Big Ideas: Video Games According to David Cage
August 27, 2012 Page 4 of 5
Heavy Rain is a kind of game that had a really broad audience. How did women react to the game?
DC: Well, they reacted in a very surprising way: Each time I meet someone who played Heavy Rain, my next question, "Oh you played Heavy Rain. You played it with your wife." And the guy said, "How did you know?" "Just because 95 percent of the guys who played the game played it with their wives or their girlfriends."
And it was already the case on Fahrenheit, but even more on Heavy Rain, and it's very interesting, because the story gamers tell us is always the same. "Oh, my girlfriend is always upset because I'm playing these games, shooting at things all day. But when they saw me play Heavy Rain they said, 'Hey, wait a minute. There's a story, there are characters, and there's a female character, and wait a minute...'"
So they sat on the couch and they played together until the end, and fighting about what you should do or not do, and say this, say that, and do this... And so it became a collaborative experience with the husband, who's the gamer, and the wife, who never plays games, and has no interest whatsoever in games.
And that's something very interesting to me, because I think it shows something. It shows that it's possible to get women interested in games, and I'm not talking about with casual games or whatever. But in this type of experience, they can have interest, because they feel interest in the characters, and they feel an interest in the story, and they want to know what's going to happen next. So that's very interesting to me.
Have you spoken to any women who weren't in that situation, who weren't the girlfriend or the wife, who actually picked the game up themselves?
DC: Yeah, of course. And, yeah, this is really the story they told me. It's really like, "My husband is always playing games where they're shooting things all day and it really makes me mad, but this is the first time I was interested in the story, and we discussed." Many people argued, actually. Especially the scene where you need to take care of your son, in the beginning of the game.
Guys tend to give just pizza to the kid, if they give him something to eat, where the women say, "Wait a minute! What are you doing? Did he do his homework? Did you put him to bed? You can't leave him on the couch watching television like that!" It was almost an argument, which was really funny.
It was also funny to see -- I met some couples where the husband was not prepared to cut his finger for his son, and the woman on the couch was saying, "Hey, what are you doing? You can't leave like this!" The male is saying, "Well, wait a minute. There's probably another way." And the woman was really like, "No, you need to do it. If that's the only way to save your son, you need to do it." All sorts of discussions like this were very, very interesting. It was really fun to hear.
When you hear stuff like this, does it feed back into the way you want to design in the future? Creating more tension, creating more situations that different people would approach different ways?
DC: Yeah, definitely. The best part of the development of Heavy Rain was listening to people talking about just how they -- first of all, how they were passionate about their experience. How they thought it was their story that was different from their friend's story, and how emotional they could be about it, and how they remembered some specific scenes in a very strong and vivid way. That was something very intriguing and very interesting to me.
That was really my biggest expectation with Heavy Rain. Can I create an experience that will leave an imprint in people's minds? Or is it just something like you turn off your console and then you forget about it? And, no, Heavy Rain left an imprint in some people's minds, and that's really what I was looking for.
And is that something you do through choice, or something you do through theme, or what happens in the narrative?
DC: I think it's a mix of different things. First thing is to create identification. It's to create characters that you feel you want to understand, and you feel you can resonate with. So you feel empathy for them. So then you're on board. And once you're on board, and you have this empathy relationship, then you share what they feel. So when they laugh, you can laugh with them. When they're sad, you're sad with them. When they feel nervous, you're nervous with them. So it's a very interesting and a very important relationship that you establish, and that's how it works.
Do you want to build on the gameplay basis that you made with Heavy Rain, or do you feel that there's a need to do something different to shake up audience expectations?
DC: My biggest concern about Heavy Rain was not so much what people who played it thought, because the feedback has been consistently very positive about the game. It was much more about the people who didn't play Heavy Rain, what they thought of the game. Just the image they had of it.
And I'm always shocked to hear people say, "Oh, Heavy Rain, it's like Dragon's Lair, with prompts sometimes, and that's not really a game." Wait a minute. There are less cutscenes in Heavy Rain than in many first person shooters that I can see these days.
So the game was really not about cutscenes. It was not about watching. You were in the shoes of the character. You were making the choices, and you were telling the story through your actions, and not through prompts, or whatever. So some people just stay stuck outside the game, having an image, an idea of what it is that in my mind was wrong.
So this is definitely something as a game creator you want to address, because you want as many people to try your game and give it a chance. It's not a matter of money; it's not a matter of sales. It's a matter of, "Hey, we worked really hard to create something we believe in. Please try it, give it a chance!"
So we really worked on how we can find a way of making the entry barrier as low as possible. "Please come in." Open doors. "Come on and, see, look. It looks like something familiar. But once you're in, I can take your hand and show you stuff that will really surprise you." That's my challenge as a game designer: to deal with all those things, and stay true to the experience we want to make, of course.
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