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Spectators To Spectate Spector's Speculation

Don’t tell anyone, but the real reason I wrote this story was purely so I could use that headline.

Yes, King Of Immersive Sims Warren Spector is to hold a keynote speech at GDC later this month. I’ll be in the crowd, which’ll be exciting. Maybe not as exciting as when I had a wee next to him at E3 once, though. Obviously Warren has broken our fragile little hearts and gone on to make some Mickey Mouse platformer for the Wii, but the theme of his speech is something we’re all likely to thrill to/howl at.

So really, this is just advance warning to beg, borrow or steal a videofeed or liveblog on Monday August 16. The Great One will be holding forth on the evergreen topic of why it’s dangerous to compare games to other mediums – and especially to ape them. Here’s a summary (from the GDC site):

Videogames are always being compared to one medium or another.

Most commonly, we’re described as being like movies (or television or theater or radio) and many game developers harbor secret (or not so secret) aspirations to make movies.

We turn to talent from other media to show us the way to mainstream acceptance. Film directors act as video game creative directors. Writers – from screenwriters to novelists to comic book scribes – are hired to put words in our characters’ mouths.

Techniques borrowed from film and television animation bring our characters to life. Visual effects development and audio design from film, television and radio are utilized to take our characters and worlds to new heights of believability and appeal.

Clearly, there’s a case to be made for borrowing storytelling and lighting techniques from movies. Award-winning games have built on animation techniques from film and television. It makes sense to rely on approaches to audio pioneered in television or radio.

But just how far can, or should, this idea that we’re “like other media” be taken? Do these constant comparisons actually make sense? Are we just like other media (or close enough to justify borrowing techniques and talent)?

Warren Spector, veteran game developer and current Creative Director for Disney Interactive Studios’ Junction Point, will discuss how valid these comparisons are and suggest some new comparisons that may bear as much or more fruit. Using examples from a variety of media and a variety of games, he will examine what we have learned, what we still have to learn in the future and where we may even have learned things that hold us back from reaching our potential as the unique medium we must strive to become.

Someone in the audience will ask “when will we see the Citizen Kane of games?” You mark my words. (And in a just world, Spector would reply with this.)

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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