Deus Ex dev bothered by industry's violent focus

Deus Ex, Epic Mickey designer says games today focus too squarely on violence, lack ability to relate "basic human interactions."

Warren Spector, who led design on the original Deus Ex and is currently working for Disney on the Epic Mickey franchise, is uncomfortable with the industry's focus on shooters and violence. Speaking to Eurogamer Germany (via Eurogamer), the designer called on developers to use their skills to create more believable characters, not just authentic-looking guns.

Spector wants games to be more diverse experiences.

"Can you imagine what games would look like if [id Software cofounder John Carmack and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney] spent as much time working on non-combat AI as they do on rendering? Can you imagine what games we would have if John Carmack decided he wanted to create a believable character as opposed to a believable gun?"

Spector explained that he believes games are stuck in a rut. He said modern games can relate violence, but they struggle with "basic human interactions" like sex and emotion.

"Think about what we do," he said. "Think about our controls. We have a controller that has a bunch of buttons on it. That maps really well to, I'm going to press this button at this millisecond which will cause a pixel to move on the screen and create another pixel. We do that really well, and that maps really well to pulling a virtual trigger on a virtual gun. It's easy for us to do that."

Elsewhere during the interview, Spector explained the culture at Disney is such that he is never asked to work on projects with much violence. "They don't even want you to do a game like that," he said.

Spector said because of this, he is interested in developing games with themes he can more personally connect to. These themes include what it's like to have a brother and how a person forms a family.

Lastly, Spector said the industry focuses "a bit too much on violence," and this is because "it's easy" and is proven to be popular. "It isn't all we can do, and it certainly isn't all we should do," he said.

Written By

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

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Discussion

227 comments
ash162
ash162

People generally whine about not having enough variety in the market but at the end of the day we gamers are just dodging the blame. There are tons of different games like catherine, heavy rain, shadows of the damned, dark souls but  we tend to buy shooter titles again  and again. it is our fault that industry is in a 'rut' b'coz what's the point of innovation if nobody appreciates it!

AsKo25
AsKo25

someone get this man a copy of Catherine!

istuffedsunny
istuffedsunny

This is why I play Japanese games almost exclusively. The amount of variety is ridiculous compared to American games, especially on handheld and PC. Although lately there has been a lot more trash flooding the market it's still far more interesting than the sea of shooters that release each year in the US.

Barrakas21
Barrakas21

this will never sell in a country that says a person have a right to have a gun lol 

try europe us is still to far behind for that kind of maturity games 

TC_Squared
TC_Squared

Although my favorite games are more or less violent, I do agree with this man to a certain extent. Games when I was younger did have plenty of violence, but possessed such with the indirect message that the violence was bad. Nowadays extensive violence is expressed as a necessity. Just compare the original Resident Evil to Resident Evil 5. And don't get me started on the Splinter Cell series.

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

The good folks over at Disney DETEST violence...unless it's at the beginning of one of their MANY beloved children's movies in which the adorable main character's mother/father/sibling/entire family is horrifically murdered off screen for cheap dramatic effect. Or...you know...the horrific DEATHS of most of the major villains at the end of many Disney classics as well. Hell, the death of Ursula from the Little Mermaid could have been taken straight out of God of War what with the broken ship mast to the gut and a large bolt of lightning courtesy of Zeus. 

 

"But yeah! Nuts to that says Spector! Down with violence! Give gamers more sequels to monotonous, kid friendly Mickey Mouse games chock full of cartoonish melodrama! ...and brother simulators, apparently." - No one ever...except maybe Molyneux with that creepy PB simulator "Milo" he was working on *shudders*.

kidflash2000
kidflash2000

i think what this guy is trying to say is..there is very little emotion expressed in games these days, look at Skyrim, u can marry a character, but where is the real emotion that u would expect to be there? or even in shooters, why do i have to kill the main bad guy(*cough cough* CoD) or what about all the blood i shed just to get the one main baddie? no reflection at all from your main dude/dudette? and it just keeps going and going...my favorite game of all time is FFVIII, because the emotion, not graphics, the story and the emotion is what really got me

maxwell97
maxwell97

"Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see."

revanknight
revanknight

I think Warren Spector has a great perspective on things. He's worked on violent shooters in the past, and one of them (Deus Ex) told a highly complex espionage story with some good character moments woven in. Still, I don't think the problem is that developers are focusing on brutal violence as much as it is developers can't strike the right balance between good gameplay and good story.

Shawn45
Shawn45

I think it's just a phase that the industry is going through. It was JRPGs in the 90s, music games were insanely popular early 2000s, and now shooters are incredibly popular. It'll die down for the next genre to be milked. What it is is anyone's guess though.

