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What do you think should be the primary motivation for a game designer?
JM: For me the driving force in making a game, movie or graphic novel is to tell a story -- to create a world and characters that will come to life in the player's imagination, and give them a memorable experience. The greatest satisfaction for me is when people tell me they played one of my games years ago, at a certain point in their life, and that the memory stayed with them.
The difference with game storytelling, as opposed to movies or graphic novels, is that the experience has to be earned by the player through playing, rather than being a story that's told to them visually.
EC: The primary motivation is to take the player through a playful experience focused on interaction. You have to give him enough choices to create his own experience within the boundaries of the designer's intent.
Those choices can weave a story or not -- you do not necessarily have to tell something or even embody a character. Your intent can be pure entertainment, a philosophical reflection, a feeling, a color, an impression: there are no rules, everything is acceptable.
So we have what the player experiences during play, this instant gratification, and what remains when the game is over. Here the medium becomes the player's memory. In the end, though, the most important aspect is that the player does not get bored!
What are you working on at the moment?
JM: I'm now writing the film adaptation of Fathom, a graphic novel by the late Michael Turner, for Megan Fox (Transformers) to star. It's the first time I've adapted someone else's creation as a screenplay, rather than something I originated myself, and it's a nice challenge and change of pace.
I'm also writing a Prince of Persia graphic novel anthology, illustrated by six different artists, that Disney will publish in April 2010 as part of the Prince of Persia movie launch.
And a graphic novel trilogy for First Second books, illustrated by LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland, that's an original story, a swashbuckling historical adventure in the spirit of Alexandre Dumas, set in 14th century France -- the first volume is also due to be published in spring 2010. As well as a few other projects that to some degree overlap the spheres of video games, movies, and graphic novels, too early to talk about because they're still in the gestation phase.
EC: I cannot talk about my new game in case I get told off by my publisher. Anyway, I would rather wait until the project has fully matured before discussing it.
Prince of Persia
Do you still play for fun? What genres are you into? What are the last games you really liked?
JM: These days I mostly play casual games. While I admire the beauty and technical achievement of today's next-gen console games, it's hard to carve out eight or 10 hours to mastering a single game, much less 20.
EC: It's pretty much the same for me, not to mention the fact that games are often repetitive. I can't even count the number of games I've bought and gave up before the end. The last game I completed was Soul Bubbles on DS, which is a truly excellent game.
But to be honest, I'm more interested in another kind of play. Nowadays, I get more pleasure at the theater. Acting on stage with other people is really playful, the interactions are more subtle, there is an instant pleasure to it and it never ceases to reinvent itself...