke a reaction. There’s a reason why it’s still going strong seven years after launch.
Atsushi Inaba, Chief Creative Officer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): GTAV and Monument Valley. GTAV feels like the ultimate version of an open-world game that is truly fun. Monument Valley was impactful because it opened a big change in an industry that was focused on AAA titles. I see it as one of the top titles that helped popularize the indie scene.
Masachika Kawata, Producer, Resident Evil series: I think the most impactful on a cultural level was Pokémon GO! for sure. I downloaded it while I was at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, and the city was just full of people walking around catching Pokémon! A similar movement sprung up out of nowhere in Japan, and you would think there was a festival going on every time you walked by a park, due to the big crowds of people hanging around every public space playing the game. I was one of those people! And I was really glad to be a part of something which got the whole of society wrapped up in it – something I hadn’t felt for a while as a game fan.
As for my personal favourite game, that would have to be Bloodborne. It had that directness of concept and balanced challenge that is the signature of what we would now call the “Souls-like” genre. Capcom has found success with games in this genre before. Bloodborne was tough, challenging and fun, so even when I would die over and over and have to repeat the same section to try to progress, it was still enjoyable and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I’d finally do it. That’s why it was my favourite game of the last decade.
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): [I]n the family, I’ll do a special callout and say I love Overwatch, but I do love all my children equally. Overwatch was new IP for us, created completely from the ground up, which advanced the class-based shooter genre with abilities and characters that you can truly love.
Outside of Blizzard, the game I enjoyed the most in the last ten years was probably Portal 2. Great gameplay, great writing, the story was excellent, I loved the co-op – the game was innovative. I’m currently playing Subnautica, which is a great story-based take on the survival space. I’m enjoying it a lot. On mobile, Monument Valley is my favorite game of the last decade, I really love it. For more of a puzzle/platformer type of game, I love Inside. It has an excellent mood and tone, and compelling puzzle gameplay.
Overwatch has evolved significantly since launch.
David Gaider, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Summerfall Studios (Chorus): The Last of Us. It… really upbraided my snobbish belief that you needed an RPG to go really in-depth into a narrative. It, along with a few other games since like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Insomniac’s Spider-Man, has really upped the bar in terms of narrative presentation. They’re delivering on the promise of what interactive narrative is capable of.
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): The Last of Us. The intro sequence left me speechless, and the narrative was surprising and engaging. Environments were beautiful to look at with plenty of vistas, while the level design and mechanics were interesting. Gun play was satisfying. And best of all, competitive multiplayer was unexpectedly deep and tactical. There was a lot of watching and waiting for your enemies, which was pretty unique for a competitive game.
I’ve put more hours into other games – Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege – but The Last of Us was the most impactful.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): 80 Days wins “#1 game that made me nervous to call myself a game designer anymore, in case someone ever compares what I make to that.” Its elegance and craft were so purposeful, so insightful, and the narrative and systems dovetailed so well, that I despaired existentially for awhile. I guess I really enjoy existential despair, because it’s hard to say if there’s any game I’ve liked more in the past ten years.
Viktor Bocan, Design Director, Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance): Dark Souls. All of it, Bloodborne and Sekiro included. Not only because of the amazing game design and execution, but also for what it proved: that there can be hardcore games that don’t need to please everyone and don’t need to compromise for some illusionary “wider target group.” That you really can make a complicated and not easily approachable AAA game and there is a market for that.
Rebecca Ford, Live Operations and Community Director, Digital Extremes (Warframe): Not including Warframe – which is my most played game of all time – it has to be a tie between The Witcher 3 and Nier: Automata. I had the right amount of free time to dive in deep to each, and both worlds were beautiful in art and scope every step of the way. I can’t pick between them because they both represent the best of the past ten years of gaming – complete commitment to the art and science of game development. I also only like white-haired protagonists, apparently.
