Warren Spector: Games aren’t making the most of the medium

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Spector

You may or may not know who Warren Spector is. In recent times, he’s mostly known for making Epic Mickey, which wasn’t nearly as epic as its name might’ve suggested. In the past though, he helped create and direct Deus Ex, one of the first FPS games to be given the fallacious, but useful labels of being “emergent.”

Deus Ex was brilliant, and it really felt like the consequences of your actions had genuine meaning. Thanks to that it unfolded and unweaved, telling not just the story its makers wanted you to experience, but other ones too, ones that resulted from the gameplay.

That’s the sort of thing game creators should be doing more, said Spector at PAX Australia, saying that those who aren’t doing that are essentially wasting their time making games – and should make movies instead.

Though he sugar-coated it nicely enough, Spector laid in to the folks making linear games – the Uncharteds and Last of Us’ of the world – saying that they’re “low expression games” which purposely “limits your ability to interact with the game world, so the story can unfold the way the storyteller wants it to unfold.”

Spector said it was similar for games like The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain, which he calls “medium expression” games.

“I love The Walking Dead, but the choices you have to make, they’re compelling choices, but they’re designer driven, not player driven. Every choice in a game like this has been pre-scripted and handwritten by a designer somewhere, and the effects of that choice have been predetermined by the developers. There’s very limited stuff that players actually get to do.”

“Heavy Rain is an amazing experience. They can tell great stories; better than I can tell in my life as a game developer. But they tell better stories because no player will ever do anything surprising or unaccounted for. They’re basically like five movie scripts all mashed together, and you’re just picking which script you’re telling at any given point in time.”

According to Spector, the people who makes these games aren’t serving the medium properly – and should get out of it.

“If all you want to do is show off how clever you are, get out of my medium! Go make a movie or something, because that’s what you should be doing,” he suggested.

He did name-check a few games that he feels are doing a good job, or are “high expression” games – including The Sims, Fallout, Dishonored and Fighting Games; games which tell their stories through play action, and not from a script.

“We are all part of a medium nothing else can do: collaborative storytelling,” he said. “And I think it’s important that we embrace that capability.”

I’ve got a lot of respect for Spector, and I can’t really disagree with him, but he’s really coming across as a bit of a pompous windbag. I think there are enough people who play videogames – enough of a market – for all sorts of games.

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Uncharted maker Naughty Dog agrees, with this statement in response to Spector’s comments.

“Right now, in the industry, we have such a great opportunity to create many different games, from blockbuster triple-A studios to indie studios, to address every type of play style and every type of ‘want’ that you could want in a game. It’s great that you’re hearing this type of criticism towards all sorts of games, because people are starting to make games that let you explore all sorts of different genres. I think people are really starting to think about those things – about what more could games do – because there are all these games out there that are appealing to different genres and play styles, and I think that’s what’s really special about the industry right now.”

Last Updated: November 2, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • Brady miaau

    (Do != talk)

    (Action == believing) && (Game_Release_Date > ‘2015/05/01’)
    Awesome, what a clever chap

  • Hammersteyn

    Ripping on TLOU??? Well let’s see what he’s worked on since the year 2000
    Deus Ex (2000), Ion Storm Austin
    Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003), Ion Storm Austin
    Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004), Ion Storm Austin
    Epic Mickey (2010), Disney Interactive Studios
    Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (2012), Disney Interactive Studios

    Yeah he was hot stuff in the 90’s but it feels like he’s a little salty atm. being relegated to Disney’s basement

    • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

      The last good game he worked on was 15 years ago.

      • Hammersteyn

        Exactly, it would be the same as if Matt LeBlanc started ripping on comedies.

        • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

          Oh snap

    • Nikola

      That’s what I was going to say ok mr.fing genius why don’t you give us an amazing game then???

      • Hammersteyn

        He did! Epic fucking Mickey 1 and 2.

  • Bob of the Khundelar

    Who writes the summary/ synopsis blurb on the main page for each article? Apparently predetermined narratives are being foorced on us – “highlighting player agency and choice enough, foorcing predetermined narratives on players.”

