One of the reasons I love GDC is that it’s a forum for the most valuable voices and the least heard voices in the conversation about videogames: the developers who make them, who struggle with how to make them better, and who see first-hand the violence when ideas meet execution. For instance, this important observation about Bioshock Infinite’s opening comes from someone who makes videogames:
When I reach the second floor of the lighthouse, I am supposed to have a moment there. A moment of shock, I assume. A tortured man, apparently dead, is sitting in a chair. But my first thought is…
Because when you enter the room with the corpse, two big shiny coins are winking at you from the nearby table. The table right next to the corpse.
Adrian Chmielarz neatly dissects how Bioshock Infinite is a brilliant exercise in storytelling, but a disappointing world design, especially compared to its predecessors. And it’s particularly apt coming from Mr. Chmielarz, whose Painkiller is a brilliant exercise in good game design, and an absolute non-entity when it comes to world design. You can — and should — read his comments here.
“I beg you, game,” he asks, “please do not reward me for not doing the right thing and for doing the silly thing of playing the game instead of behaving like I am in a different world.” When this happens in God of War: Ascension — walk to places the camera doesn’t show to find treasure — it’s no great loss. But when this happens in a narrative powerhouse like Bioshock Infinite, or Deus Ex, or Mass Effect, the damage done is considerable. Eating cotton candy out of the trash is no big deal in a Mario game. Doing it in front of Elizabeth just feels weird.
I wish more people who made videogames also talked publicly and frankly about videogames other than the ones they’re making.