Saxs Persson, Creative Director, Minecraft franchise: The obvious answer for me is Minecraft, of course. I dropped everything to join the Mojang team about five years into Minecraft and I continue to be amazed at the impact the game is having every single day. For other games that I played, I’d say Inside had the biggest impression on me. It’s a masterpiece! I even played through the game again to find every Orb and get the special ending. We still discuss at home what the ending really means. That’s a good game that challenges and satisfies. Can’t wait to see what’s next from that team.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): If I can’t say League of Legends, then it has to be World of Warcraft among videogames. WoW still reigns supreme as the best in class MMO, although I have a strong personal preference for the earlier versions of the game. In regards to tabletop, Warhammer 40K takes the cake for me; 8th edition 40K has seen Games Workshop improve how they do live balance, simplify the rules to make the game less painful and this has helped spur the growth of the competitive scene.
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: This is a tough one… and I will cheat a little and name three games: World of Warcraft, Mass Effect 2, and Journey.
Obviously, World of Warcraft was released more than ten years ago but I haven’t spent more time in any other game in the last decade, so I think it deserves the trophy for connecting people and building long-lasting communities in an easily accessible way. For the Horde!
Mass Effect 2 is competing only with Final Fantasy VII for my personal “Best Action RPG of All Time” crown. I completely immersed myself into the story, felt with the characters, and enjoyed every minute of the game until the very end, craving for more.
Journey is very special to me as it showed how emotions can be triggered through sounds, music, and other players that share parts of your journey without the typical interaction possibilities.
Paul Sage, Creative Director, Borderlands 3: Tough question. Games are about mood, and the answer to this would vary depending on the day you ask. Let’s say some choices would be Mass Effect 2, Skyrim, God of War, The Last of Us, or Titanfall 2. Out of these, I will pick Mass Effect 2, based on my mood today. Mass Effect 2 grabs you with the soundtrack immediately. When you dive in, it is a fully realized universe with tons of depth and great characters. The story is incredibly interesting, and the gameplay was solid. But in the end for me, it was about my choices. Sometimes those choices were illusions, but other times they were really meaningful. It gave me a feeling of control and joy as a player with the high-quality trappings. Loved it.
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): I’ve probably clocked the most hours over a number of Angry Birds games, but I have to be honest and name Red Dead Redemption 2. For me, the game is simply the most perfect cinematic, escapist masterpiece, with just the right pacing, fascinating world with a surplus of detail, and gripping narrative. Having started playing games on Commodore 64 in the 80s, playing games like this can be mesmerising.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was a landmark release.
Denby Grace, Executive Producer, 2K (Mafia III): Red Dead Redemption 2, without a doubt. As a feat of engineering, design, and production, the scope and quality of that game is insane… it hurts my head to think about how that game must have come together. In terms of the story – a Western fantasy, the experience of being in a world I never wanted to leave – it’s simply a masterpiece.
An honourable mention goes out to Florence. That game tugged at me emotionally in a way I always wished, but didn’t know, a game could. Beautiful experience.
Jodie Azhar, Game Director, Teazelcat Games: While I’m much more drawn to relaxing games where I can take my time and the main mechanic isn’t fighting these days, I think the game I’ve put the most time into is Monster Hunter: World. I’ve been playing the series since Monster Hunter Freedom Unite came out in 2009, so seeing it grow in popularity in the West and come out with Monster Hunter: World, which so many of my friends picked up as their first Monster Hunter game, has been great.
It’s the only game I really play with other people, and while I miss the days of physically hanging out with friends and our PSPs, it’s nice to be able to go online and team up with people I know to take down a giant monster from the comforts of our own homes.
Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director, Final Fantasy XIV: Monster Hunter: World. As I’m sure you’re aware, Monster Hunter is a well-known hunting action game series in Japan, but it did not make as much of an impact outside of Japan. However, I feel that by choosing PlayStation 4 as the platform and making the development team think outside the box, they managed to create a new Monster Hunter from scratch. I felt that this was a tremendously risky challenge, and I’d like to give my highest praise to the team that made this happen. I’ve played several hundreds of hours myself. For the same reason, I’d like to mention The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Ryozo Tsujimoto, Producer, Monster Hunter series: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game world and gameplay were simply stunning. I always define a great game as being one you don’t want to get to the end of – in other words, you want to stay in that world as long as you can. Breath of the Wild made me feel that way.
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I felt like it was a return to what drew me into video gaming in the first place: rock-solid game mechanics against a backdrop of adventure, wonder, and beauty. Also, throwing chickens.
Takahisa Taura, Director, Astral Chain, PlatinumGames: That would be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild… I was very impressed by its level and terrain design, which made it an engaging world to simply explore.
