State of Emergency Designer Diary Entry #2

Here's the second installment in our series of SOE designer diaries.

Entry #2 - 01/09/01

By Jamie King
Director of Development, Rockstar Games NYC

It is interesting that there has been so much discussion about the violence in SOE. When we first showed State of Emergency to the world at last year's E3, there was an overwhelmingly strong endorsement from the gamers at the show. Anyone who was there remembers the huge crowds surrounding the SOE kiosks, having fun, laughing out loud. There weren't people watching the game in silence, debating the violence within.

Another satisfied shopper.

The controversy last summer was based around irresponsible journalism that claimed the game was based on the Seattle riots. Of course this is factually incorrect, and once we clarified that the game was in development for more than a year before the events in Seattle, everything quieted down immediately. It was very frustrating to see certain organizations and media groups take the game the wrong way and even claim that we copied real-life experiences, especially when none of them had even played the game!

It is extremely ironic that this media coverage helped increase public mind share of this game. We haven't traded off from this attention at all--in fact, we didn't show the game off or talk about it for months after the controversy. The game did not need this publicity, as it stands up on gameplay alone. VIS has made an innovative title with a completely new engine and unique premise--when gamers get their hands on it, they want to play it and gape at the jaw-dropping visuals.

They're just doing their job.

The games industry has grown incredibly over the last five years, and we now face a sophisticated, diversified audience, many of whom have been playing video games for more than a decade, even two decades. A good number of people who bought a PS2 are older gamers who are new to it. I think the average age of a PS2 owner is about 24 years old. My point is that there is a massive audience out there who will appreciate State of Emergency as the incredibly fun, technically amazing piece of software that it is. If we tried to fuel the fire of controversy around this game, it would not help us sell the game to these people. We are confident the good word will get around, because people like playing it. Concerning the subject matter of the game, although you are rioting in essence, the game is a very fresh, modern take on the old-school-style beat-'em-ups and is very easy to pick up and play. The look of the game is comical, and everyone seems to laugh while playing the game! It is the arcadey and comical visual and gameplay styles that are in complete contradiction to the subject matter, and it is this that provides the humor and laughter. While real riots are far from funny, this game is far from realistic. SOE doesn't necessarily raise the bar in terms of mature content, but it does raise the bar in terms of relentlessly enjoyable beat-'em-ups and sheer numbers of people displayed onscreen. This style of game is a new offering. We are very aware of how mature the console gaming audience has become, and we will obviously continue to develop games that satisfy the ever-increasing demands for mind-blowing, grown-up games. It's our raison d'être!

Some people just enjoy getting worked up about things. This week it's games, next week, who knows? We made the game fun and appealing to our target audience--and I think we've succeeded. If you don't like it, don't play it.

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