Neil Druckmann, creative director and writer at Naughty Dog, is happy with how technology has broadened the scope of games. However, he sees indie games as leading the way in story-telling and pushing the envelope in the industry.
Speaking to GamesIndustry International in the build up to delivering the keynote at the IGDA Toronto, Druckmann explained that the criteria for good game stories has changed.
“You can track it and see what used to be considered the bar for good storytelling. Looking back at it, it was a lot of times substandard. And some of it was because of technology, because we weren’t able to convey a lot of subtext or expression, so the dialog a lot of times had to do a lot of heavy lifting.”
However, Druckmann says the industry is getting to the point of diminishing returns – adding thousands of animations or getting wrinkles just right won’t necessarily tell a better story. Druckmann mentions Gone Home and Papers, Please as examples of incredible storytelling. He believes that indie games are leading the way towards huge shifts in what we expect from games. Circumstances dictate that AAA studios are more risk averse – with huge budgets and tons of jobs at stake, they simply cannot make games that push the envelope in the same way that indies can. As indies prove that games can try new things and be successful, Druckmann believes that AAA will follow in their footsteps:
“I feel like AAA games… we’re on this cusp of at the very least seeing strong, non-sexualized female protagonists starring in games. You’re going to see a lot more of those, and a lot more that are commercially successful. A lot of times in AAA games, people feel like they need to play it safe because there’s so many parts of a giant corporation working on a global scale to launch a title that they don’t want to take too many risks. But once you have enough evidence to say ‘Hey look, this is actually not a risk, this can succeed commercially,’ then creativity can flourish and new avenues can be pushed.”
It makes sense that indies are more experimental – developers have more to prove and less to lose than larger, established studios. However, indie games do not necessarily have the same commercial success. It would be great if AAA studios could develop more indie-inspired games; it just has to be financially viable for them to do so. At the very least, indie games explore gender and sexuality from unique perspectives. Hopefully, this encourages AAA games to be more equal, or at least aware, in their representations of all kinds of characters.
Last Updated: September 16, 2013