Allan Becker moved from Sony Santa Monica to head up Sony Japan Studio. Has that changed things for the better?
GM: Obviously, working in the Santa Monica Studio, having a massive hit in God of War, and also their external parties, bringing Flower and Journey and those things, and his vision of the way a studio should be run -- Allan's come in and said, basically, "Japan, your job is to make things that people can't see on other platforms. You're not going to make massive blockbuster stuff. It's not going to happen, because we don't have the budgets to do that in Japan, or the team size to do that. Just be more creative." He has a very good eye, I think, for what makes a good game, and that has helped maneuver the studio in a better direction in that way.
I think that Japanese games are, obviously, part of the culture of PlayStation.
You need to have them.
GM: Definitely. Definitely.
I felt kind of encouraged when Mark Cerny said, during Sony's Gamescom press conference, that we'll see the kind of diversity of games you remember from the old days of PlayStation.
GM: Right. And we're going to kill ourselves as an industry if we just keep making FPSes and racing games. And we know we are. And Sony's attitude at the moment -- which it's always been, actually -- is, "Let's make things people don't get on other consoles."
That can be a downfall as well, because obviously you're experimenting a lot, and it's difficult to make money off of things people don't know, or already understand. But at the same time, it brings diversity into gaming, and that's exactly what we want to be. We have to diversify to survive, basically.
I feel like over the course of the previous console generation, the PS3/360 generation, what became a "mainstream game" got narrower and narrower and narrower.
GM: Definitely. As a creator, it would be insane for me to make a first person shooter. Because I've never made one, my team's never made one, and look at who we'd have to go up against to actually compete in the marketplace!
And so it's much more fun going, "Well, we don't have to do that. We can make things that just come into our imaginations, and we pitch them, and if management like them, we get to make them, and get to have fun making them." And at the same time, there are a lot of users out there who want to play that sort of stuff as well. And if we just keep making first person shooters we're going to alienate a lot of users, and they're going to walk away from gaming.
Changing topics... Puppeteer itself has that macabre, fairy tale thing going on. I really like that, and I think that stuff for kids should be a little macabre.
GM: I totally agree. Absolutely, completely, totally agree. We pander to kids, and we mollycoddle them. We don't let them see things. "You can't do this, you can't do that."
Actually, Grimm's Fairy Tales -- there's nothing more violent on the planet than Grimm's Fairy Tales. And yet we read them to our kids, and we let them read them on their own. They're fascinating because they are dark. As a child, they're terrifying stories. "Don't go into the wood, because you are basically going to be raped and eaten." But the kid in you goes, "But I still want to go into the wood." You want to see what happens, right?
Children are far more intelligent than adults are, because they're much more open! They see everything as it is, rather than adults, who are trying to hide behind everything and see it in a certain way. When you actually make product in that sense, you need to be a little bit darker, a little bit off-the-wall. Children love it, and at the same time, adults love it.
I don't know if you've ever read Neil Gaiman, but he wrote a book called The Graveyard Book. It's a horror-themed children's novel. He said that kids didn't think it was that scary -- they went straight into the story -- but adults freak out and really get scared by it.
GM: It's exactly the same with Puppeteer as well. Because when we show the game to adults, they go, "Oh my God! Is this a kids' game? Because they just pulled off his head and ate it, and now he's running around headless in the world, and it's terrifying! How is he going to get home?" And yet, you focus test it with kids, and they just fall in love with it straight away, and they're right in there, laughing at it and thinking it's great.
We're attuned, as adults, to try and think, "Oh, this must be bad." It's like ratings boards. I'm sure, personally, the people actually watching things that they're seeing are actually rating them harsher than they personally believe they are, because we're just attuned to do that -- we're attuned to protect. But kids are just like, "Yeah, great! That's awesome!"
|George Menhal III|