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 The Hobbit  Director Del Toro On Games' 'Story Engine' Future
The Hobbit Director Del Toro On Games' 'Story Engine' Future
May 26, 2009 | By Kris Graft

May 26, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

While many in the games industry are weary of hearing prognostications of the “Citizen Kane of games”, noted film director and certified geek Guillermo del Toro has thrown in his two cents regarding gaming’s own tipping point.

Asked by Wired how interactive, nonlinear storytelling forms can possibly rise above the “geek ghetto”, del Toro answered, "Go back a couple of decades to the birth of the graphic novel—I think we can pinpoint the big bang to Will Eisner's A Contract With God."

"Today, we have very worthy people doing literary comics. I think the same thing will happen on the Internet-gaming side. In the next 10 years, there will be an earthshaking Citizen Kane of games.”

del Toro, director of the upcoming Hobbit movie and past films such as Hellboy, and the Academy Award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, has dipped his toes into game creation in the past. He worked with Konami on Hellboy: Science of Evil. He’s also a known avid gamer who admires games such as Shadow of the Colossus and Grand Theft Auto.

In his limited experience in the games industry, he has seen its faults. “Unfortunately, I've found in my videogame experience that the big companies are just as conservative as the [movie] studios."

"I was disappointed with the first Hellboy game. I'm very impressed with the sandbox of Grand Theft Auto. You can get lost in that world. But we're using it just to shoot people and run over old ladies. We could be doing so much more.”

del Toro had further projections for the games industry and entertainment as a whole, a future that will see the public taking an active role in the way stories are told: "In the next 10 years, we're going to see all the forms of entertainment—film, television, video, games, and print—melding into a single-platform ‘story engine.’ The Model T of this new platform is the PS3."

"The moment you connect creative output with a public story engine, a narrative can continue over a period of months or years. It's going to rewrite the rules of fiction."

Finally, it also appears that games are something that del Toro wants to explore in more detail, since he says of his 'Citizen Kane of games' comment: "I'll be trying to make it. But I won't be trying until after The Hobbit."

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Shaun Greene
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I've never understood why, when people talk about games reaching the same height movies have, they always go to Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane was such a big deal largely on it's technical merits- the whole deep focus throughout the whole movie thing. Over and over again games have had this sort of "earthshaking" technical accomplishment that pushes the whole industry forward...

Oh well. The merits of particular movies isn't really important to the point, but I am willing to bet the number of people who have actually seen it and understand why it was so influential is a small fraction of the ones who keep bringing it up in this context.

That said, I'm also quite sure del Toro knows his stuff about the movie.

Thomas Dowd
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I'm guessing here, but what I think del Toro is referring to when he thinks "Citizen Kane", is a little different than what others are saying when they say "Games haven't had their Citizen Kane yet." Kane, in reality, when released, wasn't a huge success... it grew into it. What it became was an inspiration to the next few generations of filmmakers, in the US and Europe, who saw its artistically successful amalgamation and defiance of normal film conventions and storytelling. It provoked a change in how filmmakers thought about making film. Years after its release it started hitting the top of the "Best ever" movie lists and became viewed as a groundbreaking achievement. The other interesting spin on the invocation of "Citizen Kane" is that Wells was an outsider to the film industry. I think del Toro is making an allusion to his belief that an outsider's perspective... at least an outsider in terms of the big-pocket game publishers... is what is needed.

James Wiggs
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Hopefully he can do better than Bruckheimer, Spielberg, Woo and other hollywood types that have done virtually nothing to enhance the game industry. I'm a big fan of Del Toro and expect the Hobbit to be every bit as good as the LOTR series was. Good luck Guillermo!

Jason Manley
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Agreed. Film folks understand the big picture but as we all know..making games is an art unto itself. Google found that out with Lively. Spielberg and Lucas have found that out the hard way too. He is right though. At some point someone is going to get the film/games/graphic novel convergence right.

Andrew Dobbs
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Interactive singularity is near!

Brandon Davis
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Interactive singularity continues to progress. A story is a story. It might be noted that games/films/books all have theri own specific story format. One might assume that games intersecting fillms will be a function of interactivity intersecting emotion, and to what degree that becomes 'gaming'.

Films and books are still trying to form a mutual admiration society. Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald took to drink in their frustration with books and movies.

Mark Venturelli
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I respect del Toro as a director, but I am tired of gaming "evolution" always being measured in terms of "narrative". I really don't want to live in a world where games as media are reduced to a "story engine" or something like that.

And in my opinion, gaming already had its "Citizen Kane", and it is called Super Mario Bros 3. Too bad that most people are so obsessed with "realism" and movie-like narrative that they keep making bad interactive movies like the latest iterations of Metal Gear or GTA, and shouting at them like they are the future and Miyamoto's games are "for kids". More than once I've heard someone state that "games are art" or "games are not for kids" because there are titles with "great immersion and story". Are we learning anything at all? I get a lot more excited about our media when I see something like Braid or Katamari coming up.

Games can tell stories, but we need to master how to do so in a way that only games can - using every little part of the system, put in motion by the player, to compose a unique story that is born from the experience. That was Braid's biggest achievement in my opinion, and I believe that we are not talking about this as much as we should.

Julian Harding
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Perhaps the point is something with the same cultural impact as Citizen Kane, except in the games industry. I think the most interesting parts of gaming future lie in the gradual opening up of development to more individuals. Imagine, the John Waters of games! It's clearly possible, but it just takes time. Gradually music has come down to the home producer, now gradually video, soon maybe games development.

Michael Rivera
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Mark Venturelli: As much as I love Miyamoto, I really don't see how Super Mario Bros 3 could be considered the "Citizen Kane" of games. It seems to me that such a game would need to connect theme with gameplay, and I just don't see any of the earlier mario games doing that.

Braid, on the other hand, is a game that does it exceptionally well, so I might be willing to consider that as our "Citizen Kane".

Gareth Mensah
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The idea of finding a Citizen Kane of gaming is more about finding a paradigm shifting game than a really popular one, so in that sense the metaphor makes sense. It is true that video games, more so than movies tend to have many technical innovation, but if there is to be a Citizen Kane of gaming, than those technical innovation would be adopted in mass.

Hence the concept of a canon for video games, to have a list of such games, games whose innovation were adopted in mass, games like SimCity, Street Fighter 2, etc. I have started such a project here: