Some hastily-written thoughts about Creator Appreciation week for Blaugust.

Creator Appreciation 2023

964 words.

Creator Appreciation 2023

It’s Creator Appreciation Week in Blaugust, formerly known as Developer Appreciation Week, so I thought I’d do something very unusual this morning: Write a blog post about it.

It’s possible I may have posted these exact thoughts before, but I don’t remember.

I never understood the concept of the Developer Appreciation Week in past Blaugusts. I’m a software developer by trade, so when I think about appreciation for the work of game developers, I think about appreciation for the work of a programmer, or general IT engineer, and I have no visibility into the work of any programmers in modern games.

In olden times (the 1990s), it was easy to see the fruits of a game programmer’s efforts. Doom, for example, put the work of realtime 3D-to-2D mathematical translation on full display, and we could all celebrate John Carmack’s pioneering work on it.

Not so much today. The modern day game programmer, as is the modern day anything programmer, is probably just tying existing libraries together, and not writing a lot of original algorithms. Most all of the algorithms we need for day-to-day programming have already been written.

The original work that we see and hear on display in modern games is more the work of artists. We hear the work of voice actors and sound designers and musicians. We see the work of 3D modellers and texture artists. We read the work of the writers. Most of them, except the voice actors and musicians–who, for some historical reason, are more worthy of fame than any of the others–are largely unknown to me.

The development of a modern game is usually an orchestration of people, which is a human resources and management problem, and also something I have no visibility into. I have no idea which game developer studios have cultivated a healthy, collaborative, productive working environment and which ones haven’t, until or unless some games journalist writes an investigative piece.

I can’t think of very many game studios that consistently produce games that are the best of the best. From Software and Naughty Dog come to mind. That’s about it. Naughty Dog recently got in trouble for being too demanding of their employees, so I probably shouldn’t even mention them. It’s only a matter of time before From Software gets in trouble for something, but, since they are a Japanese company, different cultural standards apply.

As for Creator Appreciation, that’s a wide open can of worms.

I personally am enthralled by the work of voice actors, and I think it’s one of the most amazing human creative skills imaginable. The ability to make a human larnyx and throat muscles sound different from the way it was born sounding is a magic trick to me. In the same way that singing is a magic trick, except it’s so much more complex than that. When I listen to voice actors in a game, I’m listening to their accents, the way they pronounce and enunciate words, the cadence of their speech, the pitch, the part of the throat they’re using … a lot of times I actually miss the content of the dialog they’re saying because I’m so focused on how they’re saying it.

There’s too many good voice actors to mention, though. Everybody knows the famous ones by now, surely. But sometimes I hear a particularly good or interesting voice in a game and look up who it is and it’s somebody I’ve never heard of. Whoever voiced Zixzax in Divinity: Original Sin springs to mind. What an amazing kaliedascope of sound and music that voice is, almost certainly inspired by Frank Welker’s Mxyzptlk from the old 80s cartoons, a voice I still remember from when I was a kid.

I also spare a lot of thought for the work of sound designers in games. However, it’s usually when I’m annoyed that they place sound effects louder in the mix than voices, which is “the industry standard” now, thanks to Christopher Nolan I guess. One of the first things I do in modern games is turn down the sound effects volume to something like 50-60% while the dialog volume goes all the way to 100%, and that, to my ear, achieves the right balance between the two.

But other than that, I do appreciate a good ambient soundscape. In Baldur’s Gate 3, the ambient nature sounds are noticably good. They sound like someone actually took the time to record high-quality nature sounds and weave them together, rather than just cutting-and-pasting in an off-the-shelf ambient loop from The Best Ambient Sounds For Games Volume 47.

As for “Creators” in the modern sense of the word, meaning streamers and YouTubers and TikTokers, there’s a small handful of creators I return to regularly. Pitch Meetings and/or Ryan George, Viva La Dirt League, Critical Role. Dimension 20 and other shows from the College Humor alum on Recently I found Sam Riech’s TikTok which has some interesting stuff on it. I like his style of cerebral and absurd comedy, which is why I tend to enjoy most things he corrals on (WTF 101 and Ultramechatron Team Go! are among my favorite short-lived shows if you have a chance to see them, which I think are largely from the twisted mind of Mike Trapp.) I generally only watch things that look and sound like professionally-produced television content.

There’s too many to mention. I tend to graviate toward original content I’ve never seen before, and strongly avoid copycat content. The number of times I click “burn this channel and never show it to me again” on my YouTube front page for reaction videos and anything that’s just a lazy copy of a clip from Critical Role is absurd.

Okay that’s it. I’m tired of writing; I’ve got stuff to do.

Note: Comments are disabled on older posts.