Ex-GTA developer explains why he'll never go back to violent games

"I think it's often easier to do violence than it is to generate meaningful, interesting conflict," says ex-GTA producer Jeremy Pope.

Former Grand Theft Auto producer Jeremy Pope has spoken about his personal decision to never work on violent video games again.

Speaking to GamesIndustry International, the Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City producer said that his personal decision to focus on nonviolent development is similar to wider industry trends occurring right now. "I had grown up playing all types of games, violent games included, and worked on Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto," said Pope.

"I would always kind of defend the games we were making and I was pretty proud of being involved, but then when I would visit my grandmother in highly religious Alabama and have to explain what I do for a living, I didn't feel so great about explaining to them that I was a part of 'that game' they've been hearing about. I think that's what sort of planted the seeds of me wanting to work on different types of games."

Pope adds that his decision to work on nonviolent games doesn't detract from his admiration of Rockstar's work. "I definitely want to make a point of saying that I actually love Rockstar's games and I think that it's unfortunate that their games were specifically called out and targeted by the media, because their games--and we all know this--are really masterworks."

But thinking of ways to create nonviolent games is important to generating meaningful narrative in games, Pope adds. "I do agree that we need to be pushing ourselves [as an industry]. With any storytelling medium or any medium at all, you want to have conflict because that's how you can generate interest, and oftentimes the simplest or most base way to do that is through violence that isn't necessarily tied in to a deeper, more meaningful story."

"I think it's often easier to do violence than it is to generate meaningful, interesting conflict through nonviolent ways. I would agree in that sense that we need to push ourselves and get away from sequels and rehashing, and taking what technology affords us and using that as a primary means to justify another rehash; in other words, we're just souping up what's already been done."

Pope also thinks it's easy for the games industry to come under attack--from sources such as the NRA--because it lacks an ambassador. "We had the same problem 10 years ago and it still persists today," he said. "We don't really have a great ambassador, if you will. The ESRB does what it can, but it really shouldn't fall to the ESRB. And because it's such a large industry growing at an incredible rate, it's really difficult for any one body to emerge to become that [ambassador]. I feel like that's a large part of the issue. And then you see the NRA has one guy who goes up on a podium and gives a talk, and whether you agree with it or not there is a clear single voice and something to react to. I think that's a big challenge for us [as an industry] and I'm not sure how we get there."

"The industry has really only begun to take off in the last 20 years," added Pope. "So we'll get there; you kind of see more and more developers exploring mature themes in a more creative and responsible way now that we have less of a distribution roadblock and we have more platforms where developers can kind of flex their creative muscle a little bit."

Pope now works at a mobile startup called Rally Games, which he founded in 2011. Its first title, the free-to-play robot racer Top Bot, was released for iOS in April.

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martingaston

Martin Gaston

Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor
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423 comments
xonin360345
xonin360345

Violence is real. Murderers and kidnappers are everywhere. Accept the truth. How about you people go and stop real violence instead of ruining video games.

mommahasagun
mommahasagun

I love the GTA games, love them. But, I can't have them in my home because of the violent content.  Would it be possible to have a non-violent game mode for our younger players?  One step that would remove (or change) the missions, send the ho's inside, take out the bad language, and remove some of the weapons?  Leave them the amazing sandbox world and the hours of exploration, the driving and modding of cars, planes, trains, motorcycles.  The kids could do the police and paramedic missions,  let them drive the firetrucks...  there is SO much here for the younger guys...  and I have to constantly say no!  I realize that this is a game made for adults, yes, but a lot of us adults have kids.  If there can be a funhouse mode in San Andreas why not something like this?  I'd buy a copy... or 3!

Jedo
Jedo

Dear Jeremy Pope, 

1. Games are entertainment first and everything else second. Violence is entertaining. Violent games are therefore good. But as producer I am sure you know this.

2. A producer is a person whose job it is to produce something profitable. A calculator should not pretend to be a brush.

Sorry, I am a cynical axhole - can't help myself.

ChocolateAddict
ChocolateAddict

excellent choice! one day, all developers will make meaningful games instead of mindless violence for the masses.


Gedden
Gedden

It really all goes back to rock and/or roll.

dogbert784
dogbert784

World War 1&2 happened before GTA. "Video games produce violent people" argument is invalid. 

Nintendo_ltd
Nintendo_ltd

GTA only gives bad ideas to a lot of young dumbasses

rigbybot127
rigbybot127

This is what happens when you let people's judgemental thoughts get to you.

Marinus11
Marinus11

Admirable man, this Pope. But violent games are and will be the future of gaming, I fear. Well, I don't deny the pleasure I take in killing someone online, but that's ONLINE and VIRTUAL. If some crazy ass $%^&* can't tell the difference, then that's an extreme case. We'll always have extreme loonies in our midst and the banning if violent games won't stop it.