Even hundreds of hours in, there’s still stuff to discover in Breath of the Wild.
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): The easy answer would be Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But statistically I give it to Gorogoa, a game that was my GOTY in several years thanks to its early demo release and my getting a subsequent early hands on. Gorogoa is magical and transformative. It’s the creation of a focused vision and does something that is so, so complex it is hard to imagine how it was ever created. It’s a new mechanic, a new interface. It seamlessly incorporates art, craft, story, and some straight-up puzzling. It’s everything I ever got out of Escher, or Kit Williams, or my favorite fairy tales – the magic paintbrush in particular. It made me gasp, it made my heart and my mind fill with joy. It’s such a singular thing that Jason Roberts is welcome to never make another game, just sit back and be content. Economics again, may suggest differently.
Ross Gowing, Game Director, Dirt Rally 2.0, Codemasters: Assuming I’m not allowed to go for DiRT Rally 2.0, I’d probably choose Far Cry 3. I sank so many hours into that game and bought it for Xbox 360 and then again for PS4 when the generations changed I enjoyed playing it that much! The storytelling and decision making twinned with the general open world chaos was exactly what I wanted at the time and was a real blast to play, twice.
Hideki Kamiya, Chief Game Designer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): I don’t really remember which games I played over the last ten years, but recently the Resident Evil 2 remake left a big impact on me. I was developing the original in around 1997, so it felt like a miracle to see that game revived on high-performance hardware with amazing polish more than 20 years later.
The only drawback of the game is that it’s too scary. I had to really do my best to complete both Leon and Claire’s scenario once each, but after that I was just too scared to go on. I want to replay the game, so I hope that Capcom will implement a mode that makes it more fun to play by making the zombies look cute.
Jeremiah Slaczka, Co-Founder and Creative Director, 5th Cell (Scribblenauts Unlimited): Obviously this is an impossible task. There’s been so many incredible and memorable games. But what captured my attention the most was PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. It spawned a litany of copycats and arguably one of the biggest games of all times with Fortnite. It’s such a simple, yet powerful concept that was executed very well – even though it was very buggy. It was the first real shift in online shooters in many years.
Joe Neate, Executive Producer of Sea of Thieves, Rare: PUBG. This introduced an entirely new multiplayer genre with absolutely brilliant design to a massive audience. It’s so simple, yet so effective, and there was no comparable feeling like getting down to the final few players for the first time. I still vividly remember my first win. The tension, the excitement, and the fear. Absolutely phenomenal stuff. It’s a game where it’s pretty rare to win, but you always feel like you’ve got a chance. It’s also one where the purity of the core experience was always enough to tempt you back for another session, nothing to do with the progression systems or rewards. You just wanted to experience the adrenaline rush.
PUBG was an instant classic.
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): I have had so many favorite games from the last ten years that it is hard to narrow it down to just one. If I had to choose the most memorable one though, it would have to be Dragon Quest X, the first online RPG in the game’s series. I had played many online games for work before then, but it was the first MMORPG that I played in my personal time that I got invested in. I have some fond memories of chatting and going on quests with people I met through the game and playing until the early hours of the morning. It was a ton of fun.
Ed Beach, Civilization Franchise Lead Designer, Firaxis: I’m not sure this is going to hold up as my favorite game of the decade once I’ve had some more time to reflect on it, but I have to answer Death Stranding right now since I’m currently obsessed with it. I love the fact that this is a very immersive, story-driven game title that is all built around a backpacking simulator. I never thought of hiking as gameplay that would captivate me, but it has. I’m having a great time planning out my routes, choosing just the right equipment, and seeing the world change over time as shared structures get built and brought online. Events of the last few months have made it clear how much I’ve missed gatherings like that.
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): Titanfall 2. An incredibly polished, thrilling single player campaign which has some of the best level design and shooter mechanics I’ve ever played, combined with a fantastic multiplayer.
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): The 2010s had so many great games. I’m torn between Firewatch and theHunter: Call of the Wild, both succeeded in creating immersive wildlife experiences in radically different ways. I was mesmerized by Firewatch’s heavily stylized art direction and a compelling story. Of course, I’m partial when it comes to theHunter: Call of the Wild, but I think that the Expansive Worlds team has created a truly special experience that immerses players in what we believe is the best version of the great outdoors. Every time I put on my headphones and close my eyes, I can almost feel the breeze rustling through the leaves.
