Deus Ex Designer: Industry Suffers From "Sameness," Gamers Need to Demand More and Better Games

Warren Spector says industry has made "great strides," but gamers need to demand more culturally significant titles.

The video game industry currently suffers from a level of "sameness," a problem that could be solved if people demanded varied games that are more culturally significant. That's according to industry veteran Warren Spector, who says in a new interview with Memory Leak that it is "just a matter of time" before video games can have a seat at the cultural table, a reference to his 2010 PAX Prime keynote address.

"Any medium with the kind of financial clout and broad reach we have today has to be given its due by the cultural gatekeepers," he said. "We've made great strides already. To enhance our cultural reputation, I think we could be a bit more demanding in the kinds of content we support and demand. There's a lot of sameness in commercial games and apps--a lot of slam-bang-action blockbusters on the one hand and simple puzzle games on the other. There's a middle ground other media occupy with adult content. We could learn from that, I think."

"I just think gamers simply need to demand more and better games… different games… genuinely adult games" -- Warren Spector

Spector, 58, is perhaps best known for his work on the Deus Ex and Epic Mickey franchises. Now, he is the director for the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy, a program he established last year alongside Blizzard Entertainment COO Paul Sams at The University of Texas at Austin. Though Spector is no longer making big-budget commercial games by day, he still has a lot to say about industry trends, specifically the level of violence in games today.

"There's nothing that would get me to make a game with the kind of gratuitous violent content I saw at E3 the last few years," Spector said. "We seem to be reveling in adolescent power fantasies masquerading as adult entertainment. I have no interest. I just think gamers simply need to demand more and better games… different games… genuinely adult games. I think a lot of it comes down to publishers thinking twice about pandering to the core gamer audience. They have to recognize that the audience for games is much bigger and broader now. If we're not careful, we might lose that audience."

This is not the first time Spector has spoken out about the level of violence in contemporary games. Following E3 2012, which featured a variety of very violent demos for games like God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us, Spector said in a media interview that "the ultraviolence has to stop."

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

179 comments
Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Oh no no no no no please don't Warren.  Please don't tell gamers they should ask for more.  As if gamers weren't already obnoxious and entitled enough.  Now don't get me wrong there are SOME things gamers should demand and should get.  But telling gamers to demand more will lead to tons of nitpickety bullcrap.  Pointless DLC, on disc DLC, DLC that should've been included on the disc in the first place, forced online play, obnoxious restrictive DRM, those are things gamers should have demands about.  Demands for the game industry to stop that crap.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

I'd like to see a new development model emerge.  The little independent shops all compete for attention with innovative new games.  A few brilliant successes break away from the pack and are bought for big bucks by the likes of EA and Ubisoft to recycle at low risk/high return every year. Everybody gets what they want and we are all happy.

DanielL5583
DanielL5583

I respect Spector. A lot. His work has been awesome for a long time, ever since System Shock and Deus Ex.

BUT, what I can't stand about the guy is that he preaches about games being ultraviolent and bloody. And yet he created Deus Ex, which has a fair amount of killing involved and bloodshed, and even gibbing.

You're like the Yoshiyuki Tomino of games, man...I respect your work, but question your morals.

pyosisified
pyosisified

We get called hipsters for not letting generic s*** like CoD 6000 pour down our throat, I see this industry collapsing (again) 

ChunkyDrawers
ChunkyDrawers

I agree. As long as it doesn't have hidden agenda trying to push certain things on us *coughDragonAgeInquisitioncough*

Daelusca
Daelusca

While I appreciate this guy's frustration that everyone doesn't enjoy the type of game he does, that's called life. ...or bigotry,  I always get confused.


The market works well, even if he finds it regrettable. Hundreds of titles are released each year covering every possible genre imaginable; those which find an audience and do well commercially get copied to death....those that don't, irrespective if Spector thinks everyone should love them, fail....not complicated.

Triton
Triton

I agree with Warren, which is why the first time ever I have not purchased both new systems.(I'm 45 gaming since Atari)

vadagar1
vadagar1

its called no man sky 


thats all I need

Garm31
Garm31

The tides are turning. Game preorders are at an all time low and the console sector is way behind the PC sector. Why? 

