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Double Fine's Martz: Game Industry Often Stays 'Very Safe'
Double Fine's Martz: Game Industry Often Stays 'Very Safe'
February 23, 2011 | By Staff

February 23, 2011 | By Staff
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For San Francisco-based developer Double Fine, creating Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster isn't just about riding the coattails of a well-known brand, but rather upholding the mission of education, fun and creativity that was established by the popular kids TV show.

And the way that Sesame Street aimed to curb junk TV, Double Fine hopes its games show that the interactive entertainment industry can be more than muscle-bound men with rifles, according to Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster project lead Nathan Martz.

"It's not just about the characters, but also staying true to the mission of Sesame Street," said Martz in a new Gamasutra feature interview.

"It's interesting if you read some of the original interviews when Sesame Street was going on the air -- between the chairman of the FCC, [Jim] Henson and the educational founders whose general feeling at the time was that television was going in a bad direction -- that most of what was on TV was not very enriching," Martz said. "Even the kid stuff was Cowboys and Indians -- disposable fare."

He said that there are some clear parallels with today's video game industry. "People felt really convicted about wanting to do something uplifting, that would feel better for their medium," Martz added.

"Frankly, I feel kind of the same way about video games right now, that we're not nearly as creatively broad as we could be," he said. "We often stay very safe, and safe in some pretty often reprehensible directions, or at least thoroughly uncreative."

"You know, we're known for space marines who like violence, primarily. And I think our medium can do many more things than that. And I think that mission of Sesame Street, that original vision of a medium being a force for good -- one that can make people feel better about their lives and one that they can learn from -- I feel incredibly beholden that we make a product that lives up to that pretty audacious, inspirational goal."

For more from Martz and Double Fine founder and creative director Tim Schafer on Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster -- and the interesting story of how Double Fine ended up with the Sesame Street license -- read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.


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Comments


Christopher Aaby
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"We are so creative" sales pitch aside, sure, there is definitely a trend in the industry towards the safe. But hey, games are not a very good business to be in. It's high risk, high competition, and product lifespans are generally horribly short. It's no surprise that both publishers and developers take the safer route, even if it means less innovation in terms of design.



Some will point out that design innovation is the only way to make a hit title, and in a hit-driven industry, that seems like the best way to go, right? The problem is that in a risky industry, it's nuts (from a business standpoint) to raise the risk higher, in order to get more payout. It's essentially gambling - not a good business model.



Oh well. Here's to a more creative, innovative, whacky and surprising year in gaming.

Bart Stewart
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Can't argue with any of the above points, but I think the counterargument is that there's not much difference between a 100,000-to-1 chance of a hit and a million-to-one chance.



Either way it's a gamble with a very low chance of remarkable success. That being the case, the default position shouldn't be "why take the chance" on trying something different -- it should be "why not?"



At the end of the day, what team wants to say, "Well, for all our hard work it simply didn't sell well, but at least we can say that our product was just like everything else out there"?


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