'Generation gap will hurt studios,' says Seamus Blackley

'Generation gap will hurt studios,' says Seamus Blackley
Michael French

By Michael French

April 9th 2009 at 10:06AM

Xbox co-creator turned developers' agent says industry needs to keep looking for stars of tomorrow

The man who co-created Microsoft's games console and now brokers big talent deals between headline development personalities and publishers like EA has warned of a generation gap facing the industry talent base.

Speaking at the VentureBeat-hosted GamesBeat event running alongside last months' GDC, Seamus Blackley - the former Xbox man and former Develop columnist, now head of Hollywood agency CAA's games division - urged the industry to 'reclaim' the lost generation of game designers.

"There's a whole generation of games designer that is is absent - it's like the World War One 19 year-olds ,they've vanished. The Will Wrights, the Warren Spectors, the Sid [Meiers], the Tim Schaffers - we can give those guys what they want, and do large deals for them. But there is no generation after them," he said.

He dismissed the games industry's current ways of finding new talent amongst graduates, suggesting that approaches like 'taking three great graduates and putting them to work on the next Godfather game' squanders their potential.

"That [approach is] a fine business decision, but the perspective for us is that it is a much better idea to take these three guys who perhaps have a beautiful idea and a different way of working, protect them a little bit as they build up a new idea and a new way of looking at things and a new way of design - and a few years from now they will be a much better business," Blackley explained.

"In the '90s there was no mechanism to do that - and we lost a generation of designers. I think its important we look to reclaim that new generation. And for a variety of reasons; there aren't that many Will Wrights in the world so at CAA I have to grow my business somehow!"

But the comments came not just as a pitch to explain why CAA was carving a place for developers to have the kind of agents usually boasted by thesps - it was part of a wider message in which he said the industry must continually look to improve itself, and keep shaking off the preconceptions put on it by those outside the games industry - something that seems relevant given his new role in Hollywood.

"Just as a lot of people in games view the movie business as this unstoppable cloud of money people in the movie business think the same thing about the games business," he said of his experiences at CAA.

Likewise, he said this thinking had informed his previous venture, the games funding outfit CEG which was founded to 'make game funding painless'.

"At Xbox I realised, along with Kevin Bachus, that there was no way the industry was going to step up and keep making the interesting ideas that grew the industry to the weight it was at," he said, again referencing how the industry's expansion has also led to an oppression of new talent.

In all, he said the games industry must make sure it doesn't fall into bad habits: "Great projects happen when a lot of people put a lot of effort into making them happen. Previously these happened organically but as the model matures and the industry around that matures people become set in their ways."