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Interviews

American McGee part one

We join one of gaming's most renowned and influential designers to talk Bad Day LA and much much more...

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My goal with the game was to highlight the ridiculous notion of living in constant fear and trading our liberties for "safety" when there is no actual threat... at least not ones that giving up our freedoms for will save us from.

The game came out pretty close to the original vision, but to be honest, I think we could have taken the message even further. When we started development, I felt like there was a line that shouldn't be crossed, and that we shouldn't try to get too political. My fear was, that by the time the game was released, the climate in the US would have shifted, and the material would no longer be relevant. Boy, was I wrong. Things seem even weirder today than they were on the day I conceived the idea.

Zoom

You now live in Hong Kong. What prompted you to abandon the US, and what are the best and worst aspects of living there?

First off, I didn't "abandon" the US. My frikken name is "American", so unless I go out and change it to "Chinese" it's going to be pretty hard to abandon the US. But, my name has given me an interesting barometer of the world's opinion of our country. It used to be that when I travelled to India, Russia, England, or Spain people would respond to my name with "American? That's a cool name!" These days I get, "American? That's a f***'d up name!" American foreign policy is having a really negative effect on the world's view of the US.

As for living outside the US, I really appreciate the perspective that it gives me. I have a clearer sense for how people see the US, how they view things like democracy and freedom. The biggest thing I've noticed is that, in general, people in the world are pretty damn happy and healthy - despite whatever you might hear on the news in the US. Even in communist China, people are free to enjoy their lives, make money, fall in love, and express themselves.

You have suggested that the future of the games industry lies in China. What makes you think that? Can China (and perhaps Eastern Europe) take over from the US, UK and Japan as the industry's predominant territory?

The only thing missing from the China/India equation is free-thinking, creative talent. Right now, game companies around the world are already planning to spend 40% of their typical development budget on outsourcing to places like China. Offshore teams are becoming the factories that drive the gaming economy. If you look at the way other manufacturing industries have migrated from being dominated by creative/factory bases in the US to overseas, I think you get an idea of what will eventually happen with gaming.

Zoom

You have stated that you would like to establish a combined games/animated movie studio in China. How close are you to achieving that goal?

The first part of the plan is to build the foundation elements, which you can see in the two companies we have started in Shanghai. One is called Vykarian (www.vykarian.com), this is our "factory". Over the next five years we plan to grow this into a 1000 person company, providing game art outsourcing to clients such as EA, Microsoft, and Sony. The other piece, we just announced, which is a game development studio based in Shanghai. This studio is going to spend the next year establishing an episodic game development and distribution model that we hope will be able to support multiple "shows" being broadcast simultaneously. Eventually these two entities will spin off teams that will merge together and form unified production houses for linear and interactive content.

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