    I don’t think I want to be foorced to do anything. Please don’t foorce us. 😛

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      So you don’t want to foorce to be with you?

      • Bob of the Khundelar

        Well if Obi-Wan is right the foorce will be with me always.

        • Hammersteyn

          *foorce

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          This is so confoosing now. Is the force foorced on you, or the foorce? And is it forced, or foorced?

          • Hammersteyn

            My foorehead hurts with all the info foorcing into my head

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Maybe it’s not the infoo you’re looking foo?

          • Hammersteyn

            Heloo, is it me yoo looking foo?

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            I think I’m bleeding out of every oorifice after reading these…

          • Bob of the Khundelar

            Quickly, get this man to the hoospital before all his bloood is goone.

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            *befoore….

            Geoff’s gooing to hate us for this….

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            It’s Gooff’s fault ;P

          • Hammersteyn

            Might even have given Adminiral a meltdown with all these grammar mistakes

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            I’m waiting for that banhammer…

          • Hammersteyn

            hahaha it’s been a while

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            Is it Mjöl(ba)n(ne)r?

    • Hammersteyn

      No one foorced you to read it 😛

      • Bob of the Khundelar

        I know but I cannot unsee it. Now everyone must be foorced to as well.

        • Hammersteyn

          Foore sure

        • Brady miaau

          Yes. Thank you. I missed it. Now I too cannot unsee it.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I agree, that’s some grade-A pretentious waffling. There’s plenty of room for both, and they offer differing experiences, and it’s all about what you prefer – which changes from moment-to-moment. To say one type of game is “more game” than another is pointless.

    Only the style of music I like is real music, only the types of movies I like are real movies, is the refrain of the small minded.

  • Grand Admiral Chief SpaceNinja

    Stop pulling the leg!

    http://doggifpage.com/gifs/47.gif

    • Hammersteyn

      The empire should take notes. At-at can run on three legs

      • Darren Peach

        Imagine how different our lives would be if AT ST ( Yeah , Ima nerd.) had three legs ?

      • Darren Peach

        Maybe you were referring to the AT-at’s and therefore you are also a nerd and I am just a poser cause I had to google the name of the 2 legged ones. Crap, I hate google.

        • Hammersteyn

          I meant the four legged ones. Thank goodness I was right, I’d never hear the end of it

          • Darren Peach

            Dude, I flubbed up royally. I thought you meant the two legged ones, Then it occurred to me you might be referring to the 4 legged ones, Then it occurred to me that I should go back to bed, Clearly my brain is still there.

          • Hammersteyn

            XD

    • Dutch Matrix

      Shame man! That dog most likely got cancer in that hind leg of his, hence why he’s chomping on it like he does.

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    “low expression games” “medium expression games”, I’ll show you an “extreme expression game”, you go play bloodborne, go, play it, we’ll see how much your TV likes you expressing your controller into it’s screen!

    He simply sounds like someone jealous of others’ work…

  • konfab

    REEEEEEEEEEEE, GET OUT MY MEDIUM YOU NORMIES.

    I wonder if this “expert” would classify Journey as “low expression”

  • Nikola

    What an douchebag wow!!!

    • Dutch Matrix

      * a douchebag

  • Darren Peach

    Well, Mr Spector, Just like Lord British and Will Wright, You are coming across as a douche-bag.To create a truly player driven narrative is simply impossible because someone has to design a the game. Even choice in games like Fallout lead us to designed conclusions. Open world games are the future, But someone has to create em. Don’t they ? Maybe The Last of Us has merit for is carefully crafted narrative ? Maybe set pieces offer a different kind of value to our gaming experience. You opinion does not even make sense. It’s not like there is a random virtual story server somewhere that offers infinite choices to players. How many people would it take to even meet your vision ? Maybe when AI becomes a real thing your antiquated values will kinda make sense, But I doubt it. The AI will still be designing choices,,,,,,,

    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

      His common sense doesn’t tingle…

  • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    It’s one thing if it comes from someone that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what we see as gaming, it’s a completely different side of a coin when a has been makes comments like these. And the manner he portrays it is a little ridiculous too…

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