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Warren Spector Offers Advice and Inspiration For Gaming's Future

Warren Spector spoke passionately and humorously today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. At his panel, entitled "Narrative in Games: Roles, Forms, Problems, and Potential," he poked fun at himself on his slides for being an "out of work guy," since Disney shuttered his studio, Junction Point. Spector still has plenty of passion for how developers can improve games by examining narrative media (books, comics, movies) and their strengths and weaknesses. He professed no medium can survive without evolving beyond its roots.

In Spector's opinion, interactivity has been an abused word for what games actually offer. But he does note it has merit, as two of his favorite games from this generation are The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain, which play similarly to movies. But he says developers can do better than those games. 

He thinks a clear way to discover this is to examine the significant differences between games and other media. Films often cut away from the action and horrendous depictions, he notes in a game that same action is palatable and enjoyable. "That's why I made a Mickey Mouse game instead," Spector joked. "I can't believe I just said that." 

Spector said games should never never have scenes that cut away from the player. It breaks the immersion and takes control away from the players who should own the experience. A great deal of Spector's talk was about "the value when we allow players to make the magic moments." Spector firmly believes collaborative storytelling, in which the player drives portions of the story, is gaming's biggest asset. No other medium allows the level of interaction provided in games. 

He listed a slew of problems with games not advancing as they should, such as a lack of character expressiveness in graphics, unrealistic non-combat AI, and rote structures in design. Spector notes some of the challenges facing developers: it's extremely hard when games depend on repeated actions and story writing is difficult with how long many games stretch. 

Spector's talk was inspiring as he urged developers to find the solutions to the problems he addressed. "Game developers, you can change the world. Beat me to the solutions to all these problems," he says.

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