RpG2013
RpG2013

He is completely correct it is easy to dwell on the negative instead of positive side of gaming.

vivalatour
vivalatour

wish all the violence away and it will vanish ! and if needed get grandma to wish with you ...

 if guns are outlawed then only _______ ___ ___ ___  !

wilson336
wilson336

Is it true that watching violence affects some people? Yes....but it is like a Jedi Mind Trick; it only affects the "weak-minded". Those who are generally unbalanced or easily persuaded will be affected, while the vast majority of folks can distinguish fantasy from reality. Every generation has a scapegoat of this sort which is blamed for violence. In the 20s and 30s it was promiscuity and showing too much skin in public; in the 40s and 50s it was Rock and Roll music. In the 60s and 70s it was Hippies and Communism. In the 80s and 90s it was Dungeons and Dragons and heavy metal. In the 2000s it has been video games.

presidentperez
presidentperez

What The GTA series, in particular, has tried to and tries to do, is showing the more "ugly" and "evil" side of humanity. 

Maybe in a bit of a satiric light, but stil a very honest view on the perverse and the exetreme that u can find in society. 

Many people dont recognize Gaming as a media in witch you can interpretate society and try to tell a message, like with music and movies, which also once were restricted because older generations were afraid of the possible negative effects it could have on the youth

today many people think of the gaming media as an educational tool which can teach young boys to kill and maim 

hopefully they will learn 


vicke32
vicke32

Wait, what? Shooting does not equal violence, melee and point-blank is violent, but when you're just sitting behind cover shooting stuff it's not violent at all, it's actually pretty boring.
But I guess that if you removed the pointless combat (id est. almost all of it) from GTA then the game-length would be decreased to an hour or two. 

A good enough game can have any level of violence.

CatAtomic999
CatAtomic999

Yeah, I've got a preachy Southern grandma, too. She loves the idea of invading countries countries to kill Muslims and thinks poor people ought to starve. Maybe his isn't like mine, but I don't much care what my grams approves of because she's basically an asshole.

Deaho
Deaho

I love gta games but I have to say one word for you respect.

JusXice
JusXice

I'll be happy as hell making Rockstar games if i was in his shoes. Why join a company that ONLY specially make violent video games in the first place. He should of stop making that first game and realized what he is getting himself into. I love Rockstar games and if i join them I would be proud to make violent video games and defend my work. 

splinter10
splinter10

Your decision. As long as you're happy with it.

bnarmz
bnarmz

I commend him on recognizing that violence in media does affect some people in a negative way (as with other forms of violent media). It not only desensitizes a number of people in the world it also motivates them to be more insensitive, aggresive, and disrespectful. I can admit to liking violence in gaming but if the industry can make games with less of it, and actually make them fun....I'm all for it, you'll get my support.  I have no problem with bettering my themes for entertainment, and to witness others making those same commitments can be even more inspirational.    

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

I think his decision is perfectly ok, and that if he doesn't want to continue working on something he doesn't find fulfilling that's fine. Though I don't agree with him when he says that it's easier to make a violent game than something meaningful. Ok, sure violence can be more simplistic in terms of what you do, but it can still be pulled off in a meaningful way. For example, when John Marston died at the end of Red Dead Redemption that struck me as meaningful and quite emotional as opposed to simply adding violence for the sake of it. Also, as much as I do admire deep games, it can be quite a hard concept to pull off, which is why I don't think we do see many of them. It's not violence that is simply an easy thing to do, but that making something deep and original is harder as time goes on and more ideas are used up.

ck10304
ck10304

I admire his decision and his reasons for wanting change are very valid. I especially agree with his point that the games industry needs an ambassador, someone to defend it from all the attacks it is receiving from people trying to deflect the blame of all the violence going on in the states. Maybe a big-name developer like Cliff or Gabe, someone who has the respect of the majority of the industry, could fulfill that role

bottaboomstick
bottaboomstick

I'm laughing how he quits making landmark masterpiece games because they are violent and meaningless. He urges the industry to do the same...meanwhile he makes a racing game with robots. 


moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

In a lot of ways he's right when he says that its easier to do violence than create meaningful conflicts in games. But part of the problem both for games and the rest of the creative industries is people forgetting that even violence can and should be meaningful. Compare the silly yet incredibly meaningful hill of gravestones in Cannon Fodder with modern military shooters. Rockstar are actually one of the few companies that do understand the concept of making violence meaningful just look at the storylines of Nicco Belic or Max Payne. Yes you shoot you're way through armies of goons yet these actions are shown to have consequences for the characters both on an emotional level and though direct results of their actions. part of rockstar's message in these games seems to be that violent lives never have happy endings.

