But any kid past a certain age can write prose, you know. There's still a technical barrier, even with the tools now available.
AH: Yeah, but I mean I'm talking about writers, you know? I'm talking about people for whom this is a passion...
MS: Yeah. What he is saying is, the paper and pen is much easier, and accessible as a tool for creating in this medium, than computer stuff.
AH: So what? I mean, that's part of the passion.
MS: That's true. That's true. You have to want it even more.
AH: But a writer's craft, it's like -- don't undersell that. I mean, to be a good writer is a lifetime of suffering, in a way. Yeah, there's the technology, but perhaps their technical hurdle is honing your mind, to be able to express something universal for people, that is going to be timeless, in a sense. That's not necessarily easy. I mean, I've known a lot of writers, a lot of musicians. There's a larger history to both of those media, but...
What I'm saying, actually, is I don't think the major hurdle to making video games is technical. I think that is what everybody will tell you. Even though I know it's damn hard to make a video game, the harder part is being able to get to the essence of what we're trying to make for people.
MS: Yeah, but doesn't it go hand-in-hand? That if you're more comfortable with your tool, it will be easier to shape yourself?
AH: I don't know. Perhaps we all make it too complicated for ourselves. I know that, essentially, I'm still naive about everything to do with video games, and I like that about it. But I do think that sometimes -- and we've known this for ourselves -- that game developers make it harder for themselves than is necessary.
Certainly the games that we're talking about, the BioShocks and the Alan Wakes, the technical hurdles there are tremendous.
MS: It's enormous.
AH: But they've created that shit for themselves. They created the technical hurdle. They're the ones saying that it has to be ultra realistic lighting and normal maps and all this shit, you know? You don't need that. That's something you want! Yeah, okay. You want to see technology go further. But it's not necessary.
To the detriment of the content! That's what I'm saying. They see the technical hurdle as being all-important, to the detriment of the meaning, and the content, that they're trying to express, in my opinion. So, all the money goes toward that, rather than going to good voice actors, or a writer who can write something other than Star Wars, or some copy of some Stephen King novel.
To the detriment of seeing that as your art form -- all of those aesthetic practices as part of the art form, and not just CryEngine 3, or whatever the fuck. That's my naive perspective, actually, is that it's a poor medium, because they pour all the money into all the wrong things, or they see it as about being pouring money into it at all.
What I find very interesting is that I can sense your passion for a medium that you're also tremendously frustrated with.
AH: I do this for a living. What I mean is, I do this full time. We make our projects, we spend months and months iterating, and prototyping, and whatever. I mean, there's been plenty of times where I've said, "I don't want to fucking work with this stuff anymore. I don't want to do it!" [laughs]
But I think all independent developers have those moments because, you know, you don't have that much money, you're spending all your time on something, and seeing little incremental rewards every day. The only real payoff, and the only reward, is at the end, when it's done, and that's when all the joy happens for you. Maybe I'm just moody today. I think I'm just moody today. [laughs]
MS: A lot of passion also comes from, I think, just being an artist. Being an artist is not something that you do. It's something that you are. Whatever we do, is what we are. So, hurt my game, and you're hurting me. [laughs]
AH: I just want to be able to make what we make, and not get the sort of criticism we often get. I want the criticism to be based on things other than "Oh, what you make is not a game," I guess. Or "What you make shouldn't be made. You shouldn't make things like that."
Isn't that easy to blow off that kind of criticism?
MS: No. [laughs]
AH: Not for me. It should be, perhaps. But I think that it's not, because I see it as being a failing of this as a creative medium... to not be able to have deeper criticism, or see a larger picture...
MS: It pains me, not so much personally -- I mean, yeah, it does. But it's an expression of a very deeply ingrained conservatism within gamers.
AH: Right. We've always called it conservatism, and people are like, "How can you say that?" We're like, "Well, because, you..." [laughs]
MS: I mean, it's always like whenever somebody tries to change something, it's like, "You're wrong!" It's like "Violence!" And that is supported by, indeed, narrowing down the niche and making everything more the same. But we also know that this is probably just a bunch of kids anyway, and maybe they don't mean it as extremely as they express it. Actually, we recently received an email apologizing!
AH: An apology. [laughs]
MS: A kid who grew up, and a few years later read his comments, and said, "Oh no. I'm sorry that I said that back then."
AH: Wow, the trolls grow up! How does this happen? [laughs] "I reread what I wrote in 2006 on your blog" -- or whatever it is -- "and I'm really sorry that I said it that way. I've changed my mind since." I'm like, "Whoa."