I remember way back when you were talking about Heartland originally, you talked about wanting to do a game that people would feel emotively. You were hooked on that. It sounds like you've really walked away from that.
DJ: No. Yes and no. Yes, I've walked away from it. This all has to exist in the context of the market. Chris Crawford, at the first GDC I went to, he compared a lot of games today and their promises to toys, where it's kind of like you'll buy a toy fire truck, and you take the fire truck out of the box, but you're really just playing with the box. I forget exactly how he phrased it, but the gist is the promise of what games offer is never really delivered.
If you read the back of the game box, it will promise you that you get to live this great adventure. But in essence, you're really dealing with mechanics -- which is great. And I'm not saying of the box should be like, "Look! A game of resource management!" You need to live within the world you live in, and appeal to a level that the people can understand.
But with a game like Heartland, if I could find a way, or if the team could find a way, to take play mechanics and trigger different emotions than what have been triggered -- in a genuine, honest way -- then I'm all over it.
I've never been able to come up with that ... if you really think about it ... And this may come out all wrong because it's hard for me to articulate...
Okay. People always look at movies and say "I want my game to feel like that movie." The problem is, in my thinking about this, a movie is what you do when you're taking a break from the simulation of life.
So, you sit there, and your brain is in a place. Like, if you've ever taken a writing class for fiction, they'll tell you the best stories, the stories that resonate, are really how-to manuals. Even though they parade around as knights in space, it's "how do you apply these lessons to your life", and that's why it speaks to you.
So, it's kind of the pit stop of life to go, "I want to read a book. I want to watch a show. I want to have the nutrition of the self-help how-to of how to make my life better, and then go back into the world and live."
Well, a game is a simulation of going out into the world and living, and your brain is in the same place that it's at when you're living life. So, the idea of trying to speak to a player when that part of the brain is active: "But I'm in a simulation! I'm not in the space to take in a lesson or an emotion."
So, even if you could create a game that was a hundred percent accurate simulation of being at the D-Day landing, that would feel totally different than sitting in a theater watching the opening of Saving Private Ryan. It's just different. And it's supposed to be different.
But a lot of people chase after creating the movie feeling through their interactivity. And I'm kind of saying what I've learned... If you can create emotions like sadness in interactivity, but it's a genuine emotion, it's not like, "watch this cutscene and then carry that with you into the gameplay", and you'll say, "Oh, I feel something." Well, yeah, but you don't feel anything because of the gameplay.
Does it make any sense?
Yeah. But do you feel like you have access to all those emotions?
DJ: When you're playing? No. And I don't know if games are capable of that. And so for me, I would rather make a game like Twisted Metal that allows us play with the strengths of the medium and respect the medium. And if the next game out, we can also come up with a way to make you use the medium, but also feel different emotions, holy shit, that would be great.
But if my only goal is to make people feel emotions and that's what I really want -- I want to make them feel sadness, or I want to make them think about man's place in the universe. Think about that. If you're really a fucking artist. If you're really a fucking artist, and you've got something to say, then you fucking pick the right medium to say it in.
But if you're sitting there going, "I want to say this, I want to say this," and games have never indicated, and your game has never indicated, that the medium is capable of saying that that well, then why are you making a fucking game?
So that's all I'm saying. I'm not saying that if we come up with a way to express new emotions through gameplay, we don't want to do it. I'm just saying that so far I haven't seen it. And why waste our time making something? That's kind of ego-driven to me. It's not driven from a respect of the medium.
But you're not saying don't do it, too, if you think you can?
DJ: If you can do it, do it. That's awesome. I can't do it yet. Maybe I'll never be able to do it. But if somebody came and said "Make a game that wants to make you cry and make you think about war" like I was saying Heartland was supposed to, but it's only going to succeed within a percent of what a movie can do -- or make a game like Twisted Metal that when it works, if it works, can totally fucking work as a game -- I'd rather make a game: Twisted Metal. And then if I have a talent as a storyteller, I'll go off and make a fucking movie or write a book.