I'm all in favour of games tackling different kinds of conflict that don't involve violence but the idea that someone should be embarrassed because biased news reporting painted your game as something its not is ridiculous, artists who allow society to censor them have never produced memorable or meaningful works. I hope he goes on to create great games but if his motivation is self censorship rather than art I doubt it will happen.

SupaTrupa
SupaTrupa

Leave him alone, he's grown up and evolved as a person, something I think a lot of other "gamers" these days could stand to do.  You can also represent violence in games without all of the over-the-top blood, gore and dismemberment.  

Ducez_III
Ducez_III

I disapprove of Pope's reasoning. If you want to work on non-violent games, that's fine, but don't do it because you are ashamed or embarrassed to talk about your work to your religious family. There's nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.

If you are a creator you should try different things for the sake of challenging yourself, not because you care what other people think.

Karmazyn
Karmazyn

Hahhahahahah LOL. Funny.

Pac1Man
Pac1Man

Pope blames religion. You heard it here first.

vivalatour
vivalatour

The story made me cry , it's just a game in fact a purty good game so lighten up !

Wolfkcing
Wolfkcing

I think that hit job Katie Couric did proves we do need an ambassador. No big industry person went on her show in our defense after all.

paulsifer42
paulsifer42

I find it interesting that so many people take issue with him not being proud of his work in front of his grandma.  Isn't it natural to want to make your family proud?  Would they really be proud of him making games with a great deal of violence in them?  He didn't say he's not loved and accepted by his family, he just said he isn't proud of those games around them because what he makes is offensive to them.  He's made those games, and is now making games that his family will be proud of.  What's wrong with that?

carolino
carolino

this guy made me a mass murderer

im tony The butcher and he will have to deal with it

i know i do

GothikaGeist
GothikaGeist

It's funny how someone vowing to stop creating violent videogames PERSONALLY and then RESPECTFULLY urges the industry to pull out of the FPS sequel/rehash cycle to create games with more diversity brings out the awful side of the gaming community. It's ridiculous, some of you sound like drugged-out cult fanatics. This dude helped create those very masterworks you love.

jsmoke03
jsmoke03

cool conviction, but i think the guilt is a little missplaced imo....but more power to him if thats what he believes. at least there is still respect there

sayondas4
sayondas4

 then make a game about gandhi...haha

Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

Something is wrong. You aknowledge Rockstar's games as masterpieces and you like them, and yet you feel ashamed of them in front of other people who have negative opinions of them. Sorry but you're a bit of a Judas. The rest of what you said is ok I guess

tightwad34
tightwad34

So what if he doesn't want to do violence anymore. It's not like him going in another direction is going to affect any of the violent games coming in the future. He can do whatever in the hell he wants(as long as it's not terrible things). The grandma thing did kind of get me, though. I would simply tell my grandma if they both were still around that I am only making games and I am and will always be me and nothing will ever change that. Then again, religious freaks are tough nuts to crack.

speedyapple
speedyapple

The dude isn't bashing violence in video games, like Fox News or Ms. Couric, so I'm really lost as to where these negative comments are coming from.

He grew up playing video games, has GTA III, Vice City, San Andreas, Max Payne 1 & 2 under his resume, respectfully bowed out, so tell me you wouldn't want to have a beer with this guy.

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

He needs to grow up and stop worrying about what other people think. You should NEVER let your parents, grandparents, or anybody ruin your love for what you do. Unless you love committing violent crimes. 

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Mr. Pope, if you want an ambassador, go get a Wii executive to talk to the media.  Every other platform has FPS's, hack-and-slash RPG's, fighting games, stealth-kill games, etc, etc.  If you're not comfortable making violent video games, go start your own company, and leave the AAA awesome violent games in the hands of people who love them.  Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, and don't try to backstab the game companies that made you a living for so long (and ruin our fun in the process).  In other words, move on quietly and keep your opinions to yourself before some dumb politician uses them to censor or tax video games.

Kitmas
Kitmas

Good riddance. I don't want a developer with a distaste for violence to be working on my bloodshed games anyway. They should have a Litmus test on any violent game development to know that these are good people who enjoy the violence and feel no shame or think its cheap. Go let the rejected go develop racing or children games

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

You know something... it's his decision.  It's his career.  It's his life.  No need to be cynical about it.  There are plenty of people still in the industry making perfectly violent video games just for you.  