Folks are sick to death of the yearly, repetitive, rehashes and jump on the bandwagon Devs/Publishers who are destroying our great industry.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

I agree with this guy.

I don't like FPS games, I am no huge fan of sports games. 

I like games such as RDR or GTA, basically open world sandbox games. 

Unfortunately these games are too few in number lately. I am having difficulty finding something worthwhile to play recently, I think the sameness levels are too high and that I often feel left out when it comes to new titles.

There is only one game due to come out this year, that I am actually looking forward to and that's Shadow of Mordor, which seems to be a game that not many others care about.


(Now this is the part where someone leaves a comment under mine, telling me how wrong I am for having an opinion.)

skipper847
skipper847

What is game play these days though?. Walking cut scene, QTE and the odd walk about.

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

The people games are made for nowadays don't really understand video games Warren.

Even on the developer side, it's just a bunch of graphic designers that just want to make pretty graphics and don't give a damn about gameplay. Then they rip-off a movie and you have crap like the Last of Us.

somberfox
somberfox

Gamers aren't going to demand crap because they're the least critical kind of consumer there is. They'll pay any price for anything, even if it's the exact same thing they bought one year earlier and never ask for better value.

Deano
Deano

There's a pretty broad spectrum of games that get released from every genre, if you don't like over the top violence there is hundreds of titles that get released that have little or none in it. I don't think games should feel a need to be culturally significant, I find TV shows utterly boring and don't watch it all all anymore, so trying to make games more "mature" basically means more boring, I don't want "reality" when I play games.

starhowl
starhowl

It cannot be a coincidence that he left and then Deus Ex went down the hill.

arcanitejedi
arcanitejedi

Games certainly do deserve critical attention, but I hope they never establish the 'ivory tower' of academic critical thought that exists in literature, film and music. Frankly, much of what goes on in those spheres is reaching for meaning where there is little, then dressing it up in an elitist sheen so that if you disagree with their methods or conclusions or don't 'get it', you're not smart enough, and you really should have stuck around college to get that doctorate in 1950s faux-marxist non-film.

For the vast majority of us, entertainment is there to be enjoyed, and isn't particularly enhanced by academic criticism. Moreover, video games don't need to be defended by academics to be acceptable for adults to play. They do not need justification to exist as legit medium. They never have. Nor do books, film, music, comics or any other media that people enjoy. Yes, criticism can be very interesting, and I don't begrudge those who do it at all, but it's not important with a capital 'I'. It's not 'the final step' we need to take.

Lastly, so much of videogame critical thought is based around analysis of narrative or analysis of tone or theme when what truly matters in a videogame is the mechanics of play. The feedback loop of a button press and reaction on screen, and the larger gameplay mechanics and meta-games that spiral out from that.

So often academics judge games by whether they're 'juvenile' or 'adolescent'. They are missing the point - that stuff is merely the window dressing by which you experience the 'game', and as such it rarely matters whether it stands up to what's offered in film or literature.

As an example - I can't stand the 'hoo-rah' military industrial complex stylings of Call of Duty, but when I play multiplayer it doesn't really matter. After an hour I tune that out and I'm lost in gameplay, and that's what I judge. Responsiveness, weapon balance, level design, experience systems and metagame. THIS is the artform. And it IS an artform. Let's not lose sight of that.

pazshepard
pazshepard

To think this man made a game like Deus Ex at some point and now is here. Shame. Bring back Alexander Brandon, Michiel van den Bos and team up with Casey Hudson who left Bioware. And perhaps, you may yet redeem yourself

jemoedr
jemoedr

Complaining about violence while they made a game in which you can kill people. Right...


I agree we should get BETTER games, and not so much of the same all the time. But violence is not the problem.

It is the lack of decent stories that is the problem.

frozenuxx
frozenuxx

Gee him again...Just let it go. Your game failed and it's unfortunate but you have to let it go at some point lol

thereal25
thereal25

I'd rather people have their little fantasies on screen than in real life.

