D.I.C.E. 2006: Games are "like porn ... sort of"

Mercurial God of War director David Jaffe delivers an unfettered critique of the game industry at Las Vegas convention.

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LAS VEGAS--If there's one word that will attract geeks' attention more than "games," it's "porn." And that's the exact term that David Jaffe, the iconoclastic director of God of War and cocreator of Twisted Metal, used to illustrate the dilemma he feels the game industry is facing.

"It's like the porn industry ... sort of," he told a crowd still digesting the sumptuous complimentary lunch provided by the organizers of the exclusive event. "I read about this guy who has this topless review that he is trying to add art to, and it's bombing," said Jaffe. "Maybe games fall into that slot ...We have an industry filled with craftspeople that make compelling content ... but we don't have a lot of writers and directors who bring creativity to the process."

Jaffe singled out Oddworld Inhabitants cocreator Lorne Lanning, who preceded the God of War director's address with an unusually awkward plug for the Into the Pixel game-art contest, as a paradigm for game designers. He rhetorically asked the audience, "Can we marry that creativity with the more soulless games which do really well?" He got a smattering of applause in return.

Jaffe got a much bigger reaction when he facetiously thanked Sony Computer Entertainment Europe vice president Phil Harrison for letting him reveal the date and price point for the PlayStation 3. However, he was semiserious when he told the crowd how he didn't want to be fired from being lead designer at Sony Computer Entertainment America's Santa Monica studio. "I really like my job ... I don't want to lose it," Jaffe told a suddenly hushed audience before launching into an affable pseudo-tirade about the current state of gaming.

Jaffe's first target was the trend of games emulating movies. "Why is it that every game pitch I hear these days wants to be like a movie," he said. "Why don't video games embrace game language? Why film language? ... I understand film is glamorous, I understand the making of films is glamorous. But the reality is I think that thinking is hurting the [game] industry."

In particular, the designer called out Ubisoft's Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of a Movie as an example of how games can be too cinematic. "A lot of reviews praised King Kong's lack of a HUD [heads-up display]," said Jaffe. "But what's wrong with a HUD? What's wrong with having a health bar like in Onimusha which glows and blinks when you collect enough orbs?"

That said, Jaffe conceded that he, too, takes inspiration from films. He said that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the primary inspiration for God of War. However, he emphasized that it was the experience of watching the film he wanted to replicate in the game, not the movie itself. "A lot of people on the [God of War] team thought I wanted to make a game that put players in the shoes of Indiana Jones," he said. "[But] I wanted to make a game that put players in the shoes of a 10-year-old kid watching Indiana Jones."

Jaffe also self-admittedly risked possible disciplinary action by his superiors at Sony by complaining how game developers don't receive the same sort of financial compensation that writers and directors of films do. "I am really frustrated with the way the industry is structured," he said. "So much of our lives is put into making this IP ... if we're gonna work this hard, aren't we being exploited? I do wonder about an individual team's [main] three or four creatives ... how are they going to emerge with a financial gain from the game?"

Last, but not least, the man behind God of War addressed the controversy surrounding the 2006 Interactive Achievement Awards, which will be held later tonight at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Many gamers have dismissed the awards due to the fact the critically lauded Resident Evil 4 was not eligible because its publisher, Capcom, did not enter it. "Thank God for Capcom," Jaffe told a chuckling crowd. "We're probably going to be able to pick up some awards tonight." [Check back later tonight for the 2006 Interactive Achievement Awards and more ongoing coverage of the D.I.C.E. Summit.]

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