C2N2
C2N2

It is popular because it is something we are otherwise probably never going to do in our lives... I can go frolic in a field, paint pictures, etc in real life so why would I want to play a game about that...? I can't fight a war in real life... I can't command an army, single-handedly defeat an entire alien race to save the world, etc in reality.

nguedes44
nguedes44

Perhaps a combination of massive multiplayer and a very good and massive crafting engine would do the trick....

nguedes44
nguedes44

Would love more diverse games! But how exactly do you program and incorporate complex interactions into gameplay? Shooting is easy, there are few interactions possible. But as the number of possible interactions rise, the complexity of programming and developing a friendly gameplay framework increases exponentially.

thetravman
thetravman

This article is very similar to David Cage's "Grow up" statement just recently. It seems that serious developers are becoming more annoyed in what our industry has become. I agree with them completely...but what can we do about it? Violence sells, and sex sells. That's humanity for you. If it prints money, who cares about making Art? At least there are ambitious developers like Spector.

Reuwsaat
Reuwsaat

I agree with him, I'm really into these games that can make you wonder and feel stuff, but there's nothing like shooting people in the end of a stressful day, good old violence and brutality to forget that bosstard. 

Falru
Falru

The gaming industry is hardly the only industry to focus on what is easy and sells "good enough."

 

Look at the music industry and shitty pop music.

alenth
alenth

I think he's talking more about COD and other shooters, cough....

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

First of there are plenty of different types of games out there puzzle beat em up, shoot em up, RPG  and others. the shooter is what is selling most now. Anyway a game being violent don't make it bad just the same way it don't make it good. As long as a game is fun to play who cares if it is violent or not.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

Well Action sells...I agree though, I'd love to see more games that give me a wider variety of emotional responses.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

many videogames were just fine when they managed to be fun and non-violent in the 80's. game designers these days are lazy in the concept department. theres a few bright lights in the sky but for the most part the truth is depressing. violence attracts attention so therefore they make a game violent to get consumers to look their way instead of focusing on genuinely making a good game. "who cares if the game sucks? at least we made a profit. as long as them suckers keep buying them, we'll keep making them, and we'll keep making money."

HuricaneOrleans
HuricaneOrleans

thats why i like deux ex even though i never played the original 2 i played HR and i liked being able to choose nonlethal means to dispatch enemies...but violence adds fun though...video games are just fun or entertaining

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

"These themes include what it's like to have a brother and how a person forms a family."

 

All due respect to WS, but that sounds boring as hell. When I do play games I play them for excitement and escapism. I couldn't care less about what it's like to have a brother or form a family. If that's your angle I believe there already is a game where you can kind of do that: The Sims and it's bajillion expansions.

 

Sorry. Just because a well-known dev wants to focus on narcoleptic-type games doesn't mean it's a good idea.

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

So he basically wants less violence and more sex in games. 

Royial20
Royial20

While i do agree that violence is in video games it doesn't mean its bad. Personally i'll play any type of game as long as its fun. I do think the video game industry could do with more adventure, role playing and strategy games. Also what does he define as violence? Just saying some people see fighting games as pretty tame violence while he may think they are very violent.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

I guess few people on here truly remember all the original arcade games (Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaga, Pole Position, etc, etc).  The games weren't so much violent as they were puzzle-solving challenges to get high scores.  Smashing foxfires in Donkey Kong is violent, but foxfires don't exist, so is it really violence?  It was just a way of getting more points.  Pac-Man eats ghosts, and the ghosts eat Pac-Man - more violence.  Pole Position...not so much.  You just race.  Bust-A-Move...now there was a good game.  No violence, but so much pressure in head-to-head mode.  Thinking and reflexes all in one game.It all depends on what you're looking for.  The better Final Fantasy games had not only story, but violence, character building, puzzle solving, action sections, and even minigames within them.  Look to that example for great games - the best appeal to everybody, and they do it with a great story.And while I wait for another purchase-worthy FF (FF13 was NOT purchase-worthy), I'll still play other FFs, Assassin's Creed *n*, Tekken *x*, Death Rally, Civilization 4 (5 sucked completely), Deus Ex (the original), and other good games.  Life is violent, so I expect a good bit of violence in my games.  Oh, yeah, and let's not forget GTA: San Andreas...the next GTA better not suck like the last one did.  :)

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

It's probably been said a few times below - but wasn't Deus X a game where the main character uses guns?

Hurvl
Hurvl

So, other companies prevent games that are non-violent and Disney prevents games that are violent. What kind of preventions do you prefer? It seems like trading one master for another, just with different issues (if being a bit unfair). The important thing is that there are a wide range of games to choose from. I want stupid, violent games as well as deep, story-driven games. One thing doesn't have exclude the other.

xDeadMarchx
xDeadMarchx

He's talkin crap. Obviously never even touched half of the games out there. There are many markets that a designer can target. There are people who prefer stories, and people who want to see/do something flashy (often violent). People enjoy both as well, it's not like games with story and emotion are going to dissapear, because there will always be a market for it.

