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.

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

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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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