Imitating structure of other media is holding back games, says Epic Mickey creator

GDC 13: Spector: Games don’t need to imitate films

Games need to imitate films less, says respected developer behind Epic Mickey and Deus Ex, Warren Spector.

As reported by Gamasutra, the game designer explained that though other media’s have many attractive elements, attempting to imitate them will hold games back.

“There are things that are sort of seductive and obvious that I think will hold us back as we become the medium we’re capable of becoming,” said Spector.

“Imitating other media seems to be a natural, maybe even necessary stage in every medium’s development. Building on a foundation provided by other media is pretty normal and natural.”

Continuing, Spector said he find it “silly and amusing” that some people think that games shouldn’t tell stories. And yet, games can be more than films with interactively.

“If we’re nothing but an amalgam of conventions from other media, we’re in a world of trouble,” he said.

In Spector’s opinion, the similarities between films and games – moving images on a screen, paired with synchronous audio to create a synchronous illusion of life – are so obvious they are almost not worth mentioning.

“Culturally speaking, we share a lot with movies; movies were the medium of the 20th century that changed everything. It was the first time that everybody in the world could experience the same… cultural messages.”

“I think everyone can agree that games have overtaken those media,” he suggested.

We ignore the “significant differences” between film and games at our peril, he continued, going to describe how editing techniques that form the structure of films – such as audience knowing information that the character don’t – doesn’t work in games. He feels we need to get rid of those imitations.

“It breaks the illusion; it wrests the experience away from players who want to be directors of their own experience. In most games the action is continuous… we either take control of the camera ourselves, or we leave control of the camera to the player.”

Summing up, Spector believe there’s far more that games can do without leeching from other media, using advancements in AI and or the structure of call and response games as examples.

“We’ve made progress, and we can get partway to where we’re capable of going by borrowing from other media… but we can only go so far. We need some original ideas,” said Spector.

“Thirty years after the creation of this medium, you have the opportunity to determine what it can become. It’s not too late.”


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