December 11th, 2014. The day I fell in love with a life-changing game is engraved in my mind. A friend, who has a longer history in card games, recommended I try play this game called ‘Hearthstone’. I had never played a Blizzard game before. StarCraft had peaked before I got interested in pc games, and WoW never appealed to me. But this felt fresh from the moment I launched the game. When the Hearthstone’s tutorial told me to “blame the terrible game designers”, I was hooked on the light-heartedness.
Before I knew it I was playing for days on end whilst simultaneously having a Hearthstone-stream open. As I got sucked into the world of (competitive) Hearthstone more I became familiar with the faces who kept it all going. Among them, Ben Brode. Face of Hearthstone. One of the most invigorating game developers to roam the planet.
The world met Brode for the first time when Hearthstone was revealed at PAX East in 2013. Within his first spoken sentences the audience already became familiar with what would become Brode’s trademark enthusiasm. “I’m super ready. I’m so excited to show you guys this!”
Almost the exact same words were echoed when I first met Brode in March 2016, at the press preview for Whispers of the Old Gods. After a short briefing, all attending journalists and players were guided towards Blizzard’s on-campus cinema. Next to the screen, with a couple of other developers, stood Ben. “Mountain Giant”, were the first words that jumped to mind.
After seeing the new expansion’s trailer another short walk brought us to Team 5’s developer area, which (unfortunately) had been redesigned to form a playtesting area. With soundproof headsets on we sat down to play against each other, only to hear Hearthstone music and card sounds. Oh, and Ben Brode’s boisterous laughter from the other side of the room.
It is a memory iconic for who Ben Brode is. A down-to-earth, enthralling personality with a deafening infectious laugh.
His genuine, kid-in-a-candy-story enthusiasm did not prevent Brode from addressing serious concerns when needed. Candidly he addressed subjects like the Purify-outrage and bad cards in general, in addition to many other Designer Insights which offered a glimpse into the Hearthstone development process.
But Ben Brode will be remembered mostly for the countless moments of hilarity he created. On reveal streams he often bursted into laughter whenever something unforeseen happened. With popular Hearthstone personalities by his side Brode explored new mechanics. He broke the internet with what has become my favorite video in Hearthstone. When Journey to Un’Goro’s trailer did not have a song, the community demanded Ben Brode to fill the void. Forever winning the hearts of Hearthstone players, he delivered.
I’m still going through the first four stages of grief over the announcement Ben Brode made. I don’t want to believe he’s leaving Blizzard Entertainment. I’m upset the father of Hearthstone will not return to the nest. Hearthstone without Ben Brode to me sounds like Christmas without Santa. I’ll miss the guy whose laugh I could hear across a stacked World Championship venue. Who would wander through the crowd at events and talk to people passionate about his creation.
But I understand his decision. As Game Director of an ever-expanding team there is more and more overseeing, whilst creating becomes a task for others. Starting a new company means building something again. Start with nothing and let passion drive you to a product you love. That’s what Ben Brode was put on this earth for.
I wish you all the best with your new adventure, Ben Brode. Your vision has touched many lives, and has forever left a mark on the game industry. Thank you for being exactly what Hearthstone needed in a Game Director. Thank you for everything.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.