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Thread: Steven Spielberg interview

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    Administrator World's End Supernova Tom Chick's Avatar
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    Steven Spielberg interview

    Yahoo is running a slightly streamlined version of an interview I did with Steven Spielberg as part of their "Celebrity Bytes" series. The following exchange didn't make the cut, which is understandable given the target audience and that the interview was supposed to be specifically about his involvement with Boom Blox. But I found it an interesting bit of insight into how one of the most prominent determinants of American culture views videogames.

    TC: Is there anything over the least year that you've played that really grabbed you?

    SS: There have been a lot of games, including all the sequels, for Medal of Honor that I've really admired. I love the direction it's taken. I also like the competitive games. I'm currently playing Call of Duty 4. A lot of these first person shooters are very interesting.

    TC: A lot of surprising and indeed very violent things happen in Call of Duty 4. I don't want to spoil it, but have you gotten to any sort of amazing "Holy cow!" moments yet?

    SS: Not yet, because I just began. Should I expect something like that?

    TC: They do a couple of things that videogames don't normally do. I'd be curious what you think but I don't want to ruin it for you. Suffice to say you're in for some nice twists.

    SS: That's good. You know the thing that doesn't work for me in these games are the little movies where they attempt to tell a story in between the playable levels. That's where there hasn't been a synergy between storytelling and gaming. They go to a lot of trouble to do these [motion-capture] movies that explain the characters. And then the second the game is returned to you and it's under your control, you forget everything the interstitials are trying to impact you with, and you just go back to shooting things. And that has not found its way into a universal narrative. And I think more has to be done in that arena.

    TC: Some games avoid those cutscenes altogether. Are you familiar with Half-Life?

    SS: Yeah, I've played Half-Life, of course. But some games will not let you quit out. I think Battlefield: Bad Company, which I played though, doesn’t let you escape the interstitials.

    TC: It's a dilemma for gamemakers. They don't have the freedom moviemakers have with a single medium, since they have to transition between storytelling and gameplay.

    SS: I do applaud them for trying the storytelling. It's important to try to invest in these characters you don't get to see when you're playing them. You only get to see them during the little movies. But you don't get to see the faces or recognize the foxhole buddies when you're just targeting the enemy. Yet I applaud them for at least attempting to tell a story.

    TC: Do you feel that filmmakers can learn anything from videogames? And if so, what?

    SS: I think filmmakers are learning things from videogames. Movies are starting to look more and more like videogames, like the digital introductory teasers videogames give you before they turn control over to the player. A lot of movies, like this movie with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy called Wanted. It had a lot of videogame savvy. The Bourne Ultimatum had a lot of videogame savvy in the quick cuts and the audacity of camera angle.

    You can read the rest of the interview here.
    Last edited by TomChick; 12-09-2008 at 02:49 PM.

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    Hah! Steven Spielberg doesn't like cut scenes either! Victory is mine!

    edit: Oh ho, so you tried to push Spielberg on Bioshock? How did he react to that?

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    He seems to be supporting stories in games that are told without taking control away from the player.

    i.e. letting them move.

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    our very own Tom Chick, rubbing shoulders with the stars. good interview!

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    World's End Supernova Rock8man's Avatar
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    He's working on LMNO with Doug Church as Creative Director? Awesome! I can't wait for LMNO, whatever that is.

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    Great interview, not sure why I was so surprised by the answers. The man has put out some of my favorite movies, but I guess the Crystal Skull left a disproportionately bad taste in my mouth.

    Quote Originally Posted by TomChick View Post
    SS: Yeah, I've played Half-Life, of course.
    That's just an awesome quote. Imagine a funny animated gif of my head exploding here.

    Quote Originally Posted by SS
    I thought Pong was the Woodstock of videogaming.
    I don't get this response though.

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    6th Grade Spelling Bee Loser World's End Supernova Rimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gendal View Post
    I don't get this response though.

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    Oh, that Woodstock!

    Wait, I still don't get it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gendal View Post
    Oh, that Woodstock!

    Wait, I still don't get it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You're_..._Charlie_Brown

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock8man View Post
    He's working on LMNO with Doug Church as Creative Director? Awesome! I can't wait for LMNO, whatever that is.
    Oooh... fun activity! "What does LMNO stand for?" Let's all play along!



    Look Ma, No Objective!

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    Long, M-Rated Nerd Orgy

  11. #11
    Administrator World's End Supernova Tom Chick's Avatar
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    Next do PQRS, which was the working title for Boom Blox!

