Forbes published its annual list of 30 people to watch across many fields this week, with some familiar names making it into the game industry’s class of 2017. Among a variety of professional gamers and designers are people like Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone (Stardew Valley) and Max Temkin (Cards Against Humanity), standing out among the diverse list of ones to watch.
Barone, age 29, rose to particular fame in 2016, when his highly anticipated project Stardew Valley finally launched to critical acclaim. He developed the farming simulation game on his own; most recently, it came to consoles after starting life on Windows PC.
He tends to keep a low-profile, occasionally tweeting to players about patches and updates. Otherwise, he remains hard at work on perfecting Stardew Valley. His drive has paid off, as we just named Stardew Valley to our Games of the Year list for 2016.
Also toeing the age cut-off is 29-year-old Temkin, whose Cards Against Humanity is one of the most beloved tabletop games. The snarky, sometimes inappropriate party game riffs on the Apples to Apples formula, only replacing family-friendly nouns like “Benjamin Franklin” with sexually transmitted diseases and deep-cut culture references.
“I can't tell you how gratifying it is to be recognized by Forbes for writing such Cards Against Humanity cards as, ‘Covering myself with parmesan cheese and chili flakes because I am pizza,’” Temkin, told Polygon of his inclusion on the list.
“It reminds me of this story I read about Martin Chalfie when he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. He said he woke up one morning and realized, ‘They must have announced the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. So I decided to find out what schmuck won this year ... so I opened up my laptop and found out I was the schmuck.’”
Cards Against Humanity is also a company producing much more than its namesake game. Temkin, who serves as co-founder, is currently working on Secret Hitler, which is just as unique and strange as its predecessor.
Alex Schwartz, CEO of Owlchemy Labs and also age 29, is another member of Forbes’ list. His company is best known for Job Simulator, seen above, which is one of the most popular virtual reality titles. The game’s made it onto HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, and it’s well-liked for its sense of humor and accessible VR controls.
“Being selected for 30 under 30 has special significance for me since this is [year six] of running Owlchemy Labs,” Schwartz said to Polygon. “SIX!”
He went on to credit the studio’s pivot toward virtual reality development for its heightened profile last year.
“We built original game after original game as a small team until we decided 3 years ago that VR was our prime focus, and things have been an insane roller coaster since then. Bootstrapping a company can be an arduous journey and to gain recognition after the many years of blood sweat and tears our team put into our original games over the years — it's just awesome. It's all downhill from here, amirite?! (I kid).”
The other 27 honorees are on Forbes’ site. Three judges — Brandon Beck of Riot Games, Jade Raymond of Motive Studios and Bonnie Ross of 343 Industries — assembled the list on the gaming side, but Forbes’ list also covers other areas as well. Forbes named Polygon’s very own Griffin McElroy as one of the brightest young stars of the media industry, for instance. Check out some of Griffin’s most impressive work below.