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During his keynote address at PAX Australia, Warren Spector, creator of Deus Ex and designer of Epic Mickey, said too many games today don’t fully make the most of games as a medium. He believes that games should be looked at as games and not interactive movies.
Warren Spector, a veteran of game industry and known for creating games that give players a wide variety of choices to progress in-game, has a reputation for not holding back and speaking his mind. This was especially evident when he quoted saying that “we are all part of a medium nothing else can do: collaborative storytelling. And I think it’s important that we embrace that capability.” This was Spector calling designers to create more games that encourage player agency and ‘collaborative storytelling’, and in the process he singled out Uncharted, Heavy Rain, and Telltale’s The Walking Dead, saying that they don’t make the most of games as a medium.
Spector said that these games are basically telling players where to go and that “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 made an emphasis on how games like these aren’t bad but the player interaction is limited and affects the way a player can express his or herself. It’s about figuring things out more on your own instead of having the game hold your hand and guide you exactly where you need to go. He admitted that these games have much better stories than he would ever be able to tell, however, it’s “not a player story; it’s not your story.”
When talking about Naughty Dog’s Uncharted, he labeled it as a “low-expression” game from his scale of low, medium, to high. Naughty Dog’s Community Strategist, Arne Meyer, responded to Spector saying “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.”
He felt that Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead are examples of medium-expression games because although you do have to make difficult decisions, the decisions aren’t purely the player’s choice because the choices are “pre-scripted and hand written by a designer somewhere, and the effects of that choice have been predetermined by the developers” which limits what players get to do.
Spector then made a comment that fighting games and titles such as Dishonored, The Sims, Fallout, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution are “high-expression” games. He added that gamers should “vote with their dollars” to make sure designers prioritize the player experience instead of showing off “how clever they are”.