Top 5 Most Influential Western Game-Developers of The Modern Era:
[Writer's Note: The following article deals only with those with great influence over the industry as we know it. Those who may be better developers yet are not as influential are not included on this list, yet will be next time on the upcoming "Unsung Developers Blog"]...
"The title of game-designer is one that only in recent years gained any form of respective notoriety. While directors are celebrated world-wide, musicians screamed for and even to this very day royal families worshipped; the one true exception for unsung media-based contributors of great influence upon the modern age as we know it, is the role of game-designer"...
...and yet this by and large - "simple" fact - by no means entails the intention to express that times have not changed, titles improved and ultimate fame increased; for it was not long ago that many a family felt a light breeze of shame for those of their name who embarked on the mission to create exciting new worlds in the forms of electronic-media in some form or other. Now - standing in the "2010's" - I can fully express with no doubt what-so-ever that the title of "game-designer" is one pined for by many; and this is for a variety of reasons.
Many overflowing creative minds from earlier eras, greedy producers from the dying movie industry and top-tier artists have now realized the potential in this "at-it's-height" industry; in turn, the quest for entry through these "gates of platinum" [so-to-speak] relies not on one's ambition for the highest pay-check as opposed to their ultimate understanding and iron-will to both create and eventually succeed in evolving electronic-game-design as an art-form [not to mention as an integral sector of humanity's ongoing livelyhoods].
It is all of this that brings me to the sole point of article; which is to acknowledge, alert and mutually award the most influential electronic-game-designers of our artistically notorious era [2000-2010]; for whether you love-it-or-loath-it, this viral art-form is taking over the planet as I write.
x5. David Cage:
Studio: "QUANTIC DREAM"
While originally a sound-designer and freelance musician for electronic-media; game-design visionary "David Cage" is known in the modern-day most prominently for his acclaimed writing and direction alike, on cinematic-scaled interactive-movies such as "Fahrenheit [US: Indigo Prophecy]", "Heavy Rain [Formerly: The Origami Killer]" and perhaps to a less extent for his debut title "Omikron: The Nomad Soul".
Building his growing-reputation through using his very own name as a self-proclaimed trademark for top-tier electronic-experiences of deep, mature and emotionally compelling proportions, David Cage has stated time and time again that his products are created along the lines that his development team [Quantic Dream] is not developing a simple "game", as opposed to a much [conceptually] greater piece of art; a secondary-life so-to-speak.
In addition, Cage has been known for creating games both casual and intuitive all at once. Through the use of complete mo-cap animation, branching storytelling that evolves only based on any given player's actions and finally the implementation of multiple gameplay-formats rather than a single concept throughout a given title; it seemed only fair that the French visionary receive a complete spot on this unofficial count-down.
A. Merging cinema and electronic-gaming seamlessly.
B. Creating non-linear narratives that organically evolve depending on player's actions throughout the course of the cinematic experience.
x4. Todd Howard:
Studio: Bethesda Softworks
As the man solely responsible for developing the highly acclaimed Elder-Scrolls and Fallout franchises into the form they hold today, Todd Howard has time and time again held the fate of a franchise on his shoulders; and time and time again he has more than delivered.
With the hard-core role-playing-game market slowly turning into something aimed towards accessible and ultimately casual audiences [in my words, basically dying]; the remarkable fact that developer Bethesda-Softworks have stayed true to their philosophy concerning the structure behind each and every single one of their titles alone is nearly unheard of in electronic-game-design's most recent years of existence.
Originally joining Bethesda in 1994, Todd Howard is to this very day one of the most outspoken developers both inside and outside gaming. Ever-trustingly following the concept of simply "living another life" as opposed to just escaping your own, Todd Howard is famed for his work on the highly successful first-person/role-playing-game hybrids: "Fallout 3" and "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion".
Not only has this developer kept the individualism that his given developer is known for, yet he is also one of the primary reasons that FPS/RPG gaming can exist as a hybrid to such an extent in years like these.
A. Keeping hard-core role-playing alive, evolving and all the same not selling out in the least.
B. ...Fallout 3? What more can one say.
x3. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk:
Studio: Bioware Corp.
