Warren Spector Warns About Video Games Going the Way of Comic Books

Warren SpectorAs a medium, video games have been on the rise for a couple of decades now. We all know the tired comparison of video games outpacing big box office blockbusters, and the like. However, there are some that believe that gaming is perched on the precipice of slipping into obscurity if it does not undergo a shift. Warren Spector, creator of video games such as Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock and the currently-in-development Epic Mickey, recently spoke at Gamescom and had some warnings to current game developers.

Basically, Spector wants games to push forward into the mainstream, such as film, rather than falling to the wayside and classified as the niche, like comic books. While comic books have gained a sort of new life as of late, a lot of that was due to the film industry, as people over the years wrote off comic books as only being for a certain lower audience. Could the same happen to games? Spector thinks so.

“If we don’t break out of the big buff guys with swords, and guys in tights, and space marines in armor, we’re going to get marginalized the way that comic books have been in the United States… I hope we can break free of the content of comic books.”

It seems fairly obvious who Spector is pointing to, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s got a point. Eventually, it makes sense that people would get tired of the same old same old, but video game sales each year favor sequels and the big space shooters, contradicting that idea.

So what do you guys think? Is Warren Spector correct?

Source- CNET

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

15 thoughts on “Warren Spector Warns About Video Games Going the Way of Comic Books”

  1. Lots of big films are bad. Most of the best selling music is trash. A big portion of the AAA titles aren’t very fun.

    ^ But that’s where the money is ^

    There will always be games that are under the radar, much like films and bands, that are more “insert: Artistic? Daring? Edgy? Well-made? Genuine? Original?”

    I think he has a point, but like I always say. If you really care, buy the indie games and support the small developers. That’s where the creative juices have really been pooling lately.

  2. Yes, we should be supporting creative, independent developers like the folks behind Machinarium…


  3. I can see Mr.Spector’s point. Games could do with some new themes/ideas. The shaking up and perhaps some changes to some tried and true themes and character archetypes might help. Instead of the bald power suited male space marine we have female space marines or games that give us better morality choices than A) Be a total saint or B) Be a giant soulless bastard.

  4. I think he’s missing the picture entirely. Does he know how many people have an inner ‘geek’ that extends to *just* video games?
    I’ve never touched a comic book in my life (other than the old-childhood favs of Asterix and Tintin) but I still have a crazy nerd-boner for sci-fi and fantasy video games.

    Spector needs to realize that loads of people consider video games to be in the mainstream, whereas D&D and comic books still smack of geekdom.

  5. Video games in which you shoot people and throw touchdowns are in the mainstream, perhaps, but not the innovative type of game design that Spector seems to be asking for.

    I think it was Miyomoto who recently said something to the effect that games were becoming too complicated and not providing enough fun. This comment from Spector is on the same wavelength. At some point, adding more complexity onto an existing formula provides diminishing returns.

    Nintendo based their whole console strategy around the idea of doing something different yet they’ve taken an unbelievable amount of ridicule for doing so. It’s a shame, because some of the most original games of the last decade have come out on the wii and the DS.

    I think it’s interesting to note that Spector specifically mentioned the status of comic books in the US, where they’re still regarded as something for kids, as opposed to England, where comics carry a bit more cultural weight. Perhaps we should find some significance in the fact that Heavy Rain was developed by a European studio?

  6. I think Mr. Spector has a legitimate point, video games have already fallen into somewhat of a niche. They really need to break out into the mainstream as more of an artistic endeavor before they will ever be truly socially accepted. However, I believe video games and gamers are open to these ideas of progress and have already made leaps forward. The successes of games like Heavy Rain and Alan Wake are proof the the video game industry is open to expanding the gaming genre beyond the childish brute stereotypes. Hopefully the success of games like these will spur more creative development and games can become a strong socially accepted story telling medium. Changing the public personage from “childish games” to entertainment.

  7. Zayven, I don’t think anyone here has a problem with Nintendo doing something different. I would agree with you that Nintendo has done some amazing and innovative things with the DS, but the Wii is another story altogether. Some of the worst games of this generation have appeared on the Wii, so just being different doesn’t mean it’s good.

    But I think you might be on to something with Heavy Rain coming from a European studio. I’d like to play more games like that, personally.

  8. The worst games of this generation? That’s a bit harsh, but I see what you’re saying. Still, you can’t hold Nintendo completely responsible for 3rd party shovelware. They made a system that is relatively inexpensive to develop for and because of that the wii is flooded with the types of bargain bin games that have been made for every generation of consoles prior to the HD era.

    The combination of lower development costs and the opportunity to experiment with new control interfaces make the Wii an excellent platform for experimentation.

    What about unique games like Wii Sports Resort, da Blob, Zakk and Wikki, Lost Winds, Little King’s Story, No More Heroes 1 & 2, Endless Ocean 1 & 2, Boom Blox, Wario Ware, or Wii Fit? I realize that “World of Goo” is also available on pc, but that’s one of the best games I’ve played in this generation.

    So I think there have been a lot of innovative titles for the Wii, even if “hardcore” gamers have no interest in playing them. Wii Fit, for example, was an innovative, unique game when it came out regardless of how anyone feels about it.

