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The Multi-media Empire of Orson Scott Card (or How To Save the Video Game Industry)

Wired News: Orson Scott Card Builds an Empire

The above link is an interview with multi-award winning [tag]science-fiction[/tag] author [tag]Orson Scott Card[/tag] on plans for his Empire franchise. [tag]Empire[/tag] was conceived from the beginning as a multi-media endeavor, with the story told in different ways through a novel, comic books, film, and [tag]video games[/tag].

By the end of the interview, he has made some comments about video games and how he doesn’t play them anymore because they are so repetitive (level, boss, level, boss, level, boss, etc.). I gotta say, I agree with him. I do enjoy playing those games from time to time, but they are mostly the same concept wrapped up in different packaging. (The packaging has gotten to the point where it’s mind-blowing in some games, and sometimes that’s enough, but it’s still the same concept.)

Here’s what he has to say about his attitude towards games:

The only thing I’m interested in any more is the exploration of the world, as a player, but in order to explore this world, you have to be able to master all of these techniques, figure out puzzles, and be really quick on the draw — all stuff that I wasn’t able to do very well after the age of 30. And I’d done it enough to not really be interested in it any more. In a way, I’ve been closed out of video games by the fact that I’m getting old and the games are repetitive.

He thinks the concept fo the Empire game will be trendsetting and a shift for the industry:

The experience from beginning to end in this game is that characters have their own agendas, which is not necessarily the players’ agenda, but is fully understandable to them. Gamers will sympathize with what the characters are trying to do. They will want them to win. So it will not be a matter of just killing mindlessly. It will be about achieving really important objectives.

If the game does in fact turn out to be more complex than “kill or be killed,” the non-player-characters really are sympathetic, and the story is more open-exploration than straight-line narrative, I think it does have a chance to be a serious hit. Those are some of the same qualities that made Myst so revolutionary for its time (and it became the best-selling game in history for over a year, I think).

The quality of, and immersion in, the storyline is something that can make or break a game. Card places the blame for lack of well-developed stories in games on the heads of game publishers (making a distinction between the publishers pulling the strings and creators doing the work).

Until you can get the mindless video game publishing industry off the backs of the video game creators and give them the time to fully create things, instead of working to constant, mindless, meaningless, stupid deadlines, we will never have game creators able to work to their full potential.

Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen in a wholesale fashion. Every once in a while though, something will slip through and it will be a breakout hit. Will Empire be one of those superstars? Hard to say. The source is, after all, rather biased. But in the meantime, what these companies do crank out should at least include some increasingly excellent eye-candy!

[tags]Myst[/tags]

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