Gore Verbinski: Not Useless After All

Look upon my pixel-shaded facial pockmarks ye mighty, and despair

Though the internet gave the director of the increasingly turgid Pirates of the Caribbean movies a gentle roasting for his infamous “You must possess some madness” advice to gamingdom, it rather seems as though he’s thinking along potentially exciting lines for his own flashing pixel endeavour. (Pirates of the Carribbean Online, pictured above, is not it. But hey, you make your bed, you lie in it.) Read on for Gore’s thoughts on “anti-narrative.” Not a pretty phrase, but his intentions sound better.

Speaking to the LA Times (registration required to read the piece, unfortunately), he makes a few insightful points:

“I feel that we are on the brink of something phenomenal. It’s a completely different form of narrative than being told a story in the traditional sense. So all the narrative rules, although I enjoy them, you have to start throwing them away and say, “Wow, look at what you can do here in this world!

… I’m also interested in anti-narrative. The initial response is that gaming needs good writing. I’ve heard that. They need screenwriters. Well, hold on a second. Before you jump to that conclusion, I don’t want to impose cinema’s narrative onto a completely different medium. I think that’s naive. The fact that the player is also the audience means you shouldn’t be imposing a scenario where the audience is passive. Don’t put those rules onto gaming. So out of that came in my mind new forms of narrative. I said, “Well, wait a minute, what if there is zero narrative?”

Which is pretty similar to my own feelings whenever I’m slamming my bloodied forehead against my keyboard, trying desperately to skip whatever droning bullshit cutscene is steadily eroding my sense of association with my in-game character. Post-Portal, I want to hear every developer saying this kind of thing. Still, it’s fancy talk from a man so far outside the gaming industry, and one whose storytelling acumen in his primary medium has proven seriously flawed, so I’m not yet confident that whatever he comes up with won’t turn out to be some “FROM THE MIND OF GORE VERBINSKI”, Clive Barker’s Jericho-esque barrage of exposition and action-poses.

He also proffers more overused buzzwords:

“I’m interested in creating completely new genres. I’m interested in exploring an emotional response to a game, which I haven’t really seen. I’ve seen the visceral adrenaline response, but I haven’t really played a game where I feel . . . tremendous loss.”

Yes, yes, we all want a game that can make us cry and all that. Clearly Gore hasn’t burned his Weighted Companion Cube yet.

No information on what to expect from his own game yet (“It’s a little bit out there”), but find the rest of the interview here.


  1. Sander says:

    An online match 3 game where every time you run out of time on the level you have to watch another kitten get killed live on webcam. Zero narrative, tremendous loss, a little bit out there – needs some spin to get sold as a completely new genre though.

    Any other thoughts, smart people?

  2. Phil says:

    Thanks to the internet in general, kittens are in enough trouble as it is.
    link to en.wikipedia.org…_God_kills_a_kitten

  3. Joe Martin says:

    I’m not going to believe in anti-narrative until I finish designing my trait-based RPG…

  4. Mooey Poo says:

    I think game designers seem to have far more faith in their audience, and more confidence to try different narrative strategies. I think a game like BioShock or Half-Life really understood that games are about space rather than time, and used level design to tell the story. Ain’t that neat?

    That said, I have zero faith in Gore Verbinski. He couldn’t direct you to a sofa in Ikea.

  5. Meat Circus says:

    When did Gore Verbinski earn the right for his opinions to be taken seriously?

    I’m clearly out of the loop.

  6. Stick says:

    I get the idea of “anti-narrative” or “zero narrative” but… aren’t the terms misleading? True, games don’t need screenwriters. In the sense that newspapers don’t need novelists.

    I suspect – or hope – the cutscene affliction is part of the growing pains of the medium. See: early days of cinema, where a lot of what happened was simply “filmed theatre”. Using the storytelling tools of earlier media because they hadn’t figured out cinema-specific ones.

    Not to say there aren’t overlaps. And stuff.

  7. Andrew Farrell says:

    the director of the increasingly turgid Pirates of the Caribbean movies

    Starting from a very low turgidity, and still at their worst less turgid than any three other blockbusters of the last few years!

  8. FaceOmeter says:

    “the graphics are very realistic, aren’t they? it’s almost like i’m watching a film”

    ps. i agree with stick

  9. Fazer says:

    Probable spoiler ahead!


    “I haven’t really played a game where I feel . . . tremendous loss.” – Well I have and it’s called Half-Life 2: Episode Two. One of the best narratives ever.

  10. Okami says:

    I guess the guy never played Shadow of the Colossus. The whole game was fundamentally about loss and it made me feel it on more than one occasion.

    EDIT (note to self: finish reading interview before posting about it)

    Speaking of games that break the mold, what do you think of “Beautiful Katamari”?

    I liked the fact that you weren’t a character. You were an object that became a character in a way.

    Uhmmm.. I hate to nitpick, but you were a character in katamari. Of course you could argue, that the katamari was the real central character of the game (and I guess, that’s what he means), but this still doesn’t change the fact, that you controlled a character with a name, background and a clear motivation.

  11. James T says:

    Yes, yes, we all want a game that can make us cry and all that.

    Aw, I’d hoped that link was going to be a video of Kieron blubbing while playing Audiosurf. I think I’ll be mentally associating KG with Steve Coogan now.