The 2009 Creativity 50: Kareem Ettouney, Alex Evans, Mark Healey, Siobhan Reddy, Dave Smith

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Clockwise from top left: Reddy, Evans, Healey, Ettouney and Smith.
Clockwise from top left: Reddy, Evans, Healey, Ettouney and Smith.
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U.K.-based Media Molecule's first game, Little Big Planet, created exclusively for the Sony PS3, caused such a stir at the 2007 Game Developers Conference that Sony decided to give it full-on flagship status. Why the ruckus? Essentially, Media Molecule's new game placed development in the hands of gamers. LBP revolves around Sackboy, a Mario-like character if the chubby plumber were sewn by your grandmother with yarn. The idea is simply to collect as much as possible and explore. The key to the game's success, though, is that users are able to design, play and share their own levels. User-generated levels are shareable online, giving the game a seemingly infinite number of possibilities. And it's not just adding player-created window dressing into existing gameplay. The UG-levels can actually change the way the game is played. Another innovative approach the studio used was not to give gamers a B-grade set of design tools, but the same engine from which it developed the game.

As for the game's innovative style and platform, it helped that "the five founders all come from different creative backgrounds, and thus from different angles whenever it came to creative direction," says Alex Evans, co-founder of the three-year-old company. "It's the intersection of those ideas that makes LBP what it is." Evans says that the company's biggest achievement was assembling LBP's 30-person team and actually delivering the offbeat game in its current form. "The number of games that are started and never finished to quality is depressingly high," says Evans. "It took a lot of agonizing re-thinking, throwing away and recreating to actually get the thing shipped. And many, many people inside and outside of Media Molecule—most notably our EP Siobhan and our producers Pete and Leo from Sony's Ex-Dev group, helped us keep sight of that finish line."

After a hype-filled build-up, the game was released late last year to critical raves and multiple plaudits at gaming industry shows. Next up, Evans says MM will only continue to broaden the LBP platform by putting even more power in the hands of gamers, "producing expansions and content, some of which we know will be quite large and hopefully even shocking—which appeal both in a 'macro' way, to players, but also in that 'micro,' leg-brick way—as fuel for creativity of the LBP community. LBP is going to evolve, a lot."

Evans, on where he'd like games to go: "We founded Media Molecule around a very clear vision of future games: the idea of 'creative gaming.' I think games, over the next few years, are going to broaden—both in terms of audience, but also in terms of what they try to do creatively. So, the scope for us to explore 'games that beget games,' or that lower the bar for people to express themselves through their console or PC, is just going to get ever richer. Of course, that is in parallel with the break-neck evolution of the hardware and (most importantly) the integration of games into more social forms of technology, like the web, or services like PSN, Playstation Home, or Xbox Live."

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