So I’m going to do the blogger thing and write a reply to people who receive vastly more media attention than I do, if only so I can amuse myself in years to come when I can point at it and say I was right.
In a recent panel at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to voice their opinions on the supposed future of computer gaming. Now while I might consider Lucas to be a fairly clueless fluke of cinema history, I do have pretty good regard for Spielberg. However, it was evident by their comments that they don’t really get it. All wrapped up in Hollyworld, they haven’t quite seen what is keeping games from being as emotionally engaging as they could be.
Yes, the most backward element of games today is not a teenage obsession with violence; which is no more rife than that of the film industry, and simply reflects human nature. It isn’t the revival of retro aesthetic, or the fact that “big names” of acting still don’t tend to gravitate to games. No, it is simply that games are trying too hard to be films. Set-piece missions. Scripted dialogue. Pre-written ending scenario(s). They are trying to be like Steven Spielberg. And that’s not where our future lies; it lies in a much grander, mind-boggling vista of splendour than that.
Games will be our alter-lives, our parallel universes. They will be the experiences you want to have about things that don’t exist, people you could never meet, things that are impossible. I am convinced we will never invent time travel; but we will almost certainly simulate it to such a degree that for all intents you can visit any time you want. Real sensations are important, but the current means of immersion we have are massively underestimated. The film-makers bemoaned such things as controllers and TV screens as holding us back, but it is incredible how your imagination can lose you in a game-verse on even the smallest screen. Anyone who has really gotten into a game will tell you that. Besides, books seem to manage an incredible degree of engagement without even a screen.
I’m not saying interfaces have peaked with the control pad, far from it. Interaction tools like Kinect doubtlessly bring advancement and immersion, but they’re not the real core of the challenge. What we need are more robust, procedural, smarter and lifelike worlds that capture our imagination. We need characters that respond dynamically to us such that they feel like real people; plots that weave around us and our actions, not regurgitate the message of some writer. And yes, there will be room in this space for storytellers; but we (and I consider myself one) will be in the community, telling of the great experiences we have had in this incredible, lifelike gameverse.