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God of War's Jaffe Shuns Story

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Outspoken Sony Computer Entertainment America designer David Jaffe, best known for the acclaimed God of War (PS2) and the Twisted Metal franchise, has stated on his blog that he will be steering away from storytelling in his video game projects, despite still enjoying playing games with a strong emphasis on the single-player narrative experience. "I think even the best ones feel forced," he said, referring to games such as Metal Gear Solid or God of War that rely heavily on narrative devices borrowed from film or literature--"like they are not speaking the true language of video games."
To me, most (all?) story based games are like taking a trumpet and playing it a little, but also using the brass exterior of the trumpet to carve a story onto a wall. Sure you can do it, and you may even have a nice story scratched onto the wall when you are done. But itÂ’s not really what the trumpet is for and there are a hell of a lot easier ways to write a story. Plus, youÂ’ve got this nice, shiny trumpet- which is now all scratched up- just sitting there, begging to be played, begging to be used as it was intended.
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For the stuff I am directly working on, I am trying to take steps towards more pure game experiences and see what I can do with those. I have to say, IÂ’m having a blast so far.

"I donÂ’t want to tell stories with my games anymore," said Jaffe frankly, admitting that while he is spending plenty of time playing other people's story games, he is also spending more of his time than ever on "casual" games as well as genres such as racing and sports, which put less reliance on any kind of built-in narrative. While Jaffe recently stated that God of War will likely become a trilogy, he is no longer the creative lead on the franchise; rather, it is in the hands of designer Cory Barlog from Jaffe's former studio SCE Santa Monica.

Presumably, Jaffe's next game, publically nothing more than the codename "HL," will be quite distinct from the very presentation-focused cinematic nature of God of War. "Now I just want to do it in a way that celebrates what makes video games great, versus taking elements from other media and trying to squish those elements into a product that- if you do everything right- MIGHT just have one tenth the emotional impact as what you can get from more traditional media (like film, tv, or books).

Jaffe's comments encapsulate a long running debate regarding the nature of games, and the appropriateness of narrative and other generally non-interactive elements as opposed to a stronger focus on gameplay. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jaffe along with gameplay-uber-alles designer Will Wright, well known Epic designer CliffyB, and former ION Storm designer Harvey Smith, recently participated in a developer roundtable which touched on, among other things, that very issue.

From The Chatty

  • reply
    July 17, 2006 2:19 PM

    Interesting post. You can't really say "I agree" because it's specific to his position as game designer who still plays other people's story-based games. While I enjoy several story series such as Metal Gear Solid, it struck me recently that when I look at my game shelves, I see mostly "gameplay games" like that can be replayed over and over because there's no story to get tired of.