Gamasutra ran a really great interview with the creatives working on the latest Splinter Cell. Centered around balancing realism with ethics and controversial gameplay, it’s well worth a read if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
But I thought this point about the challenge of using a constantly changing medium to bring about emotion in users was salient for the day job…
At the same time, I’m hoping that we’re going to get to a point where we can touch people the same way Journey touched me, with a game like Splinter Cell or a game like Assassin’s Creed where the graphics are realistic and it’s true humans that are telling me a story — I can be touched that way and be in control, and it’s not just a game forcing an emotion on me, but just me through my decisions, living those emotions as strongly, or even more strongly, than in a non-interactive medium.
RD: Also, remember we’re constantly trying to hit a moving target here. If you look at every other storytelling medium, it has been stable for at least a hundred years. Filmmaking, the language has likely stayed the same since George Méliès. Theater has largely stayed the same since Shakespeare. Books, since Gutenberg. And there’s been time to iterate and perfect the craft and perfect the ways of communicating this material.
And you look at what we’re doing. The hardware is constantly changing. What can we do when the hardware is constantly changing — we’re constantly evolving and trying to simultaneously maximize the potential of the tools that we have to play with while telling these stories. And because you’re trying to hit a moving target, you’re going to have a hit and miss ratio.
I don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of the games that people are pointing to as stirring these deeper emotions have been ones that have not been necessarily bleeding edge, that were built as more of a stable technology, things like Passage, for example. Those are games where the technology and the sandbox was clearly defined, and that allowed a, for lack of a better way of putting it, an ability to concentrate on just one aspect of creating something that was more emotionally moving, because there was a place where you knew that you could aim.
With what we’re doing, with these advances in technology, with the new consoles, we’re trying to do that, but at the same time, we don’t know at any given moment the tools we have to do it with, and when you don’t know the tools that are in your kit, you don’t know what you’re going to be able to build with it.