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): Ack, I always have a hard time with these kinds of questions! There was, and continues to be, so much variety in games that it’s just so hard to pick one. So, I’m going to sort of side-step it and pick Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, because of the memories it has given me. You know, previously as a gamer, I would have really looked down on all of the options Nintendo gives in their games now to make it easy to play, or practically auto-play. I didn’t really get it. But in MK8D, it allowed my then four-year-old son and I to really play together for the first time. It was just magical. We could each play with settings that allowed us to be evenly matched. Everyone had a great time, and Nintendo enabled that!
Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google (Stadia): I always think about games in particular moments. So probably the most fun that I’ve had playing a game in the last ten years has been playing Mario Kart with my kids, because it was an experience that I shared with my family. It wasn’t necessarily the best game, or the most amazing graphics, but simply the fact that it drew us in time and time again to all be on the couch enjoying it together.
I also kind of book-end the last ten years with the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time just because it allowed me to play more of a game I loved. And then more recently, Breath of the Wild. Those are highlights of creativity in the industry and the beginning and end of the decade.
And then there’s… Inside from Playdead, the people who made Limbo. I finished and absolutely loved every minute of that game. I also really got into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I thought that the craft and the depth of the story and the characters there was incredibly impressive.
Inside’s art direction, mood and pacing were superb.
Jamie Jackson, Chief Creative Officer, Mythical Games: This is tough! It’s actually impossible… but I gotta go with FIFA 17. It’s probably the game I’ve spent the most time with because of the friends I play with and the competition it brings out in us. One of my best friends and I have a running count of the actual games of FIFA we played each other for the last nine years – I play Barca, he plays Real Madrid. Of course, I’m winning!
Luc Duchaine, Executive Marketing Director, Ubisoft’s Canadian Studios: I loved the Batman series, Spider-Man, and God of War. I have to say that I played a lot of Tetris 99 on Switch and managed to win a couple of times; it’s the only Battle Royale in which I can really perform!
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): The most fun I had was from the Forza series, the one I played the most is Mini Metro, and the one I most respect is The Return of the Obra Dinn. Shout out to Tetris Effect, too. Oh, and Reigns. I played a lot of Street Fighter 2 on the Mega Drive Mini over Christmas, but I’m guessing that’s not allowed on the list.
Yoko Taro, Director, NieR: Automata: The PlayStation 3 remaster of the action adventure game Ico. I chose a remaster game because no game that piqued my interest more than Ico appeared during the past ten years.
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): I really struggle with “your favorite” questions. I get them all the time about my favorite LoL champion or favorite WoW expansion, but I just don’t approach life that way. But in the spirit of the question, here are ten games that I loved from the past ten years:
Dark Souls – Such great in-game storytelling and a difficulty system that just tells you that you need to be better. I’ve probably logged more hours in Bloodborne, which demands a more aggressive play style.
Into the Breach – I finally figured out that my frustration with rogue-likes is the randomness. Into the Breach doesn’t have any!
Slay the Spire – Such a perfect game. Despite so many different strategies and situations the game is remarkably well-balanced. It gives you a lot of chances to feel smart, which is what players want out of most games.
Slay the Spire has near infinite replayability.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – While I love open-world games, they usually sacrifice good combat for more content. Not so for Horizon. Add in great writing, acting, and world-building and you get one of my favorite games ever.
Persona 5 – It’s not easy to get me to fall in love with characters so much that I never want the journey to end and wonder what the characters are doing today.
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag – I felt like I was playing Sid Meier’s Pirates with 1000x more detail.
Hollow Knight – This is everything I want in a game. Tough combat, variable builds, a world to explore, a spooky narrative about fallen empires.
Dungeons and Dragons Edition 5 – Did you only mean video games? I’ve been a D&D fan for life, and likely owe my career to it. The new edition took the best parts of several old editions, and leveraged digital – especially streaming – to capture a new audience.
Gloomhaven – It’s very expensive, it’s very long. But the strategy feels really deep and it gets me to sit down at a table with friends in an era when expert matchmaking in most online games means that friends just tend to slow me down.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria – I think Lich King probably has the more epic story, but it’s older than ten years. Mists also had a tight focus on world building, beautiful content, a great story, and a bunch of features that changed WoW forever.
