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Central Clancy Writer: An Interview With Richard Dansky
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Central Clancy Writer: An Interview With Richard Dansky


June 21, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

There's definitely a theme in there. Do you have any ambivalence about glorifying war and violence? Does anything like this come out in your scripts?

RD: I think there's a difference between games that incorporate representations of violence into their play – for example, chess, or cops & robbers, or Stratego – and games that are violent for the sake of gratuitous gore. Yes, a lot of the games I've worked on have a violent aspect to them, but if you look at them closely, you'll find that particularly with the Clancy games, we have a code of ethics that we build into them that I'm comfortable with.

There's a big difference, at least to me, between randomly mowing down pedestrians and innocent bystanders, and working with a scenario where you're trying to save someone or accomplish a goal, and in-game violence is a possible means to a greater end.

For my part, I'm much more interested in things like getting the player involved in the tactical puzzles and intrigue than I am in gore for the sake of splattering bodily fluids on the screen. Every game I've worked on, I've learned something – about games, about the subject material, you name it - and that's really the pull from project to project.

What's your favorite story moment in the Clancy series?

RD: The structure of story in the Clancy games has really changed from the early days, when it was in large part something that happened in between missions, to now, when it's thoroughly interwoven with every aspect of the gameplay. I'd say the story moment I like best from the most recent round of Clancy games is in Double Agent, when Sam is given the choice of letting the terrorists take out the cruise ship – and a lot of innocent people with it – or stopping them, and risk getting someone he's got a personal attachment to killed.

It's the first time a choice really stepped up and smacked me in the face with its potential consequences, and Dan Gordon and Sabi Shabtai, the writers who developed the story – I came on to the project later – deserve a lot of credit for going someplace that didn't pull any punches.

What's your views on the place of story in games? How does that balance with gameplay, especially in action-oriented titles?

RD: First of all, I think what we do isn't really story, per se. It's narrative. We create a narrative framework within a game for the player to act as the hero within, and then they create their own, unique story using the tools and framework we've given them. And that's how it should be – we're an interactive medium, after all, and players should be doing things, not having things told to them.

That being said, I think a strong narrative is an important thing to include with gameplay in action and shooter titles. The better the foundation that the backstory and setting creates, the more believable and immersive the action is, and the more the player believes in what they're doing (as opposed to, say, just mashing buttons).

Providing a strong narrative and strong characters, giving the player reasons to advance and to care about what they're doing – these are important things that narrative can accomplish, and which can benefit a game tremendously if they're done well.

Do players really care about stories in games - for instance, in the Tom Clancy games? Does the action just take over?

RD: If people didn't care about story, there wouldn't be quite so much kvetching about it in reviews, I think.

That being said, for a lot of games, narrative works like an umpire in baseball – if you notice it, it's doing something wrong. In a lot of games, all the story needs to do is to ease you into the fantasy and provide immersion in the scenario. At that point, the fact that the action takes over is a good thing, story-wise – it means the player isn't sitting there thinking "Wait a minute, that character's motivation is totally unrealistic" or "Wouldn't international banking laws have rendered that mission objective impossible?" or, well, you get the idea.

If the narrative – as manifested in the dialogue and the objectives – does nothing except help keep the player in the game and moving forward of their own volition, to create their own experiences, it's doing exactly what it needs to.


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