Vienreich
Vienreich

Only a psychopath would claim video games has no effect on us,.. to think all this slaughtering humans and aliens on the screens we hold so dear has NO effect whatsoever on the brain, rly? A constant bombardement of murder and death since we were kids has no effect on any human brain whatsoever?  It's a very disturbed statement many make. Everything we see, feal, hear and touch leaves a mark on us. We are humans that absorb our atmosphere through images and senses. The more we serve it murder and death, our minds will become colder colder by the years. I've been a hardcore gamer for two decades, but not for one second will I turn a blind eye to the dangers ahead with all this killing infused in peoples numbed down minds. 

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Wow its tough to know where to start picking this nonsense apart, the logic is so broken. But lets stick with, firstly no game is violent, its a DEPICTION of violence. Not a single person is hurt when you play GTA, only pixels change shape and colour. As for violence depiction being meaningless and uninteresting, wow. So when you complete a game like Modern Warfare 1 on hard, the feeling of achievement you get is just a delusion ? It cant be a feeling because it came from a depiction of violence ?

And as for meaningless, Id say the men who stormed the beach at Normandy would take some umberage at the notion a depiction of their efforts in say COD was meaningless no ?

So youve moved on to other projects man? Good for you, just dont forget where you came from brah. Sam and Dan Houser are saints, they should have bronze statues erected in Times Square and there should be a pilgrimage by gamers to worship them each year. If you want to turn your back on that fine, but dont can it in the meantime, just move on and pretend you "grew up" if that floats your boat. I will look forward to seeing your boring projects tanking like your John Romero's beeatch.

Adenosine
Adenosine

The guy at least is not the type who would force you to stop playing games because you'll go to hell for it. It's just that he realized his family (and most likely religion) is more important than the area of his previous work. He also has good points, it really is pretty hard to make adult themed games without much violence because most conflicts in the adult world involve it. 

Can someone really make a game based on the adult world without resorting to violence? Yes, and there are already a lot of famous games that don't resort to violence just to be fun. The Sims might look like a kiddy game, but if you study what happens to the characters inside, you can view a summarized version of a person's real life. Management games like Sim City and others also require a more mature mind because you have to plan how to use your resources properly to enrich your area and make the population happy.

Violence is simply a tool to express our ideas. It should never be the sole purpose for creating games because that would limit our creativity and close possibilities of discovering new ways to entertain ourselves. For example, if we're thinking of a puzzle game, there's really not much of a reason to include violence there because it will be out of place. Imagine Tetris, but instead of blocks, it would be people falling to their deaths and you have to line up their torn off body parts to "score". That's really strange and pretty pointless. On the other hand, if you're making a puzzle game based on ancient gods and evil creatures, where people are hostages and if you don't succeed, they'll be brutally killed or eaten by some monster in graphic ways, then violence will actually work for it. The example Tetris-like game was pointless because having dead people replace blocks was pointless, there's no story, there's no reason. The ancient gods and evil creatures puzzle game is fine because it uses violence to depict your failure to save people, based on its background story and lore.

Knowing when to use violence in a game is the key to creating meaningful and fun games. It's like using robot voices in a futuristic song. It works fine if it's for a novelty song, but if you auto-tune your every performance, your true skill will fade away when you could have shined as a truly talented artist with dynamic vocal skills.

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

Jeremy Pope? Acclaimed producer of the Walmart bargain bin sensation "Ninjatown" on the DS, and mobile apps for both ADIDAS.com AND C-list hip hop artist T.I., Jeremy Pope!? However did they manage to land an interview with such a prolific juggernaut of the gaming industry? He only just left Rockstar Games 11+ years ago! Where did he find the time!?

Seriously. Over ten fucking years ago. He now makes bargain bin tower defense games(though more accurately "game") which, ironically, are only purchased by severely confused/senile grandmothers for their very unfortunate grandchildren. Why is this even remotely newsworthy? I've met criminally insane drifters with more industry credentials than Jeremy Pope. Coincidentally, they TOO blame their doddering religious grandmothers for their poor life choices.

Well that and all the bat bludgeoned prostitutes. It's ALWAYS the guys with the religious granny issues -_-

Skyrim25
Skyrim25

Wow this guy is confused!

If he believes that the work that they are doing at Rockstar is great and there games are great then he should not have to feel bad about telling his grandmother. If she is not ok with the game then he should NOT have to quit because of his grandmothers opinion! the only opinion that matters is HIS!

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

Good to see a guy can say his piece and not knock down violent games or people who choose to develop them or play them. He stated his opinion and his reasoning for going a different route. Gotta respect him for doing what he felt was the right thing for him. I also respect him more for not taking the chance to talk about violent games being the Devil's work and that Rockstar should be ashamed. I was afraid this article was going to go in that direction when I first saw the headline.

Greyfeld
Greyfeld

ITT: Producer makes life-changing decision after discovering he has no backbone.