CruorComa
CruorComa

Nah, I disagree. Gone Home is as much a culturally relevant and adult game as you we currently have, and despite love from critics, it's a commercial flop. Gaming is one of the last bastions of "boys will be boys" and surprise, surprise, us boys like violence and breasts. As long as straight males are the majority demographic of dedicated gaming devices, violence and breasts is how it'll continue to be, regardless of how some may lament it.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

He's right.  Unfortunately he's not one of the people who can give it to us anymore, not after Epic Mickey 1 and 2.

Fallout_red
Fallout_red

Spector: Gamers need to demand more and better games.

That is why I will give them less and worse games with Epic Mickey 2: Worse Than 1st Edition.

XNEXUS666X
XNEXUS666X

Movies and games could include some form of social commentary these days, I'm not too fussed about stories in games, but I wouldn't mind seeing some more intelligent narrative that might reflect our current social, political and environmental condition. Gimme a call Warren, got a few ideas actually.

FroMcJoe
FroMcJoe

Well at least we got Spec Ops

HLno1
HLno1

Oh, yeah.... and stop making Mickey games please.............. XD

HLno1
HLno1

omg , bout time someone said something!!! And who better than the creator of the best PC game of all time. Would be awesome if he returned to do somthing similar or at least action-oriented. In my opinion, since 2008 with the release of ME1, there have not been any "culturally significant" games any more, but just more of this sameness" in action packed games like RE6 CODs Crysis etc, which are just games made to be similar to action films and surprise us with their cinematics.... ORIGINALITY -> 0

ThePope2k6
ThePope2k6

So many people missing the point here.

What he's lamenting is that very few games even attempt to be culturally relevant, instead relying on a tried and true formula of violence for its own sake.

The man isn't even against violence in games. (Deus Ex was a pretty violent game, after all.)  But he's made it clear that doing violence just for the sake of sales does games a disservice as an art form.

Look what it took to make television culturally relevant. It took shows like M.A.S.H. and Hill Street Blues (or more recently Breaking Bad or Mad Men) to allow TV to escape the cultural notion that TV was good for nothing but rotting brains.

Gaming hasn't had that moment yet, a game that the cultural elite recognize as art/  (Bioshock Infinite came close, but the level of violence made it unpalatable for some.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Warren Spector is my hero and not just for Deus Ex.  I agree with his comments.  While I'm not as worried about the violence aspect I have a real and noisy complaint with the AAA blockbuster stuff that just seems to get more greedy, predictable, and boring every year.  I hope the more agile indie game studios will save us from that rubbish and show the bigger studios how to make fun, clever games again.  Gabe Newel is also up there on my hero list for lowering entry barriers for independent studios.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Totally agree with ya! DAI is wanting to push political correctness into our gaming lives! Losing me cuz I just want fun games without politics.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

47 and my uncle was the first to own an Atari in my family so he's got us all beat!

Garm31
Garm31

@Triton 

I'm in my mid 30's and I have purchased every console since the Super Nintendo. This is the first generation of consoles that have absolutely no appeal. 

Underpowered, lack of quality exclusives(Xbox), repetitive rehashes and far too many ports. It could also be the fact that I have a highend PC and that 90% of game releases are on the PC platform.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Triton  I'm the same age, and this will be the first time I own both a PS(PS4) and Xbox(XB!1). I have the money and I'm tired of being restricted to one platform. So I'm going all out. Also got back into PC gaming just last year. Also still considering the Wii U.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

I'm right with you man! Too few quality games on any platform to my liking but Mordor's one of them. I do believe there is way too much sameness now. We do need more RDR and GTA type games. Never have figured out why more developers don't copy the model given how successful those type of games are!

