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Industry is entering "era for independence," says Chen

Thu 19 Feb 2009 9:51am GMT / 4:51am EST / 1:51am PST
Development

Flower creator likens videogames business to the indie film movement

The videogames industry is entering a new phase of its life cycle, which will usher in a new generation of game creators, as the tools to create content become cheaper.

That's according to the creative mind behind critically-acclaimed PlayStation 3 title Flower, Jenova Chen, who believes we're starting in an "era for independence."

"It is the equivalent of the indie film movement," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "Movies used to be very expensive to make because cameras and film were very expensive. But when film and cameras became cheap enough, small groups could afford to make films.

"When the first generation film students come out of school - these are kids who grew up with film - were not satisfied with the market. With the technology to make independent films cheaply, they started to open the market, create new genres, and reach more of a mature audience.

"It's almost like that time [in the games industry]. A lot of videogame students are just graduating from college or graduate school. And now games are cheap enough to be published on downloadable digital distribution platforms, and there all these very eager game creators that want to see something new, something different, and something better."

Chen, creative director at thatgamecompany, also explained some of the thinking behind Flower, and why it's important to create different kinds of games, warning that if companies don't try to create titles that evoke emotions other than the standard core themes, the market will suffer.

"All these companies are designing these games particularly to these groups; they never really focus on the old," he said. "But as more companies make games for this audience, they are overlapping in terms of emotional content. They are really competing with each other on production values. "You have two space marine games. Which are you going to choose? Gears of War 2 or Resistance 2? The decision is based on who has the better-looking character, more levels, or a longer play time. "It is kind of sad because the similarly-themed films can evoke a very different feel. I think a lot of people in the industry have ignored that. They are focusing on who has the best tech rather than who has the more emotional or intellectual experience.

"I'm not against the traditional type of feeling that gaming evokes. Empowerment is a great experience. Even Hollywood has the equivalent in those super hero movies. But what I feel [games] are lacking is the complexity of feeling and the other hues of feeling. If nobody tries to evoke these other types of feelings, then the game market will be very limited.

"My goal is to make a game that is this complex flavour. It's like cooking. The best food is not just with one flavour, you have a lot of secret ingredients that, when mixed together, create something very unique that you cannot forget. For me, if you play Flower from beginning to end, it is not all just peaceful. It has peace, it has wonder, it has twists, it has despair, and it has a catharsis."

The full interview with Jenova Chen is available now.

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