One of the joys of working as a game developer is experiencing the deep impact games can have on players’ lives across the world. Within the PlayStation Studios family, we often hear stories about how our games have sparked new friendships, rekindled old ones, formed life-defining memories, helped people overcome grief or inspired them to greatness.
This week, our friends in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving. And while Thanksgiving isn’t a globally recognized holiday, I couldn’t think of a better time to celebrate some of our favorite developer-fan moments. Many of the best interactions between fans and developers occur unnoticed, without spectacle.
We asked the teams at PlayStation Studios to share some poignant memories that have positively affected them. These are their stories.
“When I played Days Gone for the first time in 2019, I had no idea how it would completely change my life. Over the past two years, I began forming relationships with some of the team at Bend Studio — first, as a passionate fan through my Days Gone content. This included my personal blog focused solely on Days Gone that consisted of fan-fiction stories I wrote, interviews with the actors and dev members of Days Gone, a gallery of my in-game photo mode shots, fan art from around the community, the weeklong anniversary event and more.
I did all of this simply because I love to create and share my passion of games. Between being a father of three little ones and my full-time job where I worked in a warehouse, most of my spare time would go into creating more content and working on community events to hold in my small space on the Internet because I loved to do it. I started out as just a fan of Days Gone, but crazily enough that led to landing my dream job at Bend Studio, where Chris Reese (Studio Director) and Eric Jensen (Design Manager) gave me an opportunity to join their team and officially become the Online Community Specialist.”
– Kevin McAllister, Online Community Specialist
“For us here at Guerrilla, one of our fondest memories was when it became clear how much Aloy was going to mean to people. This became very real when people started cosplaying as Aloy before the game was even out. Cosplayers spent so much time crafting these beautiful outfits and trusting us to make Aloy everything they hoped her to be.
During one of our later playtests for Horizon Zero Dawn, we had a whole group of Aloy cosplayers over, in full costume, playing our game as Aloy, and we were all hoping that we pulled it off for them. Speaking with them afterwards, they let us know that it was an emotional experience for them, and they were thrilled with Aloy. That made us really happy, and was a special moment for me personally, as my own daughter Laura provided the voice for Baby Aloy. Laura is almost six now, and is starting to realize how cool it was to be ‘the voice of Baby Aloy’. When she’s a bit older, I will give her the beautiful Nora necklace Raven Star, one of those first few cosplayers who came to the playtest, custom made for her when Laura was barely a year old.”
– Lucas van Tol, Music Supervisor
“In 2007, Insomniac had the unique privilege to partner with the network television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to celebrate a young fan, James, and his father. I had the honor of designing an avatar so James could join forces with Ratchet to cruise the solar system while vanquishing some galactic villains. With the modified game code in hand, we rocketed to Lawton, Oklahoma. On site, amidst a flurry of builders, volunteers, and cameras, I was most struck by James’ courage in the face of hardship. His excitement and positivity beamed throughout the house as he grabbed the controller and reminded me of the impact games can have on the lives of our players. He was a hero on screen, and to all of us at the studio.”
– Dave Guertin, Principal Artist
“At London Studio, we have lots of fond memories of our SingStar days – but the one that stands out the most is when a father completed a 24-hour nonstop singing challenge for charity. Julian Hill’s baby daughter, Amelia received lifesaving open-heart surgery from Great Ormond Street Hospital, which saved her life. Our dev team heard about this and we set about supporting Julian with donations as well as equipment so the event could be hosted at a hotel and get the attention it deserved!
The final result saw Julian play SingStar continuously for 24 hours 21 minutes 25 seconds, a total of 314 songs in that time. Achieving this meant he was awarded the Guinness World Record for “longest video games marathon playing a karaoke game.” Julian went on to raise over £3.2k for the hospital’s charity so they could continue to pioneer research, fund advanced medical equipment, provide child and family support services and more.”
– Annem Hobson, Studio Communications Manager
“Community has always been at the heart of what we do at Media Molecule, and throughout Dreams’ journey we’ve seen international friendships formed and ambitions reached. Just in the past few months we’ve seen two Dreamers reach incredible goals – Mystical_Vortex was nominated for an award at the BAFTA Young Game Designers awards for their game ‘The Little Ninja’ and HalfUp_ won the Student Game award at this year’s Freeplay Awards for their creation ‘The Snowgardens’. It is really quite something to know that our game is enabling up-and-coming game developers to achieve such incredible feats!
As for friendships? We’ve seen Dreamers across the world come together to work on projects together. Take the team behind the Pig Detective series as an example – they’re made up of German, Australian, British and American folks who met through Dreams! We’re constantly hearing stories of new connections and global friendships and seeing the most imaginative creations from people around the globe.”
– Tom Dent, Senior Community Manager
“Nothing makes me prouder as a game developer than hearing from players who have used the accessibility settings to remove barriers from their gameplay experience. One player told us how the accessibility settings allowed his father to reconnect with gaming as a hobby after losing his vision due to a degenerative eye disease. Another described how he watched his wife (who is completely blind) play The Last of Us Part II, and how delighted they were to share the experience.