00LiteYear
00LiteYear

It's human nature to want conflict, isn't it? Without conflict, Almost everything is boring. That's why PvP and fighting games is so popular these days.

That said, I want another [Dark Souls], so I can invade someone's world and ruin their play through. 

shadowkiller11
shadowkiller11

This would of been relevant 5 years ago but developers seem to be focusing on the characters and narrative anyway now. Still got progress to do but it's getting there.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I don't really think that the Videogame industry has become overly violent. Or at least more that in decades 2000-2010, 1990's, or 1980's.

 

The graphics have just become "better" but the voilent content. remains the same. People once protested. Night Trap for the Sega CD. As well as Mortal Kombat prevoiusly. Through the years there have always been protests that Videogames cause violence in people.

 

Warren Spector should take note of all of the genres that are not voilence focused.

 

 

 

nate1222
nate1222

I agree with him. But I don't expect an industry run by "way-too-cool" deuches to cut its bullshit out. And pandering to insecure, microphalic, would-be badasses is too profitable. Look at Hollywood: they've been cashing in on that crowd for decades.

Llama345
Llama345

The only thing that will trigger a shift is if BLOPS II and then the next MWF doesnt sell well.... And from everything I have seen from polls and and like, people are just happy to sit and play with themselves to get a yearly addition of the a CoD. 

wexenhex
wexenhex

 @istuffedsunny 

oh dont be such a weeaboo. japanese games are also filled with a bunch of pretty art but not much actual gameplay. i love RPGs, and Final Fantasy is good, but it basically just plays out like a melodramatic movie. the gameplay itself is linear and not very strategic. compare it to a western RPG like Baldur's Gate 2, and it looks terrible. BG has multiple ways conversations and the story itself can play out depending on the player's choices, not to mention the ridiculously tactical combat requiring the player to really plan out each encounter and how the battle is going, focusing on sometimes 6 different party members. FF is just...press attack over and over unless the enemy is a boss. except for 12. that one really started going in the right direction. then they ruined it with 13.

wexenhex
wexenhex

 @Barrakas21 

what the hell is that supposed to mean? what, you think its immature to have the right to protect myself?

ManatuBeard
ManatuBeard

 @kidflash2000 lol, relationships in Skyrim are so cold and dry, it really seems like an excuse for the "lovers confort" bonus.

wexenhex
wexenhex

 @revanknight 

and the thing about Deus Ex was the choice it gave the player. sure, you can massacre this whole group of soldiers, but its also perfectly doable to just sneak around them, or maybe talk to someone and find an easier way in.

mdnthrvst
mdnthrvst

How is the JRPG anything like a 'fad'? It's a genre as old as Dragon Quest and has persisted to this day.

Nor did any nebulous "industry" start and stop making them - the Japanese industry and Western industry have always been distinct.

trophywhore
trophywhore

 @C2N2 no, you can sign up to go to war, too.  It's as easy as frolicing in a field.  I don't know about commanding or alien races, but you can shoot at brown people.  I'm pretty sure playing violent shooters actually makes for better soldiers.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

In the original Deus Ex, you can use stun prods, anaesthesia darts and batons to perform non-lethal takedowns.  You can also avoid enemies entirely, but it's really difficult in the beginning since you have so few stealth augmentations and upgrades.

Barrakas21
Barrakas21

 @wexenhex Only a ignorant person thinks that guns give protection. nation of crazy rednecks

00J
00J

 @ManatuBeard  @kidflash2000 well Skyrim IS cold and dry... heh 

What can you say, it's not a marriage simulator it's an everything simulator. GTA 4 tried this same concept of relationships and it was pretty simple.  

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

 @worlock77 nope, just what i think is good. i could give a rip about what i think you or anyone else thinks is good.

Hrodwulf666
Hrodwulf666

 @Barrakas21  @wexenhex 

 

Woah!!... Guns CAN offer protection, but protection equates to defence not attack and desensitised gung ho attitudes towards fire arms and conflict are not conducive to peace. Or a stand point where one is merely "Defending ones self", more like "I own this big ass gun... who's gonna be the first to give me the opportunity to use it?"... That's not defence... That instigation. 

 

What do you mean "Try Europe"? Europe has been tearing its own throat out with ceaseless warmongering centuries longer than the US has even been... well the US. 

 

However... Nature by definition is violent. Our senses are primed for it. Why shouldn't our art imitate our life... is it not better to act out violence in video games than on the street? If more people received education about the context of video games even morons might be able to separate them from real life and use them in a therapeutic capacity. 

 

Like me, I am subject to violence and aggression every day in my job. I go home and I kill pixels....

 

worlock77
worlock77

 @KimCheeWarriorX 

So then you acknowledge that it's entirely possible for violent games to be genuinely good games, even if you don't enjoy them?