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Richard Garriott - Insult and Injury

The one-time designer of Ultima is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign. He has raised over a million dollars to add to his own personal fortune to finance a new gaming project. Richard lives in a castle and has gone to outer space. The public entertains his tasteless compulsion to refer to himself as "Lord British" and to name his house/castle "Britannia Manor". Most people in his position would have some nice things to say about the industry that has made him rich and that has coddled his adolescent fantasies for decades.

But not Richard.

During a recent interview with PC Gamer, Richard Garriott was quoted as saying "most game designers really just suck". Specifically, he said:

"You know, I go back to the day when I was the programmer, I was the artist, I was the text writer, etcetera. Every artist we've ever hired ever is infinitely better at art than I ever was. I was never a good artist, or audio engineer, or composer. I was a pretty good programmer, but now all of our programmers are better than I am—but if I’d stayed in programming I could probably keep up. But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there’s a reason why. It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer. [...] But if you’re not a good artist and not a good programmer, but you still like games, you become a designer, if you follow me. You get into Q&A and often design."

Garriott recently clarified his statement on his web site, available here (be advised its a .PDF document).

I will grant Richard this: there are a lot of bad video game designers out there. That said, there are a lot of bad waiters, bad police officers, and bad teachers too. There are bad plumbers and bad dentists.

Overall, the gaming industry has been immensely successful and has reinvented itself faster and more substantially than any non-IT related field I can think of. In 30 years we went from Donkey Kong to motion capture on the Wii and photo-realistic first person narratives like BioShock on the Xbox and PS3.

Garriott has a Kickstarter, and controversy gets attention that will help that Kickstarter. Here I am, talking about Garriott and his Kickstarter (if you are thinking about donating - don't. Set your money on fire, instead. At least it would fight inflation). But here is what I have to say: creating controversy in the hopes of lining your pockets by issuing blanket statements that diminish the work and talent of your peers is a move totally lacking in class - its a move that warrants derision. 20 years ago, Garriott designed one decent game, which was Ultima. A role playing game in an industry dominated by role playing games and those who played role playing games. Since then, Garriott has not designed anything even approaching a major success or a cutting edge reimagining of game development (remember how much you loved Tabula Rasa? Yeah I didn't think so).

After working with computers and those who work on computers for a few years now, I've noticed that those who complain the loudest and the hardest about the incompetence of their peers are usually those whose skills are lacking. They rely on their mouth to do their work instead of, well, doing their work. As one of my former colleagues put it: "There are two kinds of people: people who build and people who talk sh*t about people who build". Now we know which camp Garriott belongs to.