Chris Crawford has a lot of ugly things to say about the state of video games right now. The once developer, now author, doesn't seem to have a lot of faith that there are any new ideas out there. His argument seems to be that we keep seeing the same rehashed ideas, and while there's something to be said for that argument, if you pay attention a lot of interesting ideas are coming out. From things like Electroplankton to Indigo Prophecy, and the social interaction and economy building of games like EVE, there are things being done with new technology that haven't been tried before. Gaming is like any other medium: if you sit through most of the product it will be derivative. It takes a lot of Paul Andersons before you get to a Noah Baumbach. Of course, Chris Crawford doesn't even think the Wii will be home to new ideas. His argument seems to be that he keeps going to movies and only seeing moving pictures on a screen. Why does he think the Wii will just be the same-old thing?
I view these kinds of things with skepticism because I've seen that so many times before. Does anybody remember some years back when Sony, with great fanfare, released the chip that they called the “emotion engine” and flooded the airwaves with interviews about how they were going to break the mold and do something completely different, and it never amounted to anything? And there have been other similar attempts that never go anywhere.
Using Sony's history against Nintendo makes perfect sense. Luckily, Chris Crawford has the idea to save gaming, and everyone needs to listen to him about it. You see, his idea is to make games open-ended, and allow you to progress at your own pace. That's right, it sounds like he wants to resell the industry on adventure games. Still with me? Let's hear about this product from the man himself.
It's a story you get to participate in as the protagonist. You're the hero…and you let the story go. It's not at all like a regular story. It's not as if you're just following the footsteps of the hero in a standard movie. Interactive storytelling has a more meandering feel to it. You don't charge down a plot line towards the end, you meander through a social environment. The key thing is that it's about people, not things. Social interaction, not mechanical interaction. The primary thing you do an interactive storytelling is talk to other people. What a concept! Most gamers react to that concept with some disdain: “all you do is sit around and talk? That’s no fun,” and it isn’t any fun for many gamers. But that's the kind of thing that most people spend most of their time doing.
This isn't a game, it's a Storyworld. Designers are Storybuilders. This is held together by Storytron. Their first working prototype is called…Swat. Okay, the naming convention kind of fell apart there. While there may be some fire behind all this smoke, if you can't describe a concept to me in a simple way, that's usually a bad sign. Thorughout the interview Mr. Crawford seems to be talking about his product, realize he's describinga stock adventure or MMO title, and then try to find another way to say it and failing.
There's plenty of innovation out there, you just have to dig for it. Like my grandfather used to tell me: if someone tells you differently, he's trying to sell you something.