And now for the second part, in which our roundtable members answer the question:
Jodie Azhar, Game Director, Teazelcat Games: BAFTA introduced the Beyond Entertainment Award in the 2018 BAFTA Games Awards and this feels really significant to me. This award recognises games that educate, inspire, or have social impact, showing that games are not just for fun but can significantly impact players in positive ways.
The BAFTA Games Awards have always helped legitimise video games as an art form and this award goes a step further by recognising that they can be a source of good and be used to share information, ideas, cultures, and difficult topics in a way that’s accessible to a wide audience.
Sam Barlow, Founder, Drowning a Mermaid Productions (Telling Lies): Sailing the sandsea in Zelda: Skyward Sword! An incredible combination of dynamic music and a concept that was only truly explorable in a game context. Wow, that section was heartbreakingly poignant and beautiful. The whole timestone thing was an incredible mechanic that Nintendo totally explored to the nth degree and really should be talked about more. But in that one section they used it to make me feel something and it was the deepest hit of melancholy in a series that is already pretty good at scratching that particular itch.
Hideki Kamiya, Chief Game Designer, PlatinumGames (Bayonetta): The Nintendo Switch. Being able to play classics like Gradius and Ninja-kun: Adventure of Devil Castle on a high-performance mobile gaming device like that while lying in bed made me super happy. That being said, it was a real bummer that the Arcade Cabinet Mode of Space Harrier’s 3DS version, which simulated the movement of the original cabinet, was cut out of the Nintendo Switch version. That really sucked.
Lars Janssen, Director of Studio Relations, Koch Media: It was probably the Ghostbusters version of The Void in New York. Even though I’m very critical of VR in general, when my wife and I killed the Marshmallow Man together and the entire room smelled like the sugary good stuff afterwards, it was probably the most immersive experience I’ve ever had in gaming. I can only recommend experiencing a The Void installation for yourself if you get the chance.
J. Allen Brack, President, Blizzard Entertainment (World of Warcraft): I have two answers for this because I think they both represent things that I love the most about games.
The first are live experiences like Dreamscape and The Void – custom experiences with hardware that allow people to immerse themselves completely. These are incredible gaming experiences and I think a sign of what’s to come. If you think about this tech today, with the power of compound interest, what does this look like in five or ten years? It’s hard to believe that this won’t be transformative entertainment in some way.
For the second answer, I’d like to relay a story of ultimate nerd-dom. Imagine a group of friends that have traveled to a far-off land, the land of Las Vegas, for a bachelor party. We’d rented rooms in Las Vegas, we had the fancy dinner, we’re sitting around, there’s wine being consumed, it’s Saturday night: what are we going to do? We’re going to hook up the laptop to the TV and watch StarCraft esports! We did that until 3am. That is one of my favorite gaming memories because it encompasses what I love about games most – that feeling of community and togetherness you get when you share your love for a game, even in unexpected places.
Paul Sage, Creative Director, Borderlands 3: Maybe Stan Lee’s cameo in Spider-Man? It is the most Stan Lee, I think – and he’d just recently passed. He looks at Peter and Mary Jane and says, “You two always were my favorites.” It was gently fourth wall-breaking, but super touching on a lot of levels for me. It felt genuine.
Greg Street, VP of IP and Entertainment, Riot Games (League of Legends): I’ll almost always answer World of Warcraft raiding. Having 40 (or even 25, or ten) players working together to overcome a really challenging problem is just not an experience you can capture in any game that isn’t an MMO and almost impossible to capture outside of a game.
Masachika Kawata, Producer, Resident Evil series: I’m sorry to name one of my own games, but Resident Evil 7 on PS VR was really a brand-new kind of experience for me and I loved it. During development, I tried out various other VR games and content as research, and I was amazed at how fresh the sensation of place was, how it hadn’t been done before in a game. I think the future of VR is further hardware evolution and working on making the player feel like they are even more in the game world.
Pim Holfve, CEO, Avalanche Studios Group (Rage 2): While VR still has some way to go, my first experience with an early prototype of Project Morpheus, which would later become PlayStation VR, was one of my favorite gaming moments of the last decade. I was completely blown away by how immersive it was, for being a prototype, and left the demo with great expectations.
