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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

was reviewed on PC


  1. Admiral Chief of Rivia

    September 16, 2013 at 10:39

    Story >>>> pretty things


    • SaintsRowLee

      September 16, 2013 at 10:46

      New gameplay models infinitely >>>>>>> story>>>>>> Pretty things I’d say


      • ToshZA

        September 16, 2013 at 12:27

        No. A new gameplay mechanic can get dull and tired if the story sucks bottom. The model / mechanic has to suit the story. The pretty things have to suit both of the above. And then tesselation.

        They should tesselate stories, so that they can evolve and get richer, or more detailed depending on your play style or something. That’d be the shiz, DX11, what’s that?


        • SaintsRowLee

          September 16, 2013 at 13:37

          No, then you are dealing with a gameplay mechanic that is dull.


    • Kromas

      September 16, 2013 at 11:22

      Case in point ME3 ending had 3 different pretty explosions …. made the game far worse.


      • Brian Murphy

        September 16, 2013 at 20:37

        Stalker – Shadows of Chernobyl had 7 different endings and is probably one of the best hybrid FPS-RPGS to have ever been made. I guess it entirely depends on how it’s done.


  2. Alien Emperor Trevor

    September 16, 2013 at 10:46

    A good story has made me persevere with a few games that otherwise I would have given up on. A good story is what makes SP memorable for me. The ending of Mark of the Ninja is pretty powerful – and that’s a side scroller – which made it really unexpected.


  3. M-m-m-monster John

    September 16, 2013 at 10:47

    I have to get Last of Us. I feel out. Oh wait. No, still have ALL those humble bundle games to play. Steam really has a hold on my life.


    • Her Highness the Hipster

      September 16, 2013 at 14:16

      tell me about it! my steam backlog is hectic… such a hard life. 😉


      • That Dark Twit

        September 16, 2013 at 14:26



  4. RincemySniperKittEH0-O

    September 16, 2013 at 10:48

    Agreed. I think we will slowly see a merger of AAA and indie games as they become more mainsteam. I think that has to happen for the gaming industry to survive. Oh, and GTAV!


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