    As for the Woodstock comment, I think he was going for the idea that Pong was Something Important. It doesn't really scan unless you consider it as a response to being asked what he thought about videogaming at the time.

    -Tom

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    God Bless the Boomers. Nothing exists if it isn't relative to their seminal experiences.

    I do feel like he might have had more to say, but it's hidden behind a very polished interview facade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Mayer View Post
    God Bless the Boomers. Nothing exists if it isn't relative to their seminal experiences.

    I do feel like he might have had more to say, but it's hidden behind a very polished interview facade.
    I stared at this for a good ten seconds before realizing that you weren't referring to corpulent, puking zombies. I need to start cutting back on my Left 4 Dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gendal View Post
    That's just an awesome quote. Imagine a funny animated gif of my head exploding here.
    Except his answer seems to suggest he hasn't or at least he does not remember it quite correctly. There are no cinemas to skip in Half-Life as far as I recall. I assume that's why Tom brought it up, so his answer reads a bit like an evasion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pogo
    i.e. letting them move.
    He's not endorsing a particular solution. I think Bioshock handled this problem very well, yet at times, still restricted your movement. A key component is maintaining point of view even when you do take control away and only take control away rarely.
    Last edited by Mordrak; 12-09-2008 at 04:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordrak View Post
    Except his answer seems to suggest he hasn't or at least he does not remember it quite correctly. There are no cinemas to skip in Half-Life as far as I recall.

    He's not endorsing a particular solution. I think Bioshock handled this problem very well, yet at times, still restricted your movement. A key component is maintaining point of view even when you do take control away and only take control away rarely.
    Well, I said what I said because of what he said about Half-Life. You couldn't skip the story in Half Life, but you weren't taken out of your view or context to be told the story, either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pogo View Post
    Well, I said what I said because of what he said about Half-Life.
    Well he didn't say anything about Half-life in particular other than he played it. He then through implication contrasted it with Bad Company which doesn't let you "escape the interstitials." But really, he started talking about cut scenes before Half-life even came up.

    You couldn't skip the story in Half Life, but you weren't taken out of your view or context to be told the story, either.
    Well, you could skip it by not paying attention. =P I understand, but you walked away from a general point about cut scenes actually getting in the way of storytelling in games with a very narrow interpretation of the solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock8man View Post
    I can't wait for LMNO, whatever that is.
    Apparently, it is combat-less.

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    Just taking the piss now aren't you.
    Quote Originally Posted by TomChick View Post
    As for the Woodstock comment, I think he was going for the idea that Pong was Something Important. It doesn't really scan unless you consider it as a response to being asked what he thought about videogaming at the time.
    Ah, that makes a little more sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordrak View Post
    Except his answer seems to suggest he hasn't or at least he does not remember it quite correctly. There are no cinemas to skip in Half-Life as far as I recall. I assume that's why Tom brought it up, so his answer reads a bit like an evasion.
    I didn't get that impression, even after rereading that section and attempting to.

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    "Yeah, I've played Half Life. Of course I've played Half Life, Jesus. What do I look like, a noob? Seriously, who hasn't played Half Life? Also, it's like twenty fucking years old dude, I think I've discovered it by now, Christ. Fucking dick."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordrak View Post
    Except his answer seems to suggest he hasn't or at least he does not remember it quite correctly. There are no cinemas to skip in Half-Life as far as I recall. I assume that's why Tom brought it up, so his answer reads a bit like an evasion.
    Are you confusing what he said about Bad Company with what he said about Half Life? Because uh, I really don't see what you see there...

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    His comments regarding cut scenes are pretty interesting in that I wouldn't expect him to have actually given any thought to storytelling in videogames. Clearly he has done so. I also find it interesting that he, as a film maker, doesn't like the parts of games that most closely resemble films. He recognizes that games are unique and should tell stories in ways suited to the interactive nature of the medium itself. I thought his involvement with EA was nothing more than a vanity thing, but perhaps he can actually bring something new and interesting to games.

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    Spielberg is clearly an intelligent man, and he appears to be a much more knowledgeable gamer than most people have given him credit for. I wonder what his reaction will be when he gets to the "nuclear event" in Call of Duty 4.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MSUSteve View Post
    I also find it interesting that he, as a film maker, doesn't like the parts of games that most closely resemble films. He recognizes that games are unique and should tell stories in ways suited to the interactive nature of the medium itself.
    Yeah, I'd kind of expect an attitude like that. Cut scenes are almost always just bad movies interspersed inside a video game, and a person who has made some very good movies probably wouldn't be too excited about that.