Daelusca
Daelusca

@punksterdaddy While your tastes are your tastes (and RDR is my fav game all time), methinks Spector would not be a fan of GTA. As he is railing against gratuitous violence and adolesent fantasies, sandbox or no, that is GTA.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@punksterdaddy  No of course you are not wrong. Opinions are neither right nor wrong. Only the children on this site have that mentality. No I'm not calling you a child, just saying.  With that said, I think we see more open world sandbox games now than ever before. Here is the thing, the game industry is much like the movie industry. They make what will sell. What sells is what people want. Ever so often a movie or game will come along and do something different that goes thru the roof in a sales. Then everybody else jumps on the band wagon. That part will never chance with either industry. You have industry leaders and you have everybody else.  The other issue is measuring demand. There is lies the issue. It near impossible in some cases to tell if  game will  popular or not. Nintendo missed the chance with Skylanders as one good example.  Who would have guessed Borderlands would be as popular as it is given its art style.

gamingnerd121
gamingnerd121

@somberfox Well, at least some of us demand better value in games, but we're always being shot down by apologists and other kinds.

musalala
musalala

@CruorComa Gone home was crap tho, it was a walking simulator that was over-priced. I think we can have both , explosions and bewbs and indie games trying new things.

A8ADD0N
A8ADD0N

@FroMcJoe 


That was a good game that just wouldn't be possible with old hardware. I'm glad we got it last gen, not so glad the studio that made it is now making Dead Island 2. :\

hystavito
hystavito

@ThePope2k6 The problem is that games which are seen as most art-like, are often the least game-like, know what I mean?


People want games to be respected, then they pick out the games that are the most movie-like because they have a good story, and call them "more".  So then we have this situation where like 99% of games can't get respect under that system of evaluation, from the very same people that say they want games to be respected :).  Ah, I don't feel like writing it out well right now, but I hope you get the idea :).

gamingnerd121
gamingnerd121

@cratecruncher Unfortunately, i'm completely avoiding games from publishers like Ubisoft, EA, Capcom, Square Enix and more of the larger developers. Very few of them i actually trust to put out a great game, such as CDPR. The latest game i played was Divinity: Original Sin, and i considered that to be worth playing.

It wasn't always like this, when Capcom released proper Resident Evil, Devil May Cry games and more. Now they're just being sold out for cash grabs, instead of the attention they deserve.

I still think that Devil May Cry 3 deserved more recognition than it got, simply because it really moved the action genre forward. I can't say the same thing for God of War.

jepsen1977
jepsen1977

@cratecruncher

You mean to tell us all those indie games and their "retro" style graphics are innovative? Or how about stuff like Gone Home and Dear Esther that are nothing more than walking sims - are those the ones that will save us, you think? 


Nah, I think I'll stick with AAA games like Far Cry 3, Mass Effect series, Deus ex 3, Crysis or Just Cause 2. Yes, that will mean I will miss out on the "hipster achievement" but I don't care for achievements anyway so.....

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Garm31 @Triton  I would do that, but nobody I know games on PC, its either PS or XB, So my consoles will be used for multiplayer games while my PC will be for single player one time maybe two time thru type games.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

@charlieholmes

thanks, when I saw a reply in my email inbox, I just sighed to myself thinking your comment was going to be someone pointless bickering with me again and/or end up being insulting.

Thankfully that was not the case. 

As to why there are not many open world games like GTA and RDR I believe is that they are incredibly hard to do and to do it well.

So for others to do it, that would actually require effort, time and money from them and that is something they are not willing to do.

Other companies prefer the copy and paste formula of CoD, where there is no character to program and loads more to set up that makes the world feel real. I'm not saying that what Activision does is easy, but that it's far easier for them to make FPS titles than to develop a good open world game.

There is no better open world gaming experience, than that which Rockstar give us imo. There are others that do, do it well, but it just doesn't feel as real as a R* title does.

gamingnerd121
gamingnerd121

@hystavito @ThePope2k6 Sad but true that 'culturally relevant' games are the least interesting as well. Personally i don't want movie-like games to become too common, otherwise what's the point in 'gaming'?

Deano
Deano

@jepsen1977 @cratecruncher yeah it's pretty funny how going back to EGA type graphics seems to be "indie" now and that's seen as innovative. 

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

Yeah, way too many people looking for the negative and an argument in our hobby nowadays I suppose.

I hear ya on how hard the RDR's etc. of gaming are to make. Playing, State of Decay, right now and am amaze how much depth and fun that game has. Big open sandbox game with so so graphics but great gameplay.

Have a good one!