    That’s exactly what I think Spector is talking about; he appears to want games that do something different and don’t keep recycling the same “macho men with guns and swords” tropes that cater to a niche “hardcore” audience. That’s why he’s making “Epic Mickey” instead of trying to rehash “Deus Ex” or “System Shock.”

    The tragedy is that if “Epic Mickey” proves to be a good game (and all indications seem to be pointing that way), a lot of gamers are going to miss out on it because they refuse to play Wii games for one reason or another.

    1. Naming several “good games” doesn’t refute that there are lots of terrible games on the system.

      I think the real tragedy is that if lots of gamers miss out on a game like Epic Mickey, why wasn’t it on another system? What about the Wii controller makes it to where this game MUST be performed only with motion controls? This has always been and will always be the problem with motion control – they are not justified when any old button press can accomplish the same task, except in a few small cases. I think if Epic Mickey does not do well commercially, that will be the real crime. There’s no reason the game could not have been multiplatform.

  9. I didn’t deny that there were lots of terrible games for the Wii. But I also think that it doesn’t have significantly more bad games than we saw back in the NES-PS1 eras.

    But what’s so terrible about Epic Mickey being on the Wii? Why does any good game being on the Wii always have to be a strike against it?

    I’m not trying to start a nasty argument or anything, I just honestly want to know why so many people are against the concept of motion control. I used to consider myself a pretty dedicated gamer and I’ve never had a problem with shaking the controller instead of pressing a button on occasion. Sometimes, I even like doing so. What am I missing that everyone else seems to understand?

    1. I don’t have a problem with motion control in and of itself. I think it works for some situations. The problem comes when trying to justify motion controls over regular button presses, as I said with my last comment. There is no reason to replace what could be a button press for an arbitrary motion on a Wii-mote. That’s like arguing that because we changed shooting in Halo from right trigger to A, we revolutionized it.

      A waggle motion is the same as a button press, no matter how you slice it. So my problem comes when developers map what could have been regular button presses (which we’ve had for generations) with a new gimmick and call it innovative. Epic Mickey, if it just uses the same waggle controls we’ve seen from the Wii so far, will not offer anything innovative in terms of motion control. And as such, why couldn’t it have been on another platform?

      Being on the Wii is not a strike against it all. I am dying to play the game. But when you limit your demographic in such a way when the game could have easily been ported to traditional inputs? That’s your own fault, and I won’t feel sorry for anyone involved if it fails.

  10. I see your point and I agree to an extent. In a lot of Wii games, especially mediocre ones, the waggle is just an arbitrary replacement for a button press.

    A lot of the Wii’s potential has certainly been left on the table, even I won’t deny that. But on the other hand, many of the games that have broken waggle controls are crappy games to begin with and would have sucked with a regular controller anyway. There are some games that I really like the waggle control, to be honest. Waving the remote to swing Link’s sword in Zelda never got old for me.

    I agree that just substituting a waggle for a button press doesn’t automatically make things innovative, but there have been cases in which motion controls have made a game better. Look at Resident Evil 4, Pikmin, or Metroid Prime 3 for example.

    I suppose at the end of the day I’m just griping about other people griping. I don’t have any problem with waggle controls (provided they work properly, a requirement of any type of control input) and I genuinely don’t understand why people (I’m not specifically referring to anyone posting here, I just mean in general) are so angered by them.

    Part of me thinks that we’re all just creatures of habit. After all, there are people out there who will argue until they’re blue in the face about how the xbox’s offset analog sticks are inherently superior to the ps dual shock sticks or whether it’s better to have concave or convex tops on the sticks.

    At the risk of offending anyone who has a vested interest in such arguments, I think these are stupid and meaningless disagreements without a basis in anything but fandom. Motion controls are a different thing, obviously, since there is a genuine difference, but I kind of feel the same way about it. If I’m playing a good game, I really don’t care if I have to waggle the controller or press a button; it really makes absolutely no difference to me.

    I’m not trying to be a champion for motion controls because I’ll freely admit that they are poorly implemented more often than not, but I just don’t completely understand why gamers have such a problem with them.

    As for why “Epic Mickey” is on the Wii, if I remember correctly, the paintbrush mechanic is what most utilizes motion control and if they implement that well, it would really be a testament to what a skilled developer can do with motion controls. From a business standpoint, it also makes sense to put it on the Wii since the system has a good install base in Disney’s target family market.

    There’s also that problem of developing a multiplatform game for the Wii. If it was originally developed on an HD system, you have to gimp it to make it run on the Wii, but if you want to port a Wii game, you can’t just up the graphics resolution because it will still be using an inferior graphics engine and will look like crap on the bigger consoles. Sounds like something we should have a stupid catchphrase for, like “Once you go Wii, you can’t break free!”

    1. Yeah I mean, I’m all for motion controls if they’re justified. Wii Sports would not be fun on a regular controller in the slightest. I think there could be reasons to make something have motion control that would not translate well to a normal controller, and I’m fine with that. If Epic Mickey can have great mechanics with the Wii-mote, I’m all for it.

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