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The Games That Inspired The Year's Best Game Developers

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We asked one question to the winning game developers at last night’s Game Developers Choice and Independent Games Festival awards: “What is the one game that inspired you to go into the creation of video games?” Here’s what they said:

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games), IGF Winner for Excellence In Design

  • StarCraft. It was one of the first games where I saw a really functional map editor where you could really make far more elaborate things in terms of changing maps around. You could change the entire game. That was really exciting to me.” - Brian Fetter, Studio Co-Founder
  • “The game that inspired me to make games was Half-Life, and it was because you could modify Half-Life. And so I could do to it whatever I wanted to. I introduced a lot more Steven Seagal and Pokémon than Valve ever intended.” - Ben Kane, Studio Co-Founder

Oxenfree (Night School Studio), IGF winner for Excellence In Visual Art

  • “It was Sam & Max. I loved how funny Sam & Max was. It made me laugh out loud and not many games do that.” - Adam Hines, C0-Creative Director, Writer
  • Majora’s Mask, because I loved how dark and creepy it was... and they just took everything from [Ocarina of Time] and just twisted it with time. And you had all these relationships you needed to mend. You had to be in a certain place at a certain time.... The moon was falling and it was going to murder you. I loved the designs. It was so great.” - Heather Gross, Art Lead
  • “For me I think it was the art style [of Day of the Tentacle] that drew me in. I had never seen a game that could feel that alive and cinematic. But then the comedy too. It was just my sense of humor and helped form a lot of my creative sensibilities at the right time.” - Sean Krankel, Co-Creative Director

Cibele (Star Maid Games), winner of IGF Nuovo Award

  • “A big informative game was Pokémon Red and a lot of the cheat codes that were involved. It was the first video game I was involved with, and once I realized there was a community of people figuring out all these background things it felt really magical.” - Rebekka Dunlap, Illustrator
  • Final Fantasy X was the game that took me out of just the games that all of my friends were playing, which were all the Nintendo 64 Mario games and everything. I found Final Fantasy X in the video rental store and took it out, finished it and it basically changed my life. And now I’m here.” - Nina Freeman, Designer
  • “I don’t have an interesting answer. For me it was Super Mario 64. It was incredible as a kid to see the Mario games I played morphed into something like that. I never thought I’d be interested in programming until college.” - Emmett Butler, Software Development

Beglitched, winner for IGF Best Student Game

  • “For me it’s Locoroco for PSP. That game is so cute and adorable and something that I never really saw before in games at the time. It changed how I saw games.” - Jenny Jiao Hsia, “art stuff”
  • “Growing up, I wanted to make video games, but games that showed me ‘Wait a minute, you can be a small team and make a really cool game!’ were around 2007, 2008, Cave Story and Knytt Stories.” - Alec Thomson, “code stuff”

Her Story, winner for IGF Seumas McNally Grand Prize as well as the following Game Developer’s Choice Awards: Innovation, Best Narrative and Best Handheld/Mobile

  • “The one that I always come back to—and it wasn’t the one that inspired me but it’s the one that I’m like, ‘Oh shit I’ve been copying this game for the longest time’—is a text game [called] A Mind Forever Voyaging by Steve Meretzky. It was this text game where you’re an AI that explores a simulation of modern day world, and all the game asked you to do is walk around the city and do stuff like read a newspaper or go for a meal. And then slowly you kind of skip forward in time, and this simulation kind of fast forwards and the world kind of goes to shit. I’d never played anything like that with that kind of freedom where there weren’t puzzles or objectives or anything. We think now of the idea of a non-game or a ‘walking simulator’ but this was back in 1983 [Editor’s note: 1985; close enough!] and it had this incredible writing. It felt like the most grown-up game I’d ever played. To a kid this is like a really serious grown-up thing, and it feels so exciting and liberating. And I’ve kind of been riffing on that game ever since.” - Sam Barlow, Designer

Crypt of the Necrodancer (Brace Yourself Games), GDC winner for Best Audio

  • “I started making games when I was six on my Apple IIe. I ran out of other games. I was playing basically every game that existed back than. There was no Internet and there weren’t nearly as many games as there are now. So I started programming because I wanted more games. I guess it’s the lack of games that made me want to make even more games.” - Ryan Clark, Studio Founder

Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios), GDC winner for Best Debut and Best Visual Art

  • “It was the original Deus Ex. It was the first game where I could do whatever I want and there were multiple ways of getting through the level. They all had different consequences and different outcomes, and that was 16 years ago. Look at where we are now.” - Gareth Coker, Composer

Rocket League (Psyonix), GDC winner for Best Design

Metroid from the NES. It was an amazing game. I felt like I could almost look at it Matrix-like and break it down. Games were a lot simpler back then. You could almost see the tiles and things. The feeling of being in this massive world that was made of out of so little really inspired me. I felt like I could do that!” -Dave Hagewood, Studio Director (pictured holding the award)


Life Is Strange (Dontnod), winner of GDC Audience Award

  • “I would say honestly Donkey Kong. It’s the most faraway, removed game from Life is Strange. It is the game that inspired me. Also, Doom. It made a major impact on me in showing me that design is really important. John Romero taught me a lot about design.” - Christian Divine, Writer

The Witcher 3 (CD Projekt Red), GDC Game of the Year

  • “I was always into RPGs and my first automatic answer was Baldur’s Gate, but my friend said Fallout 1, Fallout 2 and Baldur’s Gate. For me, I think it’s mostly Fallout 1.” -Marcin Iwinski, Co-Founder

Congratulations to all the winners, whose games may someday inspire a whole new crop of game creators.

Question-asking and photo-taking by the ever-inspiring Nathan Grayson and Kirk Hamilton.