I got really fired up today after a lecture at (game design) college where the guy basically claimed true AI is impossible to create and emotions have no place in games.
There are a lot of nuances to his story though, but that right there is absolute horseshit.
The way he sees game design is building your concept on a set of rules. The game mechanics are more important than the visuals -which is certainly true-, but he therefore does not believe in telling stories and conveying emotions through games.
For instance, he’d say Call of Duty is not about war. It’s about pointing and shooting. Hand-eye coordination. If you exchanged it’s ‘skin’ with something like science fiction, you’d have…I don’t know, Doom. Same game – according to him.
As the possible effects of playing the games, emotions are certainly possible, and desirable, he says, but IN the game itself there is no place for them because there is no way to combine it with gameplay – simply put.
And sure, there’s some truth to that, but this has nothing to do with the medium, but with technology that is not yet capable. And what really grinds my gears is that he even goes on to say that he has never seen a game that was able to move someone to tears. What! Where have you been for the last eight years?
Additionally he mentions that Artificial Intelligence is now referred to as Apparent Intelligence because nobody in 30 years has been able to succesfully simulate all the nuances of a human conciousness. It may seem like we have when you play F.E.A.R. for instance, but that AI is still based on a set of rules. What he is talking about is true AI – a perfect simulation of the human brain. And it’s true that that is really damn hard to simulate, but that’s no reason not to try!
Innovation is good, and we should find out what the possibilities and limits of the medium are, but that’s not the only thing that matters. Games have great potential to tell deep and rich stories. Granted, starting with a story and then building the game mechanics behind it is not a good way to approach game design, but not everything can or has to be based on a ruleset.
Someone mentioned Heavy Rain -an example that immediately came to mind for me aswell-, a game that takes a huge step forward in character acting and interactive storytelling. It’s prequel, Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy) was one of the most compelling games I’ve played in recent years (granted, in the second half they dropped the ball, but before that it was brilliant).
He had not heard of it. Furthermore, he promised to eat his shoe if it turned out to be true that every action you can take in that game has a substantial effect on the plot.
He cites games like The Godfather and the like as examples of the game industry wanting to be too much like Hollywood, trying to do things the old media are better suited for, such as telling engaging stories. That’s not what this is about. It’s about creating a believeable representation of the real world.
Note I didn’t say lifelike, because a) we just don’t have the means to achieve that yet, and b) believeable is a bit of a broader term, considering games like Zelda or Mario, who are not after realism (just consistency within their game world).
For a co-founder and teacher of this college, I think he’s limiting the possibilities of games too much. His focus is very much on research and serious games, but while that’s important, that’s not the whole story.
I think he needs to be careful not to become part of the old guard that he is blaming now for holding the industry back.