The Art of Video Games” Interview with Video Game Pioneer RJ Mical

  • The Art of Video Games exhibition is on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum until September 30, 2012.

    RJ MICAL: It used to be the case that the hardware engineers would put together cool technology and then throw it at the software guys and say, “Here, figure out what you can do with this.” And the software guys, clever guys that they are, would not only learn how to use it but they’d always try to drive it to its maximum limits. They wanted to take the system and make it bigger, make it better, and so they drove the basic design of it and evolved it into a more powerful system.

    You can have an enjoyable experience out of a very simple title. One of the things that I want to do is always keep it simple. A well-written program is not only as good as a well-written short story, but it usually is a well-written short story for me. When I go to write a program, I first write the program as comments and then fill out the code around the comments. But the comments tell the story first and they remain–I keep them updated throughout the code so that you can go and read my comments through my code and understand what my programs do. And I write my comments like I write a good book: I make sure that the sentences are good and the ideas are clear and well-formed.

    Games bring people together. We’re seeing it now accelerating with the Xbox and with the PS3 where they have this online presence that they make available for people. You know, PC games have been offering this for years now, and it allows us to create bigger communities, to know more people, to understand each other more, to get more comfortable with each other. You may not think that because you’re shooting at a guy from your trench, and he’s in his trench–but it is furthering communication, it’s furthering the development of society and community. And I think where I’m going with my own career is to create software that helps further that.