Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack believes that, eventually, the driving force behind game design will not be gameplay, but narrative.
Speaking at the fourth annual Develop Conference last week, Dyack made parallels between the evolution of film production and game design.
“There’s something happening in our industry right now and it’s something I’ve been talking about for quite a while,” he said. “We’re starting to reach the perceptual threshold of technology. What I mean by that is the average consumer is not really appreciating the leaps of technology that are occurring anymore.”
Dyack claimed that the transitional leaps in technology were getting less significant; that the transition from 3D to HD was in no way as impactful as 2D to 3D, and that future tech transitions were going to be even more diluted.
“This is exactly what happened with film,” he said, before revealing a PowerPoint slide from an 1895 film called Feeding The Baby.
“If you watch the film,” said Dyack, “that’s all they do. It was one of the most popular films of its time, and all it shows is a family feeding a baby.
“At that time, there were often films of things like fire-fighters rescuing babies from burning buildings; there was no plot, no start, no end. The film would literally cycle and people would just come in [to the theatre], watch it and leave.
“What happened with film eventually is that the awe of technology went away. The awe of the spectacle dissipated. We went from the cycle of speculative to narrative.”
Dyack foresees this shift – from spectacle to story – occurring in videogames.
“If we are gong to look at videogames in the same way – and this is probably where a lot of game designers will become very upset with me – a lot of people right now say that what’s interesting about videogames is the gameplay. ‘The gameplay, the gameplay, the gameplay, the gameplay’.”
Understandably or not, the veteran game designer has in recent times found friction with both consumers and the industry for his outspoken disposition. But the Too Human designer was careful to avoid being misquoted this time round, stating that gameplay is, in fact, “extremely important”; as important as the function of motion picture is to film.
“But if you look at it from a film perspective,” he said, “the importance of gameplay will diminish over time when we start to move towards narrative.
“If you look at a lot of games coming out right now, and a lot of games becoming more and more popular, you’re starting to see a lot more narrative-based games. People are starting to care more and more about the story.”
Before opening up the floor to questions, Dyack added that “if you want to follow the history of film – if videogames follow that similar history, the dominance of gameplay will start to recede.
“How we tell the stories and how we entertain people is going to become more dominant.”
Pictured: Concept art for Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus