Spector: "We're still making cartoons"

Epic Mickey lead argues games are held back by adolescent fantasies in GDC keynote

Warren Spector has claimed that games may remain at the level of cartoons and comic books unless they embrace new forms of storytelling.

While celebrating the childhood influences he shared with other developers, the Junction Point boss was concerned the industry might ultimately be harmed by its tendency towards "male adolescent fantasies" such as Dungeons & Dragons, which he professed to forever trying to recreate himself.

"If we don't break out of big buff guys with swords and guys in tights and space marines in armour, we're going to get marginalised in the way comics have been in the United States. I hope we can break free of the content of comic books."

He also felt that, on a technological level, games could not compete with films and thus should find different forms of characterisation. "Our graphics have gotten a lot better over the years, but we still fall far far short of what people expect from a movie. In some respects we're still making cartoons.

"We can't show players what's behind every door, even our scope to show players what people are thinking is remote." He argued that developers would be wiser to pursue iconic rather than photo-realistic images and characters, citing his own work with Mickey Mouse's distinctive silhoutte as an example. "I'm certainly enjoying being in a more iconic world right now."

He also referenced his ongoing work with John Woo on Ninja Gold, claiming that he had advised the director against relying on overly-cinematic character actions as such animations could become tiresome upon multiple viewings.

"Games are not about magic moments, they're not about one-shot magic moments. They're about the repeated action. Our job is to find ways to change the context around the repeated actions that we offer players, so you can do something and it's as much fun the thousandth time as the first time."

Arguing predominantly that while games should draw from mediums such as cinema, radio and comics, they should not ape them, he felt that the most relevant comparison was oral storytelling, as it was a two-way interchange between teller and listener. "Interaction and co-operation, it's pretty crazy how comparable this is."

While his own professed tendency to be "a wordy bastard" resulted in a fragmented and hurried talk, his takeaway point was that developers should make player, not their own egos, their absolute prority.

"We will also allow players to create unique experience through play, we will allow them to create art. Player experience comes first - we have to allow them to show their creativity. No other medium has allowed them to do this. We are unique in the history of humankind. Every player becomes an author when they play a game."

Spector finished his talk with the first public presentation of the introductory sequence for his forthcoming Epic Mickey – a glossy CGI sequence which hinted at a relatively dark game, but one true to the character's humourous roots.

He also claimed that he hoped to produce a film, pen a comic book and write further novels before too long, but had no intention of leaving the games industry.

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Latest comments (1)

Chris Kay Senior Level Designer, Crytek11 years ago
I'm not sure, he's making a game about Mickey Mouse and ... "We're still making cartoons"

We can all talk the talk but if we don't walk the walk?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Kay on 17th August 2010 9:27am

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