A player with cerebral palsy worried the Rat King fight might be impossible without asking his dad for assistance. He tweaked the accessibility settings, got the timing down, and (to quote him directly): “FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I DEFEATED A BOSS!”
These stories remind me of our duty to consider the needs of all players with our design choices, and how accessible design invites everyone to play. We’ll strive to continue reaching further as we create games at Naughty Dog.”
– Matthew Gallant, Game Director
“At PixelOpus, we were all incredibly moved by the community reaction to Concrete Genie’s themes and story. But I think the most powerful interaction we’ve had with a player actually relates to our first game, Entwined. A father approached art director Jeff Sangalli and myself at a PlayStation Experience event to talk to us about the special bond gaming provides between himself and his son, who is autistic. This connection was especially important as his son did not like physical contact or proximity, so co-op gaming and collaborative experiences were very important to their playtime.
When his son started playing Entwined, the father could tell that it had caught his imagination, and was helping him relax. He went on to tell us that the mechanics of the game in particular (controlling two characters at the same time with each stick) had enabled a different type of co-op for them: sharing a single controller to play the game collaboratively. When they played like this, the father explained, it allowed him to put his arm around his son – and that was something he hadn’t been able to do for years.
As parents ourselves, Jeff and I were so moved by this story and it has stayed with us as a constant reminder about the power our medium has to make connections, and to never underestimate the nature of those moments or the unexpected places they can come from.”
– Dominic Robilliard, Creative Director
San Diego Studio
“Every day we interface with some of the most passionate players online through various social channels, forums, etc… but finally meeting some of those fans and being able to talk with them about The Show face to face at gatherings like PSX, E3, and Twitch Con is where we had some of our most memorable fan interactions. We’ve met MLB The Show players from all over the country and even had fans travel from overseas to come and see us! I will never forget seeing a small group of designers who sat and chatted with some players who visited us from Australia for more than a few hours at PSX. We’ve formed many friendships at these events, and we hope to have opportunities for more in the future!”
– Victor Reynolds, Manager, Online Community
Santa Monica Studio
“One of the most memorable fan highlights for our studio was one year after God of War (2018) released, when we invited Emmanuel, a God of War memorabilia collector, to the studio. Emmanuel’s story isn’t just impressive for the sheer number of unique God of War goodies he’s amassed over the years (583 items as of 2019, I’m sure he’s added a few more since then), it was his equally unrelenting positivity in the face of adversity that really hit home for our team.
Emmanuel drew confidence from Kratos’ journey to change his fate as a personal source of motivation in his own life, which ended up sparking the initial desire to start his now Guinness World Record-sized collection. Hearing how much the God of War series had a positive impact on him in turn has truly been a huge source of inspiration for our entire team.
Emmanuel said it best himself, “If you make something with passion, that passion is contagious.”
I couldn’t think of a better phrase to articulate how we feel when we see the incredible things our players have created based on their passion for God of War. When you know you’re doing something to excite the people who truly love and appreciate your work, it makes even the most challenging hurdles of game development worth it. As the saying goes in SMS, ‘We’re fans of our fans!’ and we couldn’t ask for a more amazing community!”
– Grace Orlady, Senior Communications and Community Manager
“Rayshawn was a huge Infamous fan who was very excited about Second Son. However, odds were very low that he would live to play it. So, dressed as various Second Son cast members, we knocked on Rayshawn’s door and asked him to hide us from the DUP. As a reward for his bravery, he got to play the gold disc version of Second Son pre-release. We also gave him the Delsin vest and beanie that were scanned for the costume in the game. To top it all off, Troy Baker FaceTimed him. We ultimately named one of the fictional stores in Infamous First Light “Rayshawn Games” in honor of him. The impact he had on me was priceless. This kid’s positive attitude while dealing with the final stages of a terminal illness and his mantra N.E.G.U (Never Ever Give Up) has helped me through various personal rough spots since that day.”
– Billy Harper, Animation Director
“At Team Asobi, we try hard to make our games fun for experienced players but also for newcomers alike. So it’s not unusual we get private messages or videos from parents with children who had their first gaming experience playing one of our games. Recently, with the launch of PlayStation 5 and Astro’s Playroom, we received lots of video clips of kids with their faces in awe as they could see and feel little Astro wandering on their TV and inside their little hands.
These first moments in front of video games are extremely powerful, there is nothing like the pure and innocent joy of discovering a whole new magical world through the eyes of a child. Sadly, as we grow older, we sometimes get jaded and tend to over-scrutinize details and a part of the magic vanishes away.
So to all kids out there, keep those dreaming eyes wide open and thank you so much for reminding us why we chose this life and above all, for giving us the most amazing purpose to go to work every day!”
– Nicolas Doucet, Studio Director