Wow. Give a guy an award and he goes all “This is how it’s done!” on everyone.
If you don’t know who David Cage is, it’s ok. He founded Quantic Dream, the company which developed the game Heavy Rain, a wildly original thriller about a missing child. A game filled with great ideas and lackluster execution. It sold a lot of copies and apparently gives David Cage the stones to tell everyone else to get on the story train.
In a story posted at The Guardian, Cage starts off reasonable enough.
“…games always explore the same things. They’re about being powerful, being the good guys against the bad guys – that’s a very tiny part of what can be done. There are so many other stories to tell, so many other emotions to trigger – this is a fantastic new medium, we can do much more than we currently do with it.”
I wouldn’t say “always” but the point is a fair one. We certainly do overuse genres, settings, mechanics, etc. It’s a play it safe industry we live in but I do wish we saw a bit more outside the box development from large studios. Of course the reason we see this is because publishers are in the business of making money and risky designs are just that — risks. Still, good point, thanks Mr. Cage, congrats on the BAFTA story award and we’ll see you next year.
Oh, you’re not done talking. Ok…
“In Europe, we are not as easy to satisfy; being given a gun to hold is not necessarily enough in a game. But it’s not just in Europe, I hear many developers in the US saying the same thing – ‘look, I’m 40, I’m fed up of writing games where you shoot at everyone. It was fun when I was twenty but now I want to do something else. I don’t watch the same movies as I did when I was 20, I don’t listen to the same music, but I’m still making the same games!’ Developers are fed up – they want to talk about their families, politics, whatever – why not in a game? Why not?! There is no reason.”
Developers want to talk about their families — or is it that Cage wants to talk about his?
So, we Yanks are easy to please with drool cups tied around our collective necks and all one need do is slap a firearm in our hand and we’re good to go like Rooster Cogburn on a three day bender? And hell I’m 39 and still listen to The Beatles and they broke up by the time I was born! And when I was 20 it was 1992, and A Few Good Men came out and I’m telling you I’d watch that movie tonight if I had the DVD, which for some reason, I do not. (I would not, for the record, watch Wayne’s World ever again. Cage may have a point on that one.)
But we all know this is silly.
There are numerous games, great ones, that are made by both European and American developers that have nothing to do with shooting someone. There are myriad of creative gems in this industry. Enough of them? That’s certainly a debate worth having but to pigeonhole gamers and developers is just pointless blathering. Cage knows this. He has to, right? I think we all agree that we see too many recycled gameplay mechanics and we have certainly fought World War II in every way imaginable but the day people stop buying these games, I suppose they’ll stop making them.
“It is the one I was dreaming of. I worked so hard on the story, and it’s the first I ever wrote that was based on something personal. It was not about space marines fighting aliens, it was about my relationship with my first son and how he changed my life – and also about how loving someone without expecting anything in return was something totally new.”
“There should be more people trying this,” he continued. “Don’t write about being a rookie soldier in WWII, because you don’t have a clue what that’s like. Talk about yourself, your life, your emotions, the people around you, what you like, what you hate – this is how the industry will make a huge step forwards. I’m fed up with space marines.”
It sounds like we need to see developers making games about personal stuff and if you don’t know what it’s like to be a pilot, warrior, samurai, alien, or soldier then you ought not to make the game. Escapism will always be — and should be — part of a game.
And I have to ask — does David Cage know what it’s like to be a serial killer? His game certainly delves into that a great deal. Does he know what it’s like to have to do a strip tease for a mobster, or what it’s like to fight off a homicidal, drill wielding maniac? Or what it’s like to be addicted to VR to the point where you have real life hallucinations? This is all in Heavy Rain, so I’m assuming Cage is an expert on the topics.
I don’t want to play a game about a developer’s family who hates that he works 90 hour weeks, gets crap pay, works in a cube all week and then gets fired after his game is released.
But Space Marines? Cage dare rag on the mighty Space Marines? He does realize, of course, who created the Space Marines?
Hint: It wasn’t an American.
Look, the idea behind a game like Heavy Rain is great. I’d love to see better storytelling in games (although we can also debate the quality of storytelling in Heavy Rain, BAFTA Award or not) — especially in role-playing games where I still feel the stories are boring, tired, and cliched to the point of exhaustion. You don’t need to have a modern day “This is Your Life” story design to do what Cage is talking about. You can certainly add these ideas to other genres — even ones with, gasp, aliens and space marines and rookie soldiers fighting in Africa against Rommel.
But can’t a fella just win an award and go home and celebrate without calling out the entire industry in which he works? Worry about your next game Dave.
Ok, who is up for shooting some zombies!