Finding A New Way: Jenova Chen And Thatgamecompany
May 5, 2008 Page 4 of 6
It seems like you're trying to go for emotional response from people without the use of narrative -- or traditional text-based narrative.
JC: Friday I am going to be in the [GDC] roundtable, and I am going to talk about how games, most video games, have a lack of intellectual content. It's not like there isn't -- Metal Gear Solid is very intellectual, you know, and BioShock, and Shadow of the Colossus; they all have very intellectual content, but I think most of the content is through the story.
I can watch Metal Gear Solid and I can still feel intellectually entertained, but you rarely find a game that actually uses the gameplay to make you think. The only good example I can find is a recent game submitted to Gamma 256; it's a game called Passage.
I haven't played it yet.
JC: It's a very simple game. We can say it's not even "fun", but by performing the actions, it makes me think a lot about life. And I'm just intrigued by that. Not to say that Flower will be like that; I think Flower won't be as deep, because of the way that we designed it.
So why didn't we use story? I mean, I'm from film school, and I took screenwriting classes. We know exactly how to create an engaging story, but for us, we have the limitation, because the team -- we only have one artist. How are you supposed to create a story, or even a character? We don't even have the technology for character animations; how can we start the story? We just simply can't.
Also, to me, story is a tool, but not the goal of video games. In the past, when you say "entertainment" -- I mean, we care about entertainment more than story -- so "entertainment" in a sentence, basically, it's food for feeling. If you are hungry, you go to eat; if you are thirsty, you will drink; and if you feel sad, you want to do something to entertain yourself; or even if you feel too high, you want to do something to calm yourself down.
So I think story, or narrative, is a very powerful vessel to carry emotions. If you follow a story of a young boy growing up and avenging his father, that is a lot of investment, so when the revenge happens, the feeling that you have is much deeper than you feel if right at the beginning the boy kills the villain, right?
But story is only a vessel. If you want people to feel a certain way, you don't necessarily start with, for example, music. A lot of people use music for entertainment, but do you see story in music? Maybe in the lyrics, right?
And then, even for visual media, like animation or movies, it's just right now the most popular genre uses narrative structure, but you've seen experimental movies and animations which have nothing to do with story, but are really intriguing to watch, and make you feel a certain way.
One of the movies I really like is called Koyaanisqatsi. I don't know if you've watched that; it's a very artistic film. The film is about life out of balance, so it was shot probably in the 1980s, or maybe '90s, so it's all shot back in the city -- basically it's like a series of time-lapse...
What's it called again?
JC: Koyaanisqatsi. I think the GTAIV trailer is copying that --
But there's another one...
JC: There's Powaqqatsi.
OK. Baraka is similar, right?
JC: Yeah, similar. Just examples of movies like that. When I watch it, I just feel stoned. I don't want to sleep, I just want to look at it, and after the entire movie ends, it makes me think a lot. But did anyone say any line in this movie? No. Is there any character? No. But I feel that I have reached a cathartic moment, which makes me start to think about life.
And I think a video game can do that too, you know? Do you really need to use story? You can; I mean, you can have a very engaging story, and deep story, to make people think, but I don't think that you need story to do that.
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