With electronic-gaming transitioning with all it's glory and most of it's original genres into a brand-new age of polish and notoriety alike, many older fans from acclaimed decades in gaming such as the 1990's feel to some extent "left in the dust". Thanks to masterminds Ray Muzyka's and Greg Zeschuck's joint efforts on their very own personal legend - entitled the "Bioware Corporation" - many of these fans have had the chance to both forever experience what they love about old-school role-playing, while still evolving with the eras all the same.
Previously to getting seriously involved with the many arts of electronic-media, both individuals were originally medical doctors; who one day decided that their chosen path lay in the realms of Faerun, Fantasy and ultimately Dungeons and Dragons.
Originally gaining critical praise from both gamers and the press alike, for their stunning work on the Baldur's Gate franchise; Muzyka and Zeschuk alike have risen to universal fame through their world-wide successful franchises entitled "Mass Effect" and "Dragon Age", periodically respectfully speaking.
Now at the fore-front of today's role-playing scene, the fate of both old-school and futuristic role-playing alike, rests on their shoulders alone; along with the ever-dedicated team at the Bioware Studios.
A. Keeping old-school role-playing alive, yet evolving none-the-less.
B. Creating some of the greatest role-playing titles of all time.
x2. Rob Pardo:
Studio: Blizzard Entertainment
While not necessarily a better effect on role-playing in comparison to Bioware Corp, the man behind World of Warcraft certainly has a greater span of influence over casual-to-non-gamer gamers.
As the man at the forefront of the Massively-Multiplayer-Online-Game [MMOG] scene, Rob Pardo goes back a long way with his "parent-company", entitled "Blizzard Entertainment".
Originally credited as a designer on Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, Pardo quickly rose to the top of the company through his positive influence on some of Blizzard's greatest successes, such as "Diablo 2", "Warcraft 3" and yes...the World of Warcraft. While Massively Multiplayer games could in one light be seen as a positive effect on the electronic-games industry, it could also be seen as a casual contaminant that influences other developers to appeal to the mainstream a bit more than they really "should", so as to succeed on a similar scale.
A. Universal popularization of the Massively Multiplayer Online Game.
B. World of Warcraft.
x1. Cliff Bleszinski:
Studio: Epic Games
Taking first place is none other than fan-favorite Cliff Bleszinski [Otherwise known as Cliffy B or Dude Huge...all depending on your clique and history with the individual's games]; the man behind leading action figure-heads "Unreal Tournament" and "Gears of War".
Unlike many of his peers, Bleskinski entered the realm of electronic-game-design at a fairly young age, developing his first full-title single-handedly at 16 years old [Jazz Jackrabbit...ring any bells? No? "Sad-Face"] and subsequently joining Epic at the time of it's release.
Most commonly known for his work on the "Gears of War" franchise [a gritty action/horror alien-blaster series featuring stylized washed out visuals], Bleszinski is the man responsible for the cover-based third-person-shooter as we know it. With literally dozens of clones coming out in between the year of the original's release  and today , it's safe to say that this designer's influence precedes his reputation by far.
Conclusively, I believe it's safe to say Cliff has in addition become the face of much of the game-industry as we know it; both inside as well as outside of our various "electronic-cliques". As the first modern-day game-designer to appear on a popular talk-show, Bleszinski may well be the one to elevate gaming to the level of "art" in the black-and-white eyes of the mainstream-media[s].
A. Serving as the face of gaming for the past few years to the eyes of "outsiders", while developing a celebrity-like status inside the now-adays vast community of electronic-gaming.
B. Creating the modern cover-based third-person-shooter.
Honorable Mention: John Carmack [ID Software], for his work on the ID Tech Engine, which has benefited so many great shooters for the past two decades.
With the amount of main-stream attention currently being aimed towards electronic-gaming of the modern-day, perhaps these "gods-of-game-design" shall soon receive the attention and renown alike, that they truly deserve.
Writer's Note: Thanks for reading; this installment was purposefully fast-paced for the sake of the reader's time.
This article shall be followed up shortly in the days to come, with one addressing the top unsung developers of today.