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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Game Programming is a Thankless Job. That's Wrong.

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - We want to hear from game programmers!

I have to admit that I may have given the wrong impression about my feeling towards a very important class of gaming industry employees: the programmers. Between me saying that programmers are kill-joys in the Team Art vs. Team Science Splatfest, to me being critical of STEM education initiatives, I have not painted a very supportive picture of programmers in the videogame industry.

To be fair to myself, not that I really deserve it since I truly feel a bit regretful about this, I did write an article on Satoru Iwata and his programming feats with regards to Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. The ending paragraph to that article sort of sums up the message I want to reiterate for this article:
“Oh, one other thing. The point is not that Iwata is the best programmer ever. There are tons of great programmers in the videogame industry. The reason everyone makes a big deal out of it is that he's a programming president in an industry where a lot of the heads of companies are businessmen, not industry veterans from the trenches. Let's not forget that there are thousands of “lowly” programmers who solve problems in the game industry each and every day and will never get the recognition that Satoru Iwata receives.”

For this article, I want to briefly discuss the conditions that relegate programmers to the background.

First of all, programmers aren't ever the leader of a big gaming project. That's the producer, and then the head game designer (think a Masahiro Sakurai or Shigeru Miyamoto). It's the visionary idea man that commands the public attention. The guys who actually make it happen, like GameArts and Namco-Bandai for Sakurai's latest Super Smash Bros. projects are referred to with names like “code-monkeys” while we're worried about Masahiro Sakurai's health and mental state.

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door TEC Grodus Peach cutscene no time to be worrying about a computer
We want to fight back against Grodus's philosophy.
If now is not the time, then when will it be? Programmers should be honoured, tonight!

Sometimes all-star music composers get credit too, like Yoko Shimomura or Koji Kondo. Occasionally, a voice actor will get credit, even though they're not really important and they're likely to be a communist. They get credit since they're free-lancers and can afford to go out and generate some press for themselves. A company programmer has to toe that company line and have the press pay attention to the games, not the people. Games sell. People stopped selling 150 years ago.

It's the programmers who need to solve hard-ass computer science problems and dilemmas and break new ground with the technology in the games. As of now, people only acknowledge them if something goes wrong, like the presence of a bug or glitch. No one appreciates the hard work that goes into developing novel possibilities. Where would be the appropriate venue to give tribute to gaming programmers?

There is also the idea that programmers go into programming BECAUSE they want a low-profile job. Certainly, not everyone wants to be in the public eye. Especially with the state of the industry where you got morons on two different extremes making big issues out of nothing and harassing members of gaming companies.

That said, to answer the question before the previous paragraph, KoopaTV is perfectly willing to interview any game company employee, especially programmers, on their experiences or anything else they want to sound off about. You could be anonymous, pseudonymous, or fully named. Whatever makes you comfortable. We want to shed some light on your underappreciated profession. There simply is not enough content on the Internet really going deep on this kind of game programming stuff. It's all so vague and high-level. How about some real, in-the-trenches stories that the public just doesn't know about?

That might get the programmers some thanks once people appreciate how difficult their jobs are.

Feel free to e-mail info(at) to set up an interview with KoopaTV's staff. If you really want, you could even write a whole guest article all by yourself, about yourself! (Or some other topic. KoopaTV isn't picky.)


  1. I made a simple Pong game on Scratch once. I'm basically only a few decades away from being a high-end programmer.

  2. Not just "game programming," but programming in general.

    I've recently talked with Best Buy support, to ask if they could change my order to pick-up from shipping (it hasn't shipped yet). After what was supposed to be a two-minute attempt turning to five, the support representative got her supervisor to attempt to change the order to "pick-up." However, neither were able to change it. That day, I was mad at the programmers, the item hasn't shipped, nor was said to be "Prepared to ship." Just "prepared."

    As a side note, I wanted to try the Super Mario Odyssey demo kiosk, but that wasn't working either (a fault on the technicians more). By that point, I accepted my fate to wait until Wednesday afternoon/night.

    Simply put, if you work behind-the-scenes, you're probably going to get all the blame.

    1. It is true for programming in general...
      ...I just wanted this article to be game-related.

      You could extend it to all behind-the-scenes people, but the programmers are special because unlike an on-site technician, who has to work with whatever technology they're given, the programmers made the thing.


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