OK, the term gamer is pretty fluid these days. With every cell phone now a mobile game machine and even Mom slinging the occasional bowling ball on Wii Sports, there are more gamers than ever before. But what happens when you hang out with gaming fanatics–the people who go to conventions or can hold a 30-minute conversation about mana use? Well, if defenestration from the nearest window is not an option and you don’t want to look like a noob you’ve got another choice! Find ways to introduce the following 10 major players in the electronic gaming world into the conversation. Consider this your personal Konami cheat code to holding your own with the original tribe.
1. Shigeru Miyamoto
A longtime Nintendo game designer and creator of some of the most iconic series in video-game history, including Super Mario, the Legend of Zelda, StarFox, Kirby and, of course, Mole Mania. Miyamoto’s focus always has been creating games with simple mechanics that all ages could play and enjoy. He is largely responsible for much of Nintendo’s global success and its almost universally family-friendly image. But if you asked him, Miyamoto would probably say his greatest accomplishment was being a dad. Probably.
Sample Usage: “You know, if you try saying Shigeru Miyamoto’s name backward it sounds like absolute gibberish.”
2. John Romero
An early American game designer whose long, lustrous hair put even Hulk Hogan to shame. Romero was one of the creative forces behind such early US computer hits as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and other games that politicians regularly blame for what’s wrong with this country. After helping create the violent but fun first-person shooter genre, Romero went on to make several games that were violent and not fun. Despite promising his game Daikatana would “make you his bitch” in ads, the game was actually so broken and poorly designed it made you want to play outside or contribute meaningfully to society. Today, Romero is the creative force behind such killer apps as Pettington Park.
Sample Usage: “John Romero still owes me 40 bucks!”
3. Gabe Newell
The roly-poly billionaire founder of Valve Corporation, a gaming juggernaut. After earning a small fortune at Microsoft, Newell and others founded Valve and produced the blockbuster Half-Life. But Newell’s real innovation was developing Steam, a game distribution platform where big players and small indie developers could sell their products. Flush with enough cash to buy an election, Newell now has Valve tackling virtual reality, and producing its own console. The guys smart enough to drop out of Harvard just have all the luck, I guess.
Sample Usage: “Sure the economy is getting better, but it’s not Gabe Newell better.”
4. Tim Schafer
The writer and programmer of several classic LucasArts adventure games, including The Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Schafer has been a loud and proud voice for small-budget independent titles and games that emphasize story and deeper characters. He gained attention for sidestepping the usual big publishers and getting his game funded directly by fans via a Kickstarter campaign.
Sample Usage: “Oh, I think that’s Tim Schafer! Tim! Hey, Tim! Tim Shafer! Oh, wait, that’s not Tim Shafer.”
5. Ken Levine
After failing to become a screenwriter, Ken Levine got into computers. At a time when most shooter game storylines could be boiled down to “shoot until everything has been shot,” Levine attempted to inject more engrossing plots, characters and an awful lot of text. Levine has a penchant for M. Night Shyamalan-esque midgame plot twists and inserting the equivalent of a Sociology 101 lesson into his game worlds. His most famous game, BioShock, takes place in an underwater objectivist dystopia. The lesson? Don’t live in an underwater objectivist dystopia.
Sample Usage: “If Ken Levine wanted my money he should have invented Pokémon Crystal.”
6. Sid Meier and Will Wright
Sid Meier and Will Wright are pioneers of strategy games in which the player exercises god-like powers to screw around with large masses of people, animals or alien spores. Will Wright developed the Sim franchise, which includes the municipal disaster generator SimCity. He was also the mind behind The Sims, in which players could create fantasy families and kill them in any number of sadistic ways. Sid Meier gave us Sid Meier’s Pirates, Sid Meier’s Civilization and other games he wants you to know are his. He also plays the organ at his church. Neato!
Sample Usage: “If Sid Meier and Will Wright had a baby together it would probably have been adopted, because dudes cannot conceive children.”
7. Billy Mitchell
The longtime holder of the world records in points earned for Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, and extremely proud of it. Considered an arcade wunderkind, Mitchell starred as the real-life villain of the 2007 documentary The King of Kong, in which a mild-mannered sad sack attempts to break Mitchell’s record, because what else are you going to do if you are a mild-mannered sad sack? When not being an asshole to Joe Everymen in documentaries, Mitchell runs a chain of restaurants and sells hot sauce.
Sample Usage: “What’s wrong with the Scion? Billy Mitchell drives a Scion!”
8. Phil Fish
A Quebecois indie game designer, Fish was one of the primary subjects of the hit documentary Indie Gamer: The Movie, along with Jonathan Blow, Tommy Refenes and several other names that you don’t really need to remember. Phil’s game Fez was considered a critical and commercial success, and gave Fish an excuse to wear a fez for press events. More recently he’s become known for heated arguments with perceived critics on Twitter, which culminated in Mr. Fish publicly exiting the game industry entirely. He might still be on Facebook though!
Sample Usage: “I always thought Phil Fish was the StarKist Tuna mascot, but apparently he’s a real person.”
9. Tom Clancy
The recently deceased best-selling author of novels steeped in military jargon, cloak-and-dagger espionage and Cold War thrills. Many of his books and characters have been adapted to the silver screen, but his name has also be slapped on several major game franchises, including Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon. Although each of these series had different characters, stories and gameplay mechanics, they all shared the universal Clancy staple of a mission in which the hero has only seconds to stop a nuclear missile launch that threatens the fate of the free world! Clancy may have even played one of these games at some point.
Sample Usage: “Tom Clancy games are proof that video games based on best-selling books can still have no plot.”
10. Aerith Gainsborough
The last member of the race of ancients who once protected the planet in the Japanese role-playing game Final Fantasy VII. She joins the player’s party early in the game and assists in helping to draw upon the life force of the planet to stop the apocalypse. Her death at the hands of arch villain Sephiroth early in the game is considered one of the most surprising and emotional death scenes in gaming history. Rumors have persisted that the character could be resurrected, proving that her demise continues to have an emotional impact despite the fact she is not actually real.
Sample Usage: “I guess her official name is Aerith Gainsborough, but I’ll always remember her by the name I gave her in my game: Shithead McFartsalot!”
BONUS: Uwe Boll – A German film director who deals almost exclusively in game franchises. His films are widely known for their mature themes, high production values and universal critical praise. His non-gaming body of work includes the 2010 cultural masterpiece, Auschwitz, in which the veteran director of such classics as Blubberella and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale finally tackles the weighty subject of the Holocaust with the emotional and artistic gravitas it deser… Oh, god, he has a gun to my head! Somebody, please help me! Uwe Boll is insane! Someone’s got to stop before he releases another BloodRayne sequel or we’re all… Jesus! Don’t shoo…
Sample Usage: “Uwe Boll is national treasure. Uwe Boll deserves many Oscar. All hail Uwe Boll!”