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.)


  1. Xercies says:

    Or he could say Deus Ex and that would be valid…

    Hmm I always liked the compaison between music and games because it definitly does fit a lot i would say. Hopefully someone records this talk and puts it on the internet. It would be very facinating i would say.

    • Dante says:

      I honestly can’t see any real comparison between music and games (apart from maybe the DRM wars).

      Maybe it’s because I don’t really listen to music at all, but games are very much a narrative medium, they arc, they move, they make sense. Music is more of an abstract medium like ‘art’ or poetry, it tries to emotionally describe a single thing (at least that’s what I gather, none of these mediums really appeal to me).

    • Xercies says:

      i think i remember seeign a really great article somewhere that said that games like music uses reptition and beats for there narritive. And other interesting stuff like that…If i can find the article(or someone else more likely…i know it was in a Sunday Papers) its an interesting read and while i was reading it i was nodding very furiously.

    • jeremypeel says:

      It was on the Edge site a while back, one of their fantastic guest blog entries. I just tried to find it BUT I CAAAN’T WAAAAHHH.

      Everyone knows Edge is really good by now, yeah?

    • Xercies says:

      I keep hearing negative things about it. but whenever i got it its always been a very interesting read. and i trust there game reviews a lot more because they have been harsh on some of the most popular games while telling you very good reasons why.

  2. Michael says:

    Games have things in common with just about every other medium, while having some very important qualities of their own. That’s that sorted.

    • Wednesday says:

      Not so much with Cross-stich though, no?

    • Michael says:

      Pixel art = cross stitch

      Any more?

    • Arathain says:

      I have considered learning cross-stitch so I can do cool pixel art in thread. It sounds enjoyably geeky.

    • Matt says:

      Alexey Pajitnov won the Game Design Challenge at GDC 2007 with a cross-stitch-like game… does that count?

  3. JohnnyMaverik says:

    I still haven’t got round to watching Citizen Kane =/

    Personally I want the Donnie Darko of video games, something I can play, sit back, and go WTF… O.o while simultaneously wiping away a tear.

    Anyway, I hope there is somewhere to watch this, or at least read a transcription, but as for Spector, massive respect, I held out mild hope for Epic Mickey, but after having seen it being played… wtf?

    • westyfield says:

      “I still haven’t got round to watching Citizen Kane =/”


    • Xercies says:

      If you had you would wonder what the fuss is about…i think only real film buffs would get it(thats not a negative by the way on non film buffs). I think why most people would cinsider it the best movie ever made is the cinematography and the way things are shot and if well you don’t understand that kind of stuff you would wonder what the hell everyones going on about. The story is genrally ok and the twist has probably been spoilt by now(i know a simpsons episode kind of hinted at it oh and one of the best lines about that item)

    • Dante says:

      Hell there’s plenty of games that make you go ‘WTF’, but that’s mostly because of bad writing.

      Me, I want the Shawshank Redemption of video games, something accessible and universally liked yet clearly artistic and able to move people emotionally.

    • Dante says:

      Personally I think Kane still stands up to this day (unlike the Godfather, but that’s another story). What’s amazing about the cinematography is that you don’t notice it too much today. As in it’s not dated and static like other old movies (Casablanca is wonderfully written, but largely simplistic in it’s direction) only recently have we really caught up with it.

    • mlaskus says:

      I want a Woody Allen’s movie(pretty much any will do) of games. We need more sex jokes if we want to be recognized as a valuable part of modern society!

    • Xercies says:

      I personally would love a David Lynch kind of game…my god that would probably be fucked up if someone did it right. Failing that Stanley Kubrick…kind of surreal as well i have to say.

    • Carra says:

      I have yet to see the first game which properly handles… romanticism.

      Give me a Before Sunset game :)

  4. Lewis says:

    Warren Spector: will he respect her?

  5. DMcCool says:

    In specks. In speckled speckled
    Speckled speculation
    Fedlocks waddlin’ feast
    Archaic faces frenzy
    Ceramic fists artificial deceased
    In cists rancid buds burst
    Dank drum ‘n dung dust
    Meate rose ‘n hairs
    Meaty meate rose ‘n hairs
    Meaty dream wet meate
    Limp damp rows
    Peeled ‘n felt fields ‘n belts
    Impaled on ‘n daeman
    Mucus mules
    Twot trot tra la tra la
    Tra la tra la tra la
    Whale bone fields ‘n belts
    Whale bone farmhouse
    Cavorts girdled ‘n latters uh lite
    Cavorts girdled ‘n latters uh lite
    Uh dipped amidst
    Squirmin’ serum ‘n semen ‘n syrup ‘n semen
    ‘n serum
    Stirrupped in syrup
    Neon meate dream of a octafish

    • golden_worm says:

      This is the story of the hare who lost his spectacles.

