February 4th 2016 at 12:30PM
UPDATED February 5th 2016 at 12:14PM
Billy Langsworthy takes a look at why toy and game inventors don’t get the same limelight as movie directors, pop stars and other creators of mass entertainment.
I saw The Hateful 8 the other night, and as ‘The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino’ appeared on screen, it got me thinking about how we credit creators in our industry.
Toys and games, along with video games, seem to be the a medium that isn’t too fussy about putting its creators front and centre.
On the toy side of things, I can understand it. The main audience for most toys is young kids and I can’t imagine many little ones sat through Inside Out waiting to see the ‘directed by’ credit. It also explains why most kids films don’t bother sticking a ‘directed by’ credit in its opening sequence, typical example below:
I had a chat with our columnist Richard Heayes on this and he made the point that toys are also closely alligned to consumer goods and in the same way that you don’t look at most things on your desk and ask ‘who designed that?’, that same is true of most people with toys.
On the game front, things are slightly different.
A game like Jenga is just as much embedded in the cultural lexicon as a movie like Pulp Fiction or an album like Abbey Road or even one hit wonders. Everyone knows who directed Pulp Fiction and who recorded Abbey Road and even who Chesney Hawkes is, but I’m not sure many outside of our industry knows the name Leslie Scott, or Charles Darrow, or Rena Nathanson.
There are sensible reasons for this of course. At the likes of the biggest firms, there’s often such a process of collaboration and teamwork on titles that any form of official credit just wouldn’t work. There’s also the issue of a firm’s designer being poached if they were splashed all over a hit game and, perhaps the major reason, there’s no real reason for firms to list designers when most toys and games are sold under the popularity of major brand names.
The truth is that putting a game’s creator on the box won’t do much to shift sales, especially if they’re an unknown name to the public.
However, the situation does change when you get to Eurogames and deeper strategy games.
Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride all list their creator’s on the box, and sometimes even the title’s artist, and it makes sense. The games are closer aligned to literature in detail and the audience for these sorts of games are passionate fans who, and I’m generalising here, are more invested in these titles than casual gamers are for something like Hungry Hungry Hippos.
As the listings on BoardGameGeek can testify, Knowing a bit about the behind the scenes of these games are all part of parcel of the process in the same way that a Tarantino fan might engage with the extras on a Reservoir Dogs Blu-ray.
But should the same ethos apply to more casual titles, a space brimming with indie talent.
Look at Schmovie, a great game made by the Brooklyn-based duo of Sara Farber and Bryan Wilson. While their company name, Galactic Sneeze, makes an appearance in the top right hand corner of the box, you have to travel to the murky depths of the ‘choking hazard’ panel to find a credit for them. The same is true of Stephen Wilson’s first foray into the game space with the wonderfully titled Go F**k Your-Self.
There are exceptions. Office favourite In a Bind carries ‘by Bez’ on the cover of its box, along with a self portrait of the man himself.
In our experience, toy and game inventors have just as much personality as the Quentin Tarantino’s of this world, but with noticably less ego. And that’s perhaps another key reason. While the worlds of music, film and TV are brimming with talent well versed in blowing their own trumpets, the toy and game inventor community seems to be a far more humble beast.
And while these mediums rely on star power to bring in the crowds, in our business, it’s gameplay and play value, rather than ‘starring Brad Pitt’, that draws the crowds.
Still, as champions of this community, we can’t help but hold a candle for the day when a title comes out with ‘The 8th Game By Bez’ on the box.
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