News Just In: David Jaffe Disagrees with Something!

August 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

For a long while now the discussion of ‘Games as Art’ has dominated a particular sphere of the web. There’s a group of people (myself included) that believe games have the potential to be so much more than what they are at the moment, for the most part mindless fun and violence. Someone who shares my view is Destructoid’s Anthony Burch, who in the latest instalment of his ‘Rev Rant’ series attacked gamers (and to a certain extent industry professionals) who claim that games should just be ‘fun.’ I’ve posted the original video below for your viewing pleasure.

But someone – specifically David Jaffe, creator of the Twisted Metal and God of War series – isn’t happy about what the Reverend is saying. He posted a video response on his blog attacking Anthony’s view, claiming that people are trying to make art games, they’re just not very good at it. He says that ideas that come along as art games turn out to be boring and simply don’t work well as games. For completeness sake I’ll also post his video below.

Anthony has done a pretty good job of defending himself here, saying that if a game like Passage can be more artistically relevant in five minutes than most video games out there can in their entire eight hour play time then this is proof that there are some people out there that know how to do art games well, making Jaffe’s response of ‘We just don’t know how’ mute.

Most of what needs to be said has already been, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing a bit of thinking of my own. No matter what way I go about doing it, I’m forced to conclude that Jaffe’s argument is defeatist, plain and simple. He’s saying that efforts have been made to make artistic games, and that because these have turned out ‘boring’ they haven’t been pursued.

It seems like he’s saying that because an artistic idea hasn’t fallen out of the sky into their laps, fully formed, that they haven’t tried running with these ideas. But no one said it would be easy doing something completely original and unique. To simply claim that ‘no one knows how to do it’ as a reason for not doing it is rubbish, you, being the incredibly talented game developers that you are, should be working out how to do it. If what he’s saying is one hundred percent accurate (I’m not going to claim there isn’t a shred of truth in it) then people came up with ideas that fell through, and then this same group of people turned around to just make the same kind of game again.

Think about the creativity of Infinity Ward, coming up with Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer, and completely changing the way we play online first person shooters. Think about all the innovations in Left 4 Dead, all the ways that game managed to make you work together as a team without forcing it upon you. These are all huge innovations, but they’re all going into making it funner and funner to shoot stuff in the head. Just think about what could be achieved if these amazingly creative teams set about making a game about something other than killing.


Jaffe, you’re not going to read this, but if you do, know that I think you’re an amazing developer. Twisted Metal was awesome, God of War more awesome still, but to give up at the first hurdle is taking the easy way out. If one man can make art games that last five minutes, a team of highly skilled developers could make a 8 -10 hour experience that speaks to the human condition. They couldn’t do it easily, but they could.

Edit: Since writing this piece, Jaffe has written a further follow up piece on his blog here.

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