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There's definitely a debate among developers how much the player imbues him or herself into the character and how much it's like seeing a character in a film.
GDF: Yep. I think that even when you are watching a movie, and when you are basically seeing those actors -- known actors in particular -- when you're seeing them act, you are identifying with them. Maybe not with all of the characters, but some of the characters. Maybe not with the entirety of the character, but something in the character. And that makes you vibrate. You're, at one point, in an intimate relationship with these characters.
Now, where to draw the line when it comes to gaming? Are you yourself when you're playing? Are you embodying a character? Most of the time you are embodying a character, but I think that it doesn't make a lot of difference.
But because however you contextualize it, either telling the player "it's you, yourself", or telling the player "you are this rookie solider in the army", the player will put a lot of himself in the character. Whatever you give him, he will take on board. And this kind of strange mix happens.
And I think it's similar to watching, passively, a movie, for instance. The same exchange happens. So I don't know if there is this cut between yourself, the character, and the actor.
It's just this mix happens in your brain, and you're engaging on an emotional level. And there's this alchemy happening that basically makes the character not exactly you, not exactly only what you're embodying. It makes also the difference between reality and fiction, to a certain degree.
Heavy Rain plays with that a bit, because you have four characters. So the player gets to inhabit, or experience, four different perspectives.
GDF: But you see, this a very good example. When we started working on Heavy Rain, there was always someone in the room saying, "But won't the players be confused, at one point, to play four different personas?"
And in the game, when you play the game, you don't even ask yourself this question. Never. You just switch and -- pffft! -- that's it. There's absolutely no problem for players. I haven't heard anyone say, "Well, I was a bit confused at who I am." No. You're given this possibility, and you embrace it immediately.
The game was good about visually, and otherwise, communicating who these characters were, too. The initial scenarios where you encounter them, that kind of stuff. Clearly, that was very deliberate.
GDF: Of course. You need to introduce the character, you need to give some story background and make sure that it's not totally out of the blue. But it doesn't need to be a long sequence. It can be relatively short -- a few seconds -- to introduce the character. And then you learn through playing who he is, and what his motivations are. And at one point, you embrace these, and you become the character.
In your talk, you called on developers to -- the word you used was "subversive." Put subversive content in games. I was wondering if you could discuss that a little bit.
GDF: In what context, exactly?
You were talking about the film Blow-Up, and how 1960s movie directors pushed boundaries.
GDF: The developers should step up. I find it relatively amazing that developers almost never have the opportunity to say what they think about ratings. We're not involved in any rating boards, except the USK in Germany. So in most countries in the world, developers, game creators, never can say what they believe should be the rating of their games, and to explain, also, what they're doing.
And I'm not only talking about justifying. I think most of the boards are publisher-driven, and of course they are looking at things from their perspective, and defending what they see as important to them. Never has the approach of the developers been taken into account, and I think it's important that we do now.
What I was also saying is that on the film side, things have changed, because certain film directors stepped up and said, "No more. I don't want to go by the Hays Code anymore. I want to talk about homosexuality. I want to talk about mixed races. I want to talk about all those subjects that you are forbidding me to talk about."
And then a major studio -- you know, MGM was the Electronic Arts of films at that time -- said "I'm not going to release this movie under the code that I accepted to share with my fellow studios." So people, at one point, said, "No more. We want to change this." And I think we're at the point where we should also step up and say, "We must change this."
Did the studio do that to back the artistic value of the film?
GDF: That was what they said.
If you can get gamers interested and cognizant of the fact of what they're missing, maybe they can make the publishers aware that they feel this way too.
GDF: Sure. The thing is, that until consumers saw Blow-Up, they didn't know what they were missing.
Same problem with games?
GDF: Same problem with games, certainly.
Do you have a sense that developers aren't not only not speaking up for themselves in regards to ratings, but also not pushing boundaries? That you don't have the equivalent of the directors who are sick of the Hays Code?
GDF: This is changing. There are more and more director-type creators at the head of studios, working within the studios, and having more and more influence on how games are created. The more and more central figures who drive the creative vision of a particular studio -- at Quantic it's David Cage, but [also] Kojima -- which probably wasn't the case maybe 10 years ago.
The more and more creators that, also, the consumer recognizes today -- the press and consumers, the whole ecosystem sees them as, sometimes they're called the visionaries. The creators, the directors, those are the people that drive the industry forward.
I think these people should also start. But I'm talking to a lot of them, and a lot of them back what I'm saying, and say, "Yeah, you're right. We should do something about this."