Few in the gaming industry deserve veteran status quite like Sam Lake does. The pantheon of greats usually runs through the most obvious names-Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto, John Carmack, Marc Laidlaw, Warren Spector; but no one really talks about Sam Lake in the same capacity. The genre-defining contributions Lake made to the medium are often trivialized since Remedy never quite broke into ubiquity. But it is in that obscurity of Sam Lake’s creative output, that much of his genius can be gleamed. Lake paved the way for narrative-focused game design with his work on the original Max Payne, and it continues to be as important of a characteristic to his signature work, as is its farther-reaching impact on the gaming industry.
IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey recently sat down with Sam Lake as part of the IGN Unfiltered series to talk about what led him on a path to become the lead creative voice of Remedy. Sam Lake’s story is fascinating, and it helps put into proper context how a man from Finland, once-aimless about where to channel his creativity, now ranks comfortably amongst the most competent game writers of recent times.
A childhood of curiosity
McCaffrey started out his interview in the best way possible, asking if Sam Lake had intended to become a writer at all. “I liked making up stories. I liked to pretend, like all kids do,” Lake answered, referencing an all-too-familiar feeling of bursting out with creativity at our earliest lucid memories. He then recounts the very first time he became infatuated with creative writing, opening the earliest doors for him to venture into what later became more than a curiosity — a passion. “There was a time, I’d say around 12, after I found Lord of the Rings — I fell in love with that.” Sam Lake went on to describe how he passionately sought out the Nordic poems that inspired Tolkien’s lore, with his earliest recollection of a dream job being that of a mythology professor.
But it wasn’t only his love for the pure textual richness that was Tolkien’s cult franchise that motivated Sam Lake to set on a path to inspire some of the finest pieces of storytelling in video games-he’s also been a gamer himself, far earlier than most…