It’s interesting that you mentioned young guys making games and deriving their content from real-world experiences. Check out this article:
The creator of Double Dragon was hot-headed as a kid and got into fights a lot in school, so he based a game around that. Also, the company he worked for, Technos, told him to make a game that would appeal to an international audience (because Renegade was too Japanese). Thus, Double Dragon was born.
What a thought! A developer based a fighting game around all the fights he got into as a kid. And he wasn’t allowed to express his “creativity.” He had to make sure the game would not be off-putting to other regions. I wish developers would adopt this ’80s mindset nowadays.
Video games may not be Hollywood, but they are show business. Show business requires zing. You don’t put boring people on the stage. Boring people don’t write great plays. Boring people are not great composers. Only interesting people are.
When you were in school, the interesting people were people who weren’t the nerds. They were people who got into trouble or did things they weren’t supposed to (like spend class time programming games into their calculator, something I did as well as Satoru Iwata).
In order to be a game developer in the 80s meant you were insane. There was no ‘industry’. Who would buy these ‘games’? And keep in mind the early 80s had the massive console crash which meant anyone making video games was an even bigger fool. Game developers were the rogues, the hotheads, the unknown geniuses. Game developers were not the ‘class A’ student who has all his ducks in a row for ‘fantastic career’.
What I fear today is that since gaming has become ‘industrialized’, it is hiring ‘nerds’ and ‘normal people’. These people worked really hard in school just so they can make games for a living. Of course, the people who first made games neglected school so they could make games. As Miyamoto said, “Even I couldn’t get hired into Nintendo today.”
What I also find interesting is that these early game developers were all about youthful brashness. Now they are old man managers where their viewpoint is now to hire people without that youthful brashness. This is my hypothesis as to why companies like Nintendo are unable to find new ‘geniuses’ from their younger employees.
You want to know what is really crazy? Look at the employees who worked at Atari when Nolan Bushnell was still there. They were all extremely young. I don’t think one was older than 30. Bushnell literally hired them off the street. Some were escaping the Vietnam War (they’d rather use their engineering skills to make games, not bombs). They had beards so thick you couldn’t see their faces. They smoked marijuana during work. When Bushnell was trying to find investors, imagine these suit and tie people coming to Atari to find these kids not wearing any shoes tinkering with electronics. Perhaps the most interesting employee was a college drop-out who was spouting philosophy and desiring to shave his head and travel to India. This loser was Steve Jobs.
When someone said something couldn’t be done, people found a way to do it. Did Capcom’s employees give up when told they couldn’t make a sequel to Mega Man? Their youthful brashness made them do Mega Man 2 anyway. And the world is much richer for it.