Gareth Wilson, Creative Director, Traveller’s Tales (The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame): Using the Oculus Quest for the first time last year was a real highlight for me. It’s the first time I’ve used a VR device which really delivered on what VR could be: light, self-contained and portable to play anywhere with no wires!
Viktor Bocan, Design Director, Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance): It would be shooting in VR games and the whole virtual reality thing. I really believe that this is the revolution. Control-wise it’s probably the biggest one since introducing a computer mouse into gaming. Suddenly you have much more control over your game: independent left hand, right hand and head so you can do many things at once. Some of this experience (shooting, archery, driving) is incomparable to what it was before. And there is no way back.
Kellee Santiago, Head of Developer Relations, Niantic, Inc. (Pokemon GO): Witnessing the launch of Pokémon GO! Seeing so many people, especially families with multiple generations, getting outside in their communities and sharing the game together. It was in the wake of Gamergate, and a period of time of intense divide in the gaming community. When Pokémon GO! came out it was such a beautiful reminder of what I love about games most – the ability to share joy and fun and create new memories with each other that are unique and meaningful.
Tanya X. Short, Co-Founder, Kitfox Games (Moon Hunters): Releasing Moon Hunters in 2016 was a disappointing affair, at first. The launch was rocky. Sales were bad; the team was disillusioned. But we held our launch party anyway (complete with drink tickets and a hired DJ, wow), even though none of us wanted to go, and… the support and encouragement we received from our friends and colleagues at that launch party really opened my eyes to why Kitfox makes games. This is a medium that can bring joy, and this is an industry that can be incredibly warm and supportive. It keeps me going, when things seem too hard. I know I’m not alone. Not really.
Naoki Yoshida, Producer and Director, Final Fantasy XIV: It’s been such a dramatic ten years for me, so I can only talk about my game for this question. For me, the last ten years was about how to re-launch the disaster that was the original FFXIV, and how to regain the trust of fans, players, and members of the media. After frantically developing and operating the renewed FFXIV, 2014 came along. During the first US Fan Festival that was held in Las Vegas, we announced the first expansion pack, Heavensward. I will never forget the excitement and cheer that erupted from the players in that moment.
Jeremiah Slaczka, Co-Founder and Creative Director, 5th Cell (Scribblenauts Unlimited): I’ve really enjoyed all the fan connectivity and interaction that spawned from YouTube Let’s Plays and Twitch streaming blowing up. I think that really helped propel new ideas and games to catch hold when they wouldn’t be able to prior to these platforms’ existence.
Ed Beach, Civilization Franchise Lead Designer, Firaxis: My trips to various PAX conferences have been experiences I will never forget. As a developer it is so easy to lose track of how large and passionate our audiences have become. It’s important to connect with our fans first-hand, see their enthusiasm, listen to their ideas, and share stories. Every time I come back from PAX I’m energized and want to elevate our games even further.
Yoshinori Kitase, Producer, Final Fantasy VII Remake: This might be slightly off-question, but… going around the world to promote the different Final Fantasy games I’ve been making for the last ten years is always a really great experience. Hearing feedback about the games from people from all sorts of different countries… of course, there are some really nice things they say about the games, [and] there are some opinions that I really don’t like hearing, but it’s still very important. It’s just a really valuable exercise, and I always feel really satisfied having done it.
Luc Duchaine, Executive Marketing Director, Ubisoft’s Canadian Studios: I’m obsessed with proximity with the players and having the chance to meet and discuss with them is priceless. I have attended tons of events over the past 20 years, but the rise of social media, streaming, and consumer events brought us closer to our players and this is fantastic. On For Honor, we hosted community workshops in the studio, get togethers in certain events, we had weekly live shows which are all great opportunities to discuss. Those meetings are super gratifying because you meet people who love what you do and humbling because they are so dedicated, it’s insane. I would recommend all game developers to go and meet players.
If I may, I would like to talk about a second one: esports. Gaming tournaments aren’t new. When I worked at Nintendo in the 90s, we organised tournaments and it was a blast. Now, those live events are pure entertainment. In 2014, I visited a DOTA event at the famous Madison Square Garden with my wife and it was amazing. I felt the same way I do when I go watch a hockey game and the same energy here in Quebec with the Six Invitational event.
