The Auteur Forum: Mechner and Chahi on Inspiration
January 11, 2010 Page 3 of 3
In general, what do you think about current productions? Which recent developments strike you as important and why?
JM: I can't recall a time when such a large portion of the game and movie industries' resources has been allocated to sequels, remakes, and licenses. I don't think it's ever been as difficult to get major game publishers or film studios excited about new IPs (or original screenplays) as it is now.
EC: This holds true for big budget titles. But at the same time, the means of distribution are more powerful than before and quite accessible to indie developers, so things even out in the end.
As far as evolution is concerned, we are confronted with a variety of systems and interfaces. The interface is the physical connection to the virtual world of the game, but it is also a limitation which strongly defines the nature of the interaction.
In order to change the modalities of interaction, we need to rethink the way of playing, so potentially, it's an important vector for innovation. Blurring our points of reference forces us to explore new paths.
You both hold game design in high regard and consider it the work of an auteur. Can you think of contemporary designers who fall into this category?
EC: Yes. Fumito Ueda for instance, or Keita Takahashi, Jonathan Blow, Jenova Chen. These auteurs use video games to go beyond pure entertainment. Even though they sometimes rely on classic mechanics, their creations express a personal point of few. They are sincere and uncompromising works.
And now, for the inevitable question: if you could give a single piece of advice to a young designer, what would it be?
JM: A good friend in another field gave me this piece of advice recently. He said that most people approach things "1-2-3."
One is the first inspiration, the vision, the excitement. One is gold. One is touched with magic; everyone wants a piece of it.
Two is all the reasons it won't work, or won't sell, or could get screwed up; all the difficulties -- technical, financial, logistical -- that need to be solved.
Three is doing it.
Most people get stuck on two. My friend's advice was to go in a different order: "1-3-2". Skip two and go straight to three. I'd never heard it phrased quite this way before, but looking back, the things I've done in my life that I'm most glad of, I did them 1-3-2. So that's my advice too.
EC: My advice would be to create a game using the means at your disposal. By which I mean, defining a set of rules which doesn't require more than what you can achieve, because creating a set of rules, creating a prototype and playing around with it is the only way to assess whether a game is interesting or not.
For instance, at its most basic, it would mean creating a board game, which requires no programming whatsoever, only ideas. If you have a small multi-disciplinary team, the rules will have to be designed and adapted to meet the technology and development time available. And always iterate, iterate.
Jordan, your advice strikes a chord but I am not sure I fully understand. Do you mean that inspiration has to materialize in the act of creation? Like, realizing fragments of ideas and intuitions according to an overarching feeling, even though they are not perfectly coherent or fit together? And then, taking these building blocks and fusing them in order to let a vision emerge? In this case, is the vision something that resonates from a set of ideas and inspirations?
JM: What I mean by going 1-3-2 is: don't dissipate the energy and passion of the original idea by becoming your own critic (which would be step 2) too early in the process. Instead, jump straight from step 1 to step 3 -- start taking the necessary steps to turn your idea into reality, while you still feel the clarity and strong desire of that first inspiration.
Later, of course, you'll start realizing what the problems and flaws are, and you'll have to deal with them; but you'll be able to handle them, because you'll already have the momentum of a project that's actually going forward. Whereas if you think about the obstacles in the beginning, you can easily end up talking yourself out of doing it at all.
EC: Ah, it's clear now. I see what you mean. It really makes me think about the development of Another World, when creation was always done by experimenting with ideas first hand. I think that nowadays in our industry, we have a tendency to theorize and rationalize creation, which leaves little room to follow the 1-3-2 pattern. Makes one think, really...
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