Warren Spector, one of the most respected game designers out there and the lead creator of the revered Deus Ex, did something unusual for a game designer today. At a talk at the DICE convention in Las Vegas, he named a name… or at least he let one of his slides name the name of a game that he says “should just not be made”.
The game? Warner Brothers and Grasshopper Manufacture’s violent, lowbrow game Lollipop Chainsaw on the screen.
This came up as Spector took his small audience of a few hundred game designers, executives and reporters through a personal journey, charting his changes as a gamer and game designer from his 20s to his 50s. (He’s 57.33 now, he helpfully noted.)
Early in the talk, he made a point about how he used to want longer games. As he got older, he had less time for them and now craves shorter ones.
“It’s not just about time. It’s not just about giving me shorter experiences. It’s about the content. My interests in content have changed dramatically and I suspect this is true for many of you. There are some games the should just not be made, by the way…”
At that moment, Spector showed an image of Lollipop Chainsaw. This would not be the first time Spector has complained about today’s hyper-violent video games. But he’s not gone out of his way to be specific. Here, he did.
Some members of the audience chuckled.
“I’ll try not to be too obnoxious,” he continued. “When I was younger, that’s all I needed. All I needed was to differentiate myself from other people. If it was going to convince my mother that I was a juvenile delinquent, I was there. I needed to be transgressive. Adrenaline rush and spectacle were all I needed. I don’t think I was alone in that. Maybe I’m just shallow… When you’re this age, spectacle is plenty. And bloodsprays and all that stuff is really kind of what you’re looking for because you really want to alienate people in a strange sort of way. You want to shock people and you want to be different.
“Not so much, anymore.
“I have no interest in guys who wear armour and swing big swords. I have been the last space marine between earth and an alien invasion. I really just don’t need to go there anymore. I want content that is relevant to my life, that is relevant to me, that is set in the real world….
“If we’re going to reach a broader audience, we have to stop thinking about that audience strictly in terms of teenage boys or even teenage girls. We need to think about things that are relevant to normal humans and not just the geeks we used to be.”
He went on to commend Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead as two of the best experiences he’s had in gaming in a while. Both games made the quotidian interesting. Both games were about real emotions and could make even a simple meal a gripping interactive experience.
We’ll have more on Spector’s talk later.