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Equality in Game Credits

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In the metroidvania-esque 2D brawler Guacamelee, everyone is just like the protagonist Juan: a luchador. That is, everyone appearing in the ending credits is treated equal. There are, to my big surprise, no official titles displayed. Instead, everyone is awarded a typical Mexican wrestling-style nickname, in line with the atmosphere of the game itself:

I wonder whether they call each other like that in the office. Ey, Muchacha! Mucho gusto un café!

This is fairly atypical in a video game. Now that I think about it, I haven’t ever encountered something like this in any Japanese-produced game (feel free to prove me wrong). Those credits are usually very tightly conducted. Take a look at the Wario Land 3 ending scene, for example, where—of course—the “director” appears first as the most important person, usually followed by the second in command (“director QA engineering”, senior department advisor", “certification manager”, “department assistant”, …).

Programmers are next in line with this simple Game Boy game.

I suppose this is also a cultural difference, although here in the west, we also love—perhaps even unrespectful—bragging. The recent Nintendo Switch release Metroid Dread brought unfair removal of accreditation back to the table after some MercurySteam devs were left out. According to multiple journalists, this is a common problem in the game industry. For me, websites like Mobygames are a blessing because they try to actively hunt down and list everyone involved. But now we know that those lists can be quite incomplete.

This is something I also see in academia: sometimes the one with the biggest mouth gets to be the first author of the paper, and sometimes important contributors are left out because it doesn’t suit the other authors' agenda. This can have devastating consequences in the publish or perish culture: many appealing job positions require x publications within y years. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case within the games industry or we’d end up with a lot of garbage—just like most academic papers.

Of course, excluding someone is a whole new level of unfairness. Which makes the Guacamelee credit scene all the more remarkable: thanks to the absence of a title, everyone is treated equally cool. Sure, El Gran Artista is probably one of the graphics artists, and El Banjo Lucido most likely a music composer, but there is no “senior” and “junior” badge with all of the emotional consequences attached. Which Japanese and big non-indie companies usually do. I’m sure this initiative starts out of respect, but it’s hard to deny that jealousy will follow.

It seems that most gamers don’t even bother reading the ending credits. The following credits-related internet searchers are popular:

  • How to skip ending credits of x (“can I press a button and get over with it”);
  • Is there a post-credit scene in x (“should I leave it on and go for a smoke”);
  • Top 20 game ending credits (“are some scenes cool to watch—not read”).

Some game devs put in a lot of effort for those who do sit through it. Some tackle the problem by starting with the credits instead of ending with it. But the question that remains is: does anyone care about the class differences? Why should a senior member be literally placed above the junior member (when the text scrolls from bottom to top, like in the above Wario Land example), and not simply besides them?

Why can’t in life everyone be a luchador? I think that’s a very heartwarming message Drinkbox Studios has sent into the world—I hope someone else besides me noticed. And they’re being consistent: in their latest game, Nobody Saves the World, everyone is listed under “Drinkbox Team”, again without title (or cool nickname). See for yourself:

The first portion of Nobody Saves The World's credits.

The inevitable order of appearance probably still matters, but hey, gotta start somewhere. Yet on their website about page, “lead” and “senior” prepositions suddenly make a reappearance. Strange. The urge for recognition can be a strange beast.

If you know of other game developers that put in effort to credit everyone involved equally, please let me know so I can add a reference here!

Addendum 22th April: Simon reached out and mentioned Undertale as a standout example. Each enemy in the game is listed together with the artists that have helped shape that particular enemy. See the True pacifist credit scene on YouTube.

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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