GDC founder claims the player "has not changed in 30 years"

Matt Purslow

Developer and founder of GDC Chris Crawford has been reminiscing on the old days of our beloved industry, looking back to the very first computers and how games have evolved over time. Has much changed? “What the player does has not changed in 30 years,” he said. Read on for more details.

Whilst things have not changed for the player, being a developer certainly has. “Back then to be a game programmer, you had to be a hero,” said Crawford. “You had to do everything! People in the game industry were basically working alone. We didn't know each other.” This sense of isolation from the rest of the developer community convinced Crawford to establish GDC in 1988. “And it seems as though I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, because you are certainly not alone right now!” he joked.

“There was a lot of crap back then. Really bad games, but there was also a lot of diversity,” he said. Comparing them to modern titles, Crawford notes a distinct lack of variety in today's games. “When you're putting millions of dollars into a game, you can't afford to be too creative.”

Crawford reminded his audience of his first law of software development: “Whenever you sit down to design a game, throughout the entire process, you must repeatedly ask yourself 'What does the user do?'” He pointed out that since gamers play, rather than watch or listen, that the 'doing' is the most important aspect.

Crawford drew comparisons between old and new titles, noting that the core mechanics of platformers, shooters, and strategy games haven't changed much. “What the player does has not changed in 30 years,” he said. “I want to be very careful here. I'm not saying that modern games are no better than ancient games,” he added.

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