Richard Garriott on the Role of Game Designers

Talking to PC Gamer, Ultima creator Richard "Lord British" Garriott has expressed some pretty strong and unflattering opinions on game designers as a category. I'm going to quote him to avoid misinterpreting what he says:
(You know, I go back to the day when I was the programmer, I was the artist, I was the text writer, etcetera,) said Garriott. (Every artist we've ever hired ever is infinitely better at art than I ever was. I was never a good artist, or audio engineer, or composer. I was a pretty good programmer, but now all of our programmers are better than I am but if I'd stayed in programming I could probably keep up.

(But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why.)


(If you like games, you eventually get to the point where you'd like to make one,) said Garriott. (But if you had this magic art talent as a youth, you can refine your skills and show a portfolio and say, '˜I'm a good artist, go hire me' If you're nerdy enough to hack into a computer, programming on your own, you can go to school and learn proper structure, make code samples and go '˜Look, I'm a good programmer, hire me.'

(But if you're not a good artist and not a good programmer, but you still like games, you become a designer, if you follow me. You get into Q&A and often design.

(And the most valuable part of creating a game is the design, which the programmers are technically executing. And they'd be happy to just execute some of them. But in my mind, most artists and programmers are just as much of gamers as the designers, and I usually find in my history that the artists and programmers are, in fact, as good of designers as the designers. They're often better, because they understand the technology or the art.

(So we're leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they're not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer. It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer.)

The impression I get is that, while there might be some truth in what Garriott said, he seems blissfully unaware of the specialization required by gaming projects today. Of course, that's not all that is included in the interview, which also covers Garriot's process to develop his games' lore and mechanics.