      Owl loved to rest quietly whilst no one was watching. sitting on aFence one day, he was surprised when suddenly a kangaroo ran closeBy.Now this may not seem strange, but when owl overheard kangaroo whisperTo no one in particular, “the hare has lost his spectacles,’’ well, heBegan to wonder.Presently, the moon appeared from behind a cloud and there, lying onThe grass was hare. in the stream that flowed by the grass — aNewt. and sitting astride a twig of a bush — a bee.

      Ostensibly motionless, the hare was trembling with excitement, forWithout his spectacles he was completely helpless. where were hisSpectacles? could someone have stolen them? had he mislaid them? whatWas he to do? Bee wanted to help, and thinking he had the answer began: “youProbably ate them thinking they were a carrot.’’“no!’’ interrupted owl, who was wise. “i have good eye-sight, insight,And foresight. how could an intelligent hare make such a sillyMistake? ’’ but all this time, owl had been sitting on the fence,Scowling!Kangaroo were hopping mad at this sort of talk. she thought herselfFar superior in intelligence to the others. she was their leader;Their guru. she had the answer: “hare, you must go in search of theOptician.’’But then she realized that hare was completely helpless without hisSpectacles. and so, kangaroo loudly proclaimed, “i can’t send hare inSearch of anything!’’“you can guru, you can!’’ shouted newt. “you can send him with owl.’’But owl had gone to sleep. newt knew too much to be stopped by soSmall a problem — “you can take him in your pouch.’’ but alas, hareWas much too big to fit into kangaroo’s pouch.

      All this time, it had been quite plain to hare that the others knewNothing about spectacles. As for all their tempting ideas, well hare didn’t care.The lost spectacles were his own affair.And after all, hare did have a spare a-pair.A-pair.

  6. Dante says:

    I honestly can’t see any real comparison between music and games (apart from maybe the DRM wars).

    Maybe it’s because I don’t really listen to music at all, but games are very much a narrative medium, they arc, they move, they make sense. Music is more of an abstract medium like ‘art’ or poetry, it tries to emotionally describe a single thing (at least that’s what I gather, none of these mediums really appeal to me).

  7. Duke Nasty VI says:

    Spectacular headline, Alec

  8. Cooper says:

    I’m fairly sure his stiont at Disney is a cover up.

    Actually, I just desperately hope it is.

  9. terry says:

    Every time I see Spector’s name I cackle with delight that he called a game “Epic Mickey”, blissfully unaware that it means “enormous member” in Irish playground slang. However, he is my favourite games developer, other than the weird Japanese guy with the handlebar moustache and that weird slaphead with the big expressive hands.

  10. J says:

    Hi, Billy Mays here!!

    (Immediately popped into my head)

  11. Crush says:

    If you actually paid attention to the Mickey Mouse game instead of dismissing it you would see it has the hallmarks of a Warren Spector game.

    The levels can be completed if different ways and whether you chose to create or erase with the painting tools will alter the games outcome.

  12. El Stevo says:

    What I want to know is when we will have the Canabalt for Pink Daleks of film?

  13. empty_other says:

    I seriously would want a Deus Ex game kind of game. Why is this so difficult?

    Oh, if i actually have to propose something not videogame as a videogame type, then i would choose Stargate. Or Star Trek or something. Maybe 24 kinda game. Episodic gaming which is not comedies. Give me Mass Effect splitted into episodes, and give me this weekly feeling to the action games… A few have tried this. Valve failed miserably. Those NEW Monkey Island guys just wasn’t funny nor action enough to keep my interest, but it is a good try. Star Trek Online are totally missing the story, focusing everything on gameplay and the game is buggy anyway so they have no other choice.

    Seriously, Mass Effect episodic game had rocked! It was anyway played as “episodes”, where each episode was one mission/planet. I played it that way, anyway (one or two mission each day).

    • Chris says:

      could have something to do with The size of the script (although I wonder how this compares to the Mass Effect series?). Plus the “multiple routes” approach being inherently bug-prone in a way that you couldn’t get away with for a minstream cross-platform release nowadays. Or the fact that having huge levels that they player might not even see is a huge drain on the budget (poly and $) what with game assets being much more demanding nowadays than in 2000. Or any of the other reasons put forth in the anniversary Deus Ex threads.

      I’d love it too, btw.

      – Chris.

  14. El Elegante says:

    Ah, Worlds of Ultima. Thanks for the memory!

  15. Doth Messar says:

    Bob Loblaw lobs law bomb.

  16. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I want a ticket but it’s like a grand & i don’t have that & there’s no way my boss’ll pay :(, i wish you could get tickets for specific presentations.