Every bright-eyed gamer remembers what it was like to first stomp on a goomba in Super Mario, what it felt like to first step through a blue portal in Portal, or even how it felt to finally don the HEV suit in Half Life. These moments are iconic enough to inspire any young gamer to pursue a career in game design, but how did the minds behind those games start out? Where do the rock stars of game design begin their careers?
Following are the stories of three of gaming’s biggest video game developers and their start in the industry.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the incredibly inventive Japanese developer behind Super Mario and many other Nintendo titles, initially had no idea he wanted to work in the gaming industry. When he graduated from the Kanazawa College of Art in 1975, he had no idea where he was headed. As fate would have it, Miyamoto found himself hired by Nintendo of Japan to paint arcade cabinets.
After Nintendo found failure with arcade title Radar Scope, they commissioned Miyamoto with converting the game into something entirely new. Miyamoto hit the task head-on and came out with the arcade hit Donkey Kong.
From there, Miyamoto’s role in Nintendo only grew and he worked on a number of different titles. Miyamoto utilized the memories of his childhood, roaming the forests and city around his house, to create some of his most memorable titles like Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros.
Miyamoto continues to be a beacon of inspiration for all game design students for his unique vision and dedication to each project he develops. Without Miyamoto’s contributions to gaming, the industry may not be anything close to what it is today.
Gabe Newell made millions before entering the gaming industry. Best known for founding Valve Software and creating the Half Life series, Newell worked for Microsoft Corporation for nearly 13 years before even considering a step into the gaming industry. After watching a fellow employee leave Microsoft to work on id Software’s Quake, Newell took his money and founded Valve Corporation.
Newell and partner Mike Harrington used their Microsoft money to privately fund the development and release of Half-Life. Once the game was released in 2000, money began to flow for Newell and he quickly expanded his company. In 2003, Valve released the initial build of Steam, which would turn into one of the most influential pieces of digital distribution software on the market.
Newell turned his career in the technology world into an entire company and has quickly risen to the top of the gaming industry as a result. As of March 2012, Forbes estimates that Newell’s net worth has risen to upwards of $1.5 billion.
Kim Swift may have perused a site just like this just a few years ago, as she stands as one of the success stories out of DigiPen Institute of Technology. Swift and a group of DigiPen graduates created a game called Narbacular Drop which featured ground-breaking portal gameplay mechanics. Gamers shot portals onto walls and went through them, using momentum and various other mechanics to progress through levels.
Swift’s game was then presented to Valve and the aforementioned Gabe Newell was so impressed that he himself invited Swift and her team for hire. Once there, Swift and the team of DigiPen game design graduates developed the amazingly successful Portal. After working with Valve on a few other titles, Swift left the company to join an independent developer, Airtight Games.
She continued to work on mind-bending puzzlers there as well with her work on Quantum Conundrum.
Kim Swift is the epitome of the gaming dream. From work as a game design student, to working for gaming billionaire Gabe Newell, to creating her own title at Airtight Games.
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