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Interview: Jordan Weisman
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Interview: Jordan Weisman

May 9, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

The next bulletpoint on your site reads, "There is noone on the planet more creative than the audience." In terms of the audience's creativity, are you thinking you'll encourage user-generated content? Or were you thinking more in terms of making a toy that unleashes the player's creativity?

Well, without getting into too many specifics, it's kind of an extension of the next level of [saying] that people are the most engaging thing on earth. If you look at anything from role-playing games to ARGs, to multiplayer Halo or whatever, what the audience manages to create with the tools you've given them far surpasses anything that a smaller design team can do. It's just the reality of the world that a large number of minds working together are going to be better at it than a small number.

Our job is to create an environment that inspires them and a toolset that enables them. And in reality the majority of the entertainment is being created by the audience, for the audience. Whether that's new strategies in a game, whether it's actual new assets, or stories or whatever, it's going to be different types of creative content based on the property itself.

But I think the ability for the audience to create that is key. Because you know, any time I'm at a convention, people are going to come up and tell me their story -- the story of their games. And it's one of the most exciting things to hear, because these people created by their actions and interactions with each other, their own fiction.

Even ARGs have their puppetmasters -- so there's always someone in charge. Their plans can get thwarted in interesting ways, but you still have that hierarchy. Do you think you'll maintain that, where you've got people moderating these worlds and these franchises, and players are definitely just the players? Or are there ways to blur that line?

I think there are definitely ways to blur the line. I think some of the products that we're conceiving of go along that line. We're empowering the audience to generate more content and creativity for each other. But ultimately, players don't want chaos. They want some structure to the activity, and they want some structure to the rules of engagement with each other.

I think if you look at something like Second Life, within that chaos, they go in and carve out their own continuity. Because we all seek continuity, we all seek some kind of environment where we can be successful, and we need that kind of structure to allow us to be successful.

In the past you've said that as we get older, our imagination-muscles get weak. How do games affect that?

As much as I've enjoyed being in the industry and creating audio-visual stimulus, that takes less work from us than a book. If you love a book, the movie is nothing but a disappointment, right?

Because it was so much more vibrant and so much more personal in the way you envisioned it. And sometimes we can be coaxed into a situation where we've lost some of those muscles.

And I also think another aspect that's very disturbing to me, as an unintended outcome of the popularity of computer games and video games, is that we have dramatically reduced the number of years that kids engage in pure imagination-based play. It used to be, when I was a kid, it would be normal to be engaged in imagination-based play at least up 'til ten years old.

Make-believe is what you were playing with your friends, because you had a very unstructured play environment, [and] you had inanimate objects which you were animating to play with. The whole concept of an "action figure" -- well what was that about? That was, I'm going to play Medal of Honor with my G. I. Joes. And you would do that when you were a kid.

But nowadays, imagination-based play stops at... nine years old? Eight or nine? Because I think there's been this perception because of more structured gaming activities, that if you're not playing with rules, you're a baby.

And the last thing a kid wants to be is a baby. Because only babies play baby play, which is, that whole free-form imagination-based stuff. Big boys and girls play with rules, right? They play card games, they play board games, they play computer games. They play things that structure that environment.

We've also seen the ramifications in sports, too. When I was growing up, if you were playing sports, odds are you were playing just on the street with a bunch of friends. And it was just streetball. It was very loose and informal. And now, kids are involved in leagues and tournaments, and much more structured sports play.

And so I think that that's another force that has crunched down and reduced this pure imagination-based play. And I find that kind of sad.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

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