Game developer: Let's not be like comic books

Warren Spector, a prominent video game developer for Disney, says at GDC Europe that if the industry isn't careful, it might get marginalized as a niche market like that of U.S. comics.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
2 min read
Disney Interactive Studios

The gaming industry's reliance on larger-than-life characters and science fiction stories could turn it into a niche market like the comic book space, Disney game developer Warren Spector warned at the Game Developers Conference Europe in Cologne, Germany, on Monday.

Speaking to a crowd of developers, Spector said the industry finds itself "in the center of a cultural firestorm." Because of that, the onus is on game developers to build better games that bring the industry into the mainstream, like film, rather than the niche, like comics.

"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," Spector said, according to reports. "I hope we can break free of the content of comic books."

Although Spector didn't mention them by name, he's undoubtedly referencing the seemingly endless supply of popular franchises, such as Halo, Mass Effect, and Gears of War, that attempt to bridge that gap between comic-like themes and film-like storytelling.

Going forward, Spector believes that the game industry has a long way to go in order to match the film business. He said that "in some respects, [developers] are still making cartoons." Spector wants to see the industry embrace the fact that "games are not about the magic moment--they're about the repeated action." Once developers realize that, he said, they will have to find ways to make the repeated action--downing an enemy in an action game, for example--"feel different" every time.

Getting the industry to stray from a comic-like focus will be difficult. But Spector believes that it's necessary. Of course, whether gamers, who continue to buy the comic-like games, will agree with Spector's notion is anyone's guess.