Journey dev sees "huge market" for new game genres

"Right now the game industry is still at a very young phase. There is a lot of space for people to go deeper on emotion," says Jenova Chen

Thatgamecompany co-founder Jenova Chen looks at the industry through a different lens than most. For Chen, emotion drives everything, and frankly, the games business could do a better job in creating more titles that offer up an emotional experience.

In a new interview with our sister site the [a]list daily, Chen noted that there's plenty of opportunity, creatively and financially, for those who will seek out new game ideas to bring emotion to players.

"I like to look at business through emotion. Right now the game industry is still at a very young phase. There is a lot of space for people to go deeper on emotion. We actually went quite deep on the feeling of action and adventure. The feeling of killing someone used to be some pixel changed color, now it's some guy's guts are falling out. A lot of other emotions can go a lot deeper, and that will result in each genre becoming more and more sophisticated," he said.

"Emotion can go wider. The new emotion that was not possible in the past should be possible in the future. What is the equivalent in a video game of a romantic film? A documentary? A drama? What is a family video game? There are family games, but they are mostly for the kids. What is the equivalent of a Pixar film in the video game industry, where adults and kids can have fun together? They don't exist right now. They are all blue ocean, and they are huge markets."

Chen sees a big upside to pursuing more games with emotion partly because he expects these as yet undiscovered genres to attract a larger female audience. Too much of the industry is still focused on the 18-34 male demographic. Thanks to the rise of casual and mobile, a lot of women are already playing games and they're hungry for new types of content.

"Compared to the console game industry of yesterday, the difference is a bunch of people who never would have played any games are now one click away from games. Now the question is have you designed a game for them? What about the girls? I'm not trying to be sexist, but usually young females like to play things that have a lot of emotions and relationships. That probably explains why there isn't a lot of female gamers that play console games. Candy Crush is more appealing to women because it's social," Chen observed.

Read more of Chen's opinions on the industry and what's next for Thatgamecompany over at the [a]list daily.

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Latest comments (5)

Justin Shuard J - E translator 4 years ago
It depends on what type of emotion you're talking about.

Games that are emotional experiences, like a Shadow of the Colossus or Chen's own Journey I'm all for. Games that try to ape movie-like experiences where emotion is determined by a polygon count like Beyond Two Souls don't interest me in the slightest I'm afraid.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
I would say the best example of emotion I've seen in a game was actually To the Moon. Check it out if you haven't played it. It's certainly more of a visual novel than a game, but an incredible experience.
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Charlie Cleveland Game Director/Founder, Unknown Worlds4 years ago
You go, Jenova! Inspiring, as usual.

This spawned a great conversation about how we're approaching a new game and immediately grounded us.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Charlie Cleveland on 26th September 2013 6:21pm

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Show all comments (5)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Justin, Justin, Justin... have you PLAYED Beyond yet? Well, neither have I... but I trust Cage and co. to at least tell a good story.

Being SO overly judgmental about a game because you don't like its visual style or polygon count is so... last few console generations ago. Or worse, it comes off like some cranky western-only RPG player who always bashes any JRPG because of that manga/anime look while not having picked up a controller to play one.

I say rent the game and see if you like it, then piss on its leg in public if it doesn't move your bones.

Be fair and at least respect the work that went into it and you might expand a horizon or two.

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Dave Pimm Lecturer in Game Design, University Campus Suffolk4 years ago
Game devs only have one duty to their audience: to elicit emotional responses. In his concluding paragraph, Jenova is referring to Nicole Lazzaro's 4Keys2Fun, which is Nicole's organization of the four 'fun' emotions - those that sit comfortably outside of the 'story' emotions. The 'story' emotions, however, are deeper, more complex emotions. ('More sophisticated' as Jenova describes them.)
I certainly wouldn't describe my favourite movies, novels, or musical compositions in terms of 'fun'. But neither would I ignore the 'fun' emotions when designing or directing a game. Jenova's 2013 DICE talk is especially exciting because he relates his battle to marry the 'fun' and the 'story' emotions. I don't believe that all games should attempt to do this: there's plenty of room for the Candy Crush Sagas of this world. But it's the Journeys and Icos (and, touch wood, SCE JapanStudio's Rain) that touch us deeply and endure.
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