Video Games Warned: Don't End Up Like Comic Books

Famed games developer Warren Spector (Deus Ex), has warned the video game industry to tread very carefully, lest it end up as niche and marginalised as he thinks comic books are.

"If we don't break out of big buff guys with swords and guys in tights and space marines in armour, we're going to get marginalised in the way comics have been in the United States," he told attendees during his keynote address at GDC Europe. "I hope we can break free of the content of comic books."

That's... well, it's a little unfair on comic books, particularly given the success something like Scott Pilgrim is enjoying right now, but when you consider comics aren't exactly an everyday purchase for everyday people, he's got a point. It's a little unfair of video games, though, when you consider the runaway hit of 2010 has been a sprawling spaghetti western.

The rest of his talk dealt less with generalisations and more with common sense, Spector issuing a public - and long overdue - decree that developers focus more on iconic imagery than a futile attempt at photo-realistic graphics. "Our graphics have gotten a lot better over the years, but we still fall far far short of what people expect from a movie. In some respects we're still making cartoons."

As games like Wind Waker and Team Fortress 2 - two of the most visually iconic titles of the past decade - show, maybe trying to make a game look like a cartoon is the best way to go!

Spector: "We're still making cartoons" []


    All due respect (Deus Ex is legendary), but...whatever.
    Firstly comic books are MASSIVE, nothing with a fan base of millions can be "marginalized".
    Secondly video games are more "mainstream" than ever, playing video games no longer means being stereotyped a slacker or a geek...or a pothead.
    Thirdly video games have ALWAYS had a diverse range of characters ranging from the unreal to the life-like (graphics aside, many lead characters have been "normal" non-comic book type characters).

      Comic books are not really that massive, a fan base of many millions is still relatively nothing in the scheme of things.

      Agreed that games are more mainstream than ever, but there is a long way to go before the industry grows up and takes down its space marines posters. Despite the brilliance of RDR, its still 'just a video game' where the primary activity is being a bad ass dude shooting people with a gun.

      Also..Scott Pilgrim isn't really enjoying any mainstream success

        Not to mention, before comics attained the, albeit niche, level of success they now have, they started off mostly as spaghetti western plot lines. So if you want to use RDR as an example I would say that's degenerative in terms of the comparison to comics, not progressive.

        I know it might touch a raw nerve for some gamers to hear this, but I believe he is spot on with what he is saying. Elves battling space marines is niche and will always be niche. Wait, before you mention lord of the rings, YES that movie was really successful but how many successful movies like it have there been before and after it? Not many.

        People who would say that CoD's success represents that these type of games are mass market are simply lacking an understanding of what the size of mass market really is. (nb I know no one here specifically mentioned CoD I'm just using that as an example)

    I Lol'd that you used Scott Pilgrim as an example of comic book success, considering that this article is on your own damn webpage!

    Look, comic books are great. Lots of people like comic books. Unfortunately, most people who like comic books don't realise that a lot MORE people dislike comic books for various reasons. Me? I dislike American comics because they (apart from graphic novels) are too darn short! When I can finish a comic book on the bus ride home from the comic book store...

    Anyway, what he says is true. We REALLY need to get away from all these big gaming stereotypes and FAST. Call of Duty and it's clones (Battlefield, Medal of Honour) are going to self destruct in a big way, and that's going to be a huge hit to the gaming industry.

    I just read the kotaku article about the voice actor from Red Dead - the guy starts off with:

    "I recently asked my agent if I could try auditioning for video game character voices. I thought it would be fun and maybe even legitimize the fact that I play more video games than a forty-year-old who has been laid probably should."

    Even with the games industry trying hard, it is still going to take a whole generation to escape these kind of persistent messages.

    What are they on about? Videogames STARTED OUT marginalised, simply because they traditionally relied on technology that was only available to a small sector of society. That has increasingly changed, and now the penetration into popular culture is greater than it has ever been before, and only looks to continue the trend. The Wii is a perfect example.

    So "artistic maturity" is defined as mundane stories about bland and normal people with dull lives and don't really do anything extraordinary?

    Idolization of big buff dumb brutes annoys the living hell out of me (and is a testament to the superficiality of the mass market), but the presumption that escapist fantasies can't be intelligent or deep is a very unfair one. Especially considering Warren Spector made a game (Deus Ex) that both had a plotline that discussed intelligent ideas and gave the player a satisfying escapist fantasy.

    Its fair to argue games like Gears Of War show us that people have shallow concepts of escapism or "what I'd want to be" (indeed, I argue this very point). But that doesn't mean we have to abandon epic stories or the like.

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