As you enter the understated Hunt Valley, MD, studio that houses Firaxis Games, it feels like any other office. Only after you pass the front desk and see the display case overflowing with 30 or so gaming achievement awards does it really hit home: This is one of the pillars of the gaming world.
The casual feel of the studio mirrors the man responsible for its existence, Director of Creative Development and co-founder Sid Meier. Despite the legendary game designer status and a cult following to every game that bears his name, the man is as down to earth as it gets.
The Escapist: What's it like to be an icon, an institution in the gaming world?
Sid Meier: I think it's the best job you could ask for. Designing games is tons of fun; there's a lot of creativity involved. You get to work with talented people; you get to be part of an industry that is changing all the time. It's a very dynamic and exciting industry to be a part of. There are a lot of ways it's the coolest job I can imagine, outside of being a rock star. I have nothing but great feelings about the things that I've done, the things that I've worked on and the things that are still to come. I'm a happy person.
TE: As a pillar of the videogame industry, do you feel a responsibility or a need to protect or influence it?
SM: I do. I think we all have a part of making the industry what it has become and what it will become. There's a sense that we're more partners than competitors within the industry. We're trying to develop this new form of entertainment in its very formative stage. Our job is more to convince people that they should try computer games as opposed to other ways of spending their time. That's more what we're about than "play my game and don't play their game." That's not the goal.
Someone might try one of my games and it would cause them to try someone else's game or vice-versa. I'm happy when someone puts out a great game because people that enjoy that game might come back to the store in a month or two and see one of my games and say, "Oh. I guess I'll try that."
I think we're really more about helping establish computer entertainment and making it something people will really enjoy. So we do feel that we're as much part of an industry as we are a single company trying to establish ourselves. We still have some convincing to do with a large part of the population that computer games are something they might enjoy, might want to try. There's certainly a strong base of people that really like it but there's still quite a bit of room for growth. So I think that's our role.
SM: We do think strategically about what kind of people we still need to reach and how we can do that. So, every once in a while, we take a step back and take a strategic look at the industry and ask ourselves, "How can we continue this growth?" and "How can we bring the fun to more people?"