It seems that Warren Spector is mad, and he’s not going to take it anymore. During his keynote address at PAX Australia 2015 (via PowerUpGaming.com), Deus Ex franchise creator and game designer Warren Spector criticized a number of game titles such as Uncharted, Heavy Rain and Telltale’s The Walking Dead for not properly utilizing and making the most of video games as a medium. He even went as far as saying that people who want to make movies into games should “get out of my medium.”
Spector claimed during his address that games such as Uncharted, The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain do not make the most of the unique ability for “shared authorship” between the player and the game. He stated, “If all you want to do is show off how clever you are, get out of my medium! Go make a movie or something, because that’s what you should be doing.”
According to Spector, the Uncharted games, developed by Naughty Dog, are “low-expression” games on a scale of low, medium, and high. He accused the games of not being “bad” but limiting player ability to interact with a game world, saying: “It’s not that games like this are bad, but they limit your ability to interact with the game world, so the story can unfold the way the storyteller wants it to unfold. You have very limited ability to express yourself; it’s about how do you accomplish a predetermined path to get to the next plot point. It’s a great story–a better story than I’ll ever tell in a game–but it’s not a player story; it’s not your story.”
Naughty Dog community strategist Arne Meyer reportedly responded to Spector’s keynote event. In a rather diplomatic response, he said, “It’s great that you’re hearing this type of criticism towards all sorts of games, because people are starting to make games that let you explore all sorts of different genres.”
Spector accused the experiences provided by games of Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead of being “designer-driven” rather than driven by the player. While those games have multiple outcomes and pathways, they are games that are all pre-scripted and designed. According to Spector: “Every choice in a game like this has been pre-scripted and handwritten by a designer somewhere, and the effects of that choice have been predetermined by the developers. There’s very limited stuff that players actually get to do.”
Spector did praise some games as having high-expression that more fully take advantage of the medium. Titles he singled out include fighting games, Dishonored, The Sims, Fallout and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Spector currently serves as the director of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas. He previously developed Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2 for Disney Interactive with Junction Point, which closed in 2013.