Joe Neate, Executive Producer, Sea of Thieves, Rare: From a purely personal perspective, it has to be the growth of the community around Sea of Thieves, and to discover what the game means to so many people. I’m sure this will be echoed across so many games and communities, but the number of stories our players have shared with us about the impact this game has had on their lives has been humbling.
We talk a lot at Rare about why we do what we do, and the motivation of serving our players. To me, the stories we hear about friendships being formed, or maintained over long distances, to being a place people can just escape a bad day, or even meeting people and falling in love, are the thing that constantly feeds my motivation and drive. I absolutely love that people share these deeply personal stories with us, and we do our utmost to share them across the team. The gaming industry can have such a positive impact on people around the world, and it’s a privilege to be a small part of it.
Marc Merrill, Co-Founder, Riot Games (League of Legends): We’ve had world championship events at iconic venues around the world, so there have been some truly amazing moments, but this one is easy for me personally.
Last October with the League of Legends ten-year anniversary, we finally showed the world what other things we’d been working on the past ten years. We revealed a bunch of new games, but more importantly, we had a chance to re-engage both Rioters and players with what Riot is all about, trying to make impossible dreams come true for players. It was an uplifting, exciting, and emotional experience and will be forever a moment I look back on with pride and gratitude to our players for their continued support.
One of Riot’s new games – the superb Legends of Runeterra.
Takashi Iizuka, Head of Sonic Team, SEGA (Sonic Forces): My favourite gaming-related experience of the decade was seeing the Sonic Movie get created. We had conversations about making a Sonic the Hedgehog movie over ten years ago, but it would always move forward and then get put on hold, then move forward and get put on hold, again and again. I am so happy that this year one of my dreams is finally coming true. Getting to work with the movie’s director, Jeff Fowler, and the many Hollywood movie staff on that project, while also living in Los Angeles, was an incredibly memorable and important experience for me.
Denby Grace, Executive Producer, 2K (Mafia III): I was very fortunate to get to work with Turtle Rock on Evolve. I have never had a better multiplayer gaming experience than when working on that title and playing games late into the night with the team here at 2K. When it came together and you had an experienced team against an experienced monster, the game delivered adrenaline like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
Keith Schuler, Lead Mission Designer, Gearbox Software (Borderlands 3): I’m going to cheat a little by answering something that technically started October 2009: the debut of the Borderlands series. For the past ten years, I’ve been a part of that series, and it’s amazing to see how it’s grown and what it’s become. There is no better feeling for a developer than for their game to be out there in the hands of gamers. That’s why we create, right? Prior to that, I’d spent nearly ten years working on Duke Nukem Forever, so…
Tim Heaton, Studio Director, Creative Assembly and EVP Studios (Total War: Three Kingdoms): My favourite gaming-related experience was making Alien: Isolation here at CA. Drama, intrigue, Hollywood moments, depressing lows and astonishing highs – and that was just making it. To have the actual game so positively received by players, and still highly regarded is a high point of my time at CA.
Lee Mather, Game Director, F1 2019, Codemasters: This is potentially a bit of a personal one to me; attending the Formula 1 Esports Final at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was something very special. It was special not just because of the location, but because it was a massive leap forward for competitive racing gaming. We didn’t start the series small, we came out of the gates with a high level production, with some of the best and most competitive racers competing in a series backed by Formula 1. Since then we’ve seen the series change people’s lives and expand the appeal of both Formula 1 as a sport and competitive gaming as a valid career and route into real world motorsport. Seeing the positive impact the series has had on so many people has been really inspiring.
Ville Heijari, CMO, Rovio (Angry Birds): At Rovio, we annually host a friends and family-style conference for employees, partners, and local industry guests in Helsinki, Finland. For the 2017 iteration of RovioCon, we invited Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Bird as a guest speaker. Hearing his humble, honest, and unique story of creating the game and being completely taken by surprise by its success, and the subsequent conversations are something I find myself thinking about often. I guess that makes my interaction with Flappy Bird a favourite gaming moment of the last decade.
