It’s rare to find someone that not only enjoys what they do but lives for it.
The video game industry has been built on great ideas, chances and hard work. Many great games have come from developers who have taken chances or companies who have pushed to constantly outdo the competition and themselves. Mark Cerny is one such developer.
He’s devoted his life to gaming for over the last 30 years and he’s worked on some of the games that many of us grew up on. He’s worked on titles as far back as Marble Madness, Missile Defense 3D, the classic California Games and many more throughout the years. Mr. Cerny is a man who started as a programmer and worked his way up to designer and is now one of the top consultants in the industry. If there is anything the gaming community could benefit from it’s more people like Mark Cerny, a man whose career has helped shape an entire industry as we see it today.
Mark Cerny’s first game was s a combination of producer and designer on Disruptor, a supercharged futuristic first person shooter that debuted on the original PlayStation and was received quite well, especially for a time where first person titles were not seen much on consoles. While Disruptor was good game that everyone should take the time to check out, it is not what most of us would know him for.
"As a teenager he’d already began to work on the idea of developing a 3D RPG title with his brother in the mid 1970’s. He and his brother never finished the game, unfortunately."
Many of us know Cerny through The Crash Bandicoot series. This single player platformer that was released back in the hay days of the first PlayStation. Furthermore, he produced three platformers and a racing gaming, called Crash Bash for the Crash Bandicoot franchise. Gamer may also recognize his work from Spyro the Dragon series, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet and Clank. He’s got a great list of games he’s been no small part of and has helped create some wonderful experiences for many gamers out there that people are still enjoying to this day.
It’s exciting to have a man like this who has stuck around the industry for so long. The highly competitive industry has burned through its fair share of great developers as well as their companies. Mark Cerny has not only hung around, but made real contributions to the industry with not only his games but with his ideology in game development. Most of which are from behind the scenes.
In 2004 Mark Cerny was recognized for his achievements by the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) for a lifetime achievement award. It’s no wonder that he received this award. As a teenager he’d already began to work on the idea of developing a 3D RPG title with his brother in the mid 1970’s. He and his brother never finished the game, unfortunately.
One of the reasons it never became a completed title was because the game that the two had envisioned could not be made at the time. Technology hadn’t yet progressed to the point of true, in-depth 3D processing. At such a young age he already was showing signs of great foresight and drive to have the gaming industry advance much further than what he could see in front of him. At 17 years old, he went on to work for Atari and then in 1994, he made his way to Universal’s game development studio, making a name for himself as well as working on his own process of designing games that will later prove to be invaluable to him.
When Crash Bandicoot was released, it exploded and became the most popular title at the time for Sony’s PlayStation. He then followed up, helping to develop games in no small way for the PlayStation 2. Mark Cerny was a very powerful force in re-imagining the development process for console games. He came up with ways to flesh out and test ideas that his development teams had and see if they were something that the general public was interested in.
"Mark Cerny has a wonderfully complete view of the gaming industry, he’s worked in so many different facets of the industry, from Engine programmer, to developer, designer producer and finally as a consultant."
He’d essentially come up with a way to maximize development ideas, without having to completely develop a game and waste countless amounts of time and money chasing down a vision that just were not being accepted by the gaming community. While they were little more than tech demos not even meant for the public eye, these previews gave developers and producers an idea of what was and what was not working for mechanics, storytelling and overall design.
His vision and life long dedication to the gaming industry has helped shape consoles like the PlayStation 3 directly and the games we’ve all played on it. Titles like Killzone and Resistance have helped make him a name in the industry. With the PS3 he could see the console market directly competing with the PC market, where 3D rendering and graphics would be on par if not better in some cases than on the PC. This vision has helped carry him to working with Sony on the PS4 and even an upcoming title for the new console called Knack, where the player takes control over a living construct that evolves and learns as he helps to protect the human race.
Mark Cerny’s colorful development path has certainly groomed him for a lucrative career that he’s worked his way into now. He’s been a part of Sony’s PS4 plans as an Design Architect and no doubt has helped shape up the upcoming console into what we’ve seen thus far. Mark Cerny has a wonderfully complete view of the gaming industry, he’s worked in so many different facets of the industry, from Engine programmer, to developer, designer producer and finally as a consultant that he not only knows what it takes to make a stable and technologically impressive game, but also an immersive, satisfying and thrilling game.
"Cerny took the initiative by speaking with game developers years before the console will release to get some idea of what they need in a next generation system."
That is why he was a perfect choice as the lead architect on the PlayStation 4. With intimate knowledge of the industry and a love for gaming, he has a great view of the game development process as a complete entity. All this combined with his unique position as a consultant allows him to have the flexibility and fresh view that Sony needs for their new hardware.
Sony has taken a fresh approach to the development of the PS4 with Cerny at the helm. Cerny took the initiative by speaking with game developers years before the console will release to get some idea of what they need in a next generation system. This helped define the system before Sony really knew what direction they were going to take the PS4 in.
The PS4’s community designed approach is something that Mr. Cerny had been pushing from the beginning, something to bring gamers together, he clearly has a vision for the future of gaming and for Sony. He sees the trends in gaming and has a good idea of where the market is moving, and he supports the small indie developers, since this is how he himself started as a teenager.
Not every idea that he’s had has been gold though and Cerny will tell people about it. He is grounded and remembers the ideas that he had that were not exactly accepted by the community or developers. He speaks about long hours traveling, and presenting information to a variety of people. He remembers being openly booed at conventions and faced negative feedback by producers and developers alike.
"While it may be companies that get the recognition and profits for great games, it’s people like Mark Cerny that turn these dreams, and ideas into a reality for everyone to enjoy."
Instead of taking it as an insult like most would, he looks at these reactions as a passion for a product and technology he loves as well as a chance to improve on things that are out there now, as well as what’s going to be coming in the future. He’s willing to adjust his views and correct things as necessary even after all these years.
It’s this mixed bag of responses coupled with all of his experience that makes Mark Cerny a mogul in the gaming industry, a unique blend of experience, vision, patience and downright obsessive commitment to his passions that has delivered us countless hours of entertainment and enjoyment. While some companies or developers look at gaming a simply a form of entertainment and a way to make money, Mr. Cerny looks at gaming as a way of life, a piece of a person’s identity by which they at least partially define themselves with their hobby.
The dedication that he has exhibited to the industry is nothing short of inspiring and we could absolutely use more men and women in the industry with even half his vision and experience. While it may be companies that get the recognition and profits for great games, it’s people like Mark Cerny that turn these dreams, and ideas into a reality for everyone to enjoy.