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    I was really surprised by Boom Blox. When I first heard he was working on a game, I assumed we'd get some horrible mess that tried to tell a deep story (which makes me a bit worried about his second effort now). Lo and behold the first game he worked on comes out and it is highly focused on tight gameplay and is arguably something that might be confused for one of Miyamoto's lesser efforts (I don't mean this as a ding on Boom Blox or Spielberg in any way, this is extremely high praise in the general sense). Of course, I have no idea how much real hands on impact he had on the title, but still....

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    But didn't he also have a bit of a hand in Medal of Honor, and The Neverhood? To say nothing of Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair...

    And what would eventually become The Dig, although it was a film concept first, wasn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coca Cola Zero View Post
    Are you confusing what he said about Bad Company with what he said about Half Life? Because uh, I really don't see what you see there...
    He's the one that confusing why Tom brought up Half-Life. That's my point.

    Paraphrasing the conversation:

    SS: Cut scenes suck for narrative. They just take people out of the experience and then everyone goes back to shooting and forgets the narrative.

    TC: Ya, too true man. But some games try to avoid the problem all together. Have you played Half-Life?

    SS: Of course, dude. But not all games let you skip the cut scenes, like this Bad Company game.


    End Paraphrase.

    This doesn't invalidate Spielberg's point, which is a good one, but one many of us have made before. To Tom's credit, he asked the interesting follow up question or at least tried to, by asking about Half-life. Essentially, Tom was trying to get at Spielberg's ideas on how games could do this successfully by getting his reaction to one that we think has been generally successful by integrating the narrative into the gameplay.

    Instead, Spielberg responds by talking about skipping cut scenes. How do you make the connection between Half-life and skipping cut scenes? You don't, because the latter is a solution for skipping narrative that's annoying and the former is a solution for including narrative.

    So we have no idea what Spielberg thinks of Half-Life or its relevance to the discussion because he dismissed it as irrelevant, which betrays he either doesn't remember it or he hasn't really played it. If he had actually shown the insight to realize why Tom was asking, then I'd be impressed, even if it was as common as his insight about cut scenes. Instead we get the People equivalent of grasping for gamer cred.

    I mean, I really don't see how else you can read that. How do you guys read it? You know, other than, "Hey man.. it's sooo cool this famous director said he played Half-Life."
    Last edited by Mordrak; 12-09-2008 at 08:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordrak View Post
    So we have no idea what Spielberg thinks of Half-Life or its relevance to the discussion because he dismissed it as irrelevant. If he had actually shown the insight to realize why Tom was asking, then I'd be impressed, even if it was as common as his insight about cut scenes. Instead we get the People equivalent of grasping for gamer cred.
    That's an interesting take on what he said. Because right then he didn't feel like waxing on about the greatness of Half-Life's storytelling, he has no gamer cred?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordrak View Post
    Instead we get the People equivalent of grasping for gamer cred.
    No, that was Players on G4. I remember when I guy said, "I remember playing Mario when I was a kid, they should make a Nintendo for a Xbox."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanacker View Post
    Yeah, I'd kind of expect an attitude like that. Cut scenes are almost always just bad movies interspersed inside a video game, and a person who has made some very good movies probably wouldn't be too excited about that.
    Exactly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hanacker View Post
    That's an interesting take on what he said. Because right then he didn't feel like waxing on about the greatness of Half-Life's storytelling, he has no gamer cred?
    No, but analysis isn't "waxing on about the greatness of Half-life's storytelling." He could have offered something as simple as "Half-Life's successful at storytelling but even then, the game can't control where the player chooses to look" or "Half life gets around this by rendering the events around the player as they play. However, it's also a mostly linear experience, where the player is directed forward and many interesting things happen in front of him or her. As games have become more non-linear, it's harder to direct where the player will look." Or heck, even, "It still had that poorly implemented ending." Instead, he gets hung up on when you can skip the scenes.

    It's just as informative to discuss why and more importantly how something is successful as it is to focus on what's not successful in other games. As someone who makes a living in storytelling and plays videogames, you think he might have some interesting ideas on the successes or the differences between the mediums. To me, it just seems telling that he didn't make those connections. It's also interesting that the only examples he really gives are EA games, except the ancient Pong. Although, I guess that's to be expected. *shrugs*
    Last edited by Mordrak; 12-09-2008 at 08:46 PM.

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