Jamie Jackson, Chief Creative Officer, Mythical Games: First was PUBG and how it did a great job of levelling the playing field for different skill bases of players. I find great enjoyment hanging with my friends and hiding for as long as I possibly can. My games in general are go, drop-in, loot, try not to get seen, hide like f–k, maybe kill someone, place top five, be happy. Rinse and repeat.
Second, esports. I still find it hard to call it a sport, but to see an entire industry emerge from something I have dedicated my life to growing and providing legitimate earning potential for players is incredibly fun to watch. And 15-year-old me is pissed it took so long.
Rebecca Ford, Live Operations and Community Director, Digital Extremes (Warframe): Even though I don’t play Fortnite, my favourite experience would have to be watching its emergence, dominance, and subsequent maintenance and battle for audiences. This (free) franchise came out of nowhere, and watching the industry and people react to it has been full of lessons. It firmly established the best (and worst) of influencer culture which devs and marketers rely on more and more. It firmly carved a model people want to imitate — in terms of developers looking for success, and players looking for big breaks.
Saxs Persson, Creative Director, Minecraft franchise: Easily my first night in Minecraft. I played the game for the first time with my son. We didn’t know much about Minecraft other than it had become popular really fast. We fooled around during the day, and then came the sunset! The sound of monsters nearby made us hastily dig a hole in the wall and barricade ourselves. From inside we watched through a hole in the ceiling as the night passed. The stars moved and, finally, the sky started to change color ever so slowly. When the sun finally rose over the horizon, I felt more relief than in any game I can remember. Just pure elation.
David Gaider, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Summerfall Studios (Chorus): My favorite gaming experience? Probably my discovery in 2018’s Spider-Man that traversal could actually be fun.
Ross Gowing, Game Director, Dirt Rally 2.0, Codemasters: Probably playing through Portal and Portal 2 – it blew my mind! I’m not a big player of puzzle games, so all of a sudden having to solve complex 3D puzzles complete with timing intricacies really made me think in different ways. Stephen Merchant’s VO in Portal 2 really added to the experience and made it more memorable too, I think I’d been watching him in Extras on TV recently at that point, so it created quite a surreal overlap.
Takahisa Taura, Director, Astral Chain, PlatinumGames: I’m really fond of the ability of the Nintendo Switch to allow the player to freely change playstyle between a home console and mobile device. It actually made me play more games.
The experience of playing a full-fledged VR game might have been even more exciting, but VR sickness has prevented me from actually enjoying those games, so that’s too bad.
Yoko Taro, Director, NieR: Automata: The Nintendo Switch remaster of the shooting game Ikaruga. I chose a remaster game because no game that piqued my interest more than when Ikaruga appeared.
Andy Sum, Director, Hipster Whale (Crossy Road): My favourite gaming experience was in DayZ, only because it was very memorable. Due to DayZ’s permadeath mechanic, the game would really build up tension in players. It could take hours or even days to build up your inventory from scavenging items around the map, and when you died you lost everything – hours of work gone. This sense of loss was what made surviving feel so satisfying, and beating other players feel so powerful. There were consequences.
Surprisingly, there were plenty of friendly players in the world, looking to help out others. One time, I spawned into the game surrounded by AI-controlled zombies facing certain doom. There was no way I was going to survive, when suddenly another player in a jeep pulled up next to me, killed all the zombies, and bandaged me up. In-game voice-chat allowed nearby players to talk to one another, so I said thank you and he kindly gave me a full kit of powerful weapons and items. He then invited me into his vehicle to drive around.
We bantered for a few minutes. We laughed. He told me that he’d been collecting items over multiple days and building up his character. Vehicles were especially rare and I’d never driven one in game, so I asked if I could have a go. We swapped seats and I drove us along a long road. DayZ had awful movement controls and physics. Vehicles were much worse. I turned a corner sharply, veering off the road and into a tree, crashing the jeep and killing both of us. We both lost all our progress, and he lost all of the items he had been collecting for days. I felt pure guilt, knowing that I had inflicted pain on another human being who had been so nice to me. It was as if I’d walked into a museum and accidentally knocked over a priceless sculpture.
I closed the game, walked outside, and never played again.
Can you think of any game that has ever made you feel truly guilty?
Cam Shea heads up IGN’s Sydney studio. Check out his feature analysing what the games industry thought 2020 would be like in 2010 and be sure to read part one of the new roundtable. He’s on Twitter.