Games Like Uncharted, Heavy Rain Don't Make Most of Medium, Deus Ex Creator Says

Veteran designer says games have the ability to tell stories in ways that no other medium can.


As part of his keynote address at PAX Australia this past weekend, Deus Ex and Epic Mickey designer Warren Spector--known for being outspoken--said games like Uncharted, Heavy Rain, and Telltale's The Walking Dead do not make the most of games as a medium. As reported by PowerUpGaming, Spector said video games have a unique capability for "shared authorship" between the game and the player. But these games, which Spector praised for what they are are, don't take that idea far enough, he asserted.

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Games shouldn't aspire to be movies, Spector said. "If all you want to do is show off how clever you are, get out of my medium!" he said. "Go make a movie or something, because that's what you should be doing."

Speaking about Uncharted, Heavy Rain, and The Walking Dead, Spector said these games drive players down specific paths more than he'd like to see. He labeled Naughty Dog's Uncharted as a "low-expression" game on his scale of low, medium, and high (more on that later).

"It's not that games like this are bad, but they limit your ability to interact with the game world, so the story can unfold the way the storyteller wants it to unfold," he said. "You have very limited ability to express yourself; it's about how do you accomplish a predetermined path to get to the next plot point.

"It's a great story--a better story than I'll ever tell in a game--but it's not a player story; it's not your story."

Naughty Dog community strategist Arne Meyer responded to Spector's comments, saying during a separate PAX Australia panel, also reported by PowerUpGaming, that he accepts and welcomes Spector's criticism.

"It's great that you’re hearing this type of criticism towards all sorts of games, because people are starting to make games that let you explore all sorts of different genres," he said.

Spector went on to say that Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead are examples of medium-expression games. Talking about the difficult choices you have to make in The Walking Dead, Spector said the impact of these decisions is held back somewhat because they are "designer-driven, not player-driven."

"Every choice in a game like this has been pre-scripted and handwritten by a designer somewhere, and the effects of that choice have been predetermined by the developers," he said. "There's very limited stuff that players actually get to do."

Talking about Heavy Rain specifically, Spector said the story it told is far better than any he could write. But at the same time, "They're basically like five movie scripts all mashed together, and you're just picking which script you're telling at any given point in time," he said.

Spector said he considers fighting games, as well as titles like Dishonored, The Sims, Fallout, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to be "high-expression" games. But overall, he said gaming today is "largely in a rut" when it comes to storytelling.

For more, be sure to read the full story at PowerUpGaming.

Spector left Disney when developer Junction Point closed in 2013. He now serves as the director for the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas.

What do you make of Spector's comments? Let us know in the comments below.

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