With Michael Jackson passing away this weekend and the non stop tributes on TV over the weekend I got to thinking about who the Michael Jackson of the video industry was. Ignoring the rumors of odd behavior and questions about in-proprietary with children, Michael Jackson was an artist who's music reached a lot of people. There are millions of people out there who have fond memories tied to his music and/or music videos and while the video game industry isn't as pervasive as the music industry is there are certainly game designers out there that will generate a significant amount of mourning when they pass on.
The three big names I came up with were Nolan Bushnell, Will Wright, and Shigeru Miyamoto. All three had significant roles in the early development of the video game industry and all three have some name recognition outside the game industry.
Bushnell makes the list for his work on the Atari 2600, one of the biggest mainstream consoles of all time and I think a lot of Gen-X folks are going to feel the sting when he passes. Will Wright would make the list simply for his work on The Sims
series but it's easy to forget his work before that on games like Raid on Bungling Bay
and Sim City
Shigeru though, seems to stand head and shoulders above those two (and everyone else I could think of) as he's behind Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Star Fox, and a host of other games. He's easily the most worshiped name inside the industry but I do wonder how much name recognition he gets without Mario attached to it. Everyone has played one of his titles or played a game influenced by a Miyamoto title and he's almost universally loved.
The thing that's sticking in my craw is that it's too easy of an answer and it feels like I'm overlooking someone. Also on my short list were Richard Garriott and John Carmack but that's more personal bias than anything else. Let me know in the comments who I've overlooked and if Shigeru is the guy or not for out industry.