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'Heavy Rain wasn't made for teenagers - so why are most games so immature?'

Insight: Quantic Dream boss David Cage calls on studios to make games for grown ups...

David Cage is not afraid to show his frustration with the video games industry at large. Its part of what makes him so engaging, so passionate - and so proud of what his lean French studio, Quantic Dream, has achieved.

At GDC 2011 in San Francisco today, Cage stood resolute in front of a packed room of coders, writers, artists and designers with a clear message: It's about time video games finally grew up.

Here we reproduce a large chunk of his comments, which were met with not a little respect - and plenty of loud applause...

With most games and the designs we as an industry offer, we clearly target teenagers. Most games are based on violence and/or physical actions.


What do you do in most video games? You shoot. You kill. You destroy something with violence. Or you jump on platforms, you climb, you run, you do physical actions.

These two activities are what you do in most video games out there. The consequence of all this is that video games become, most of the time, meaningless. You have a gun and you shoot at enemies to go through the level, to fight a boss... to go to the next level to fight more enemies and more bosses.

The game tells me I'm the good guy, although I'm a mass murderer - because I have to kill thousands of people in order to be that good guy. Where's the meaning in all this? Kissing the princess in the end as your reward?

There is no real meaning that is possible when the only thing the hero can do is shoot other people or jump on platforms. As a consequence, most games are emotionally limited. The kind of emotions you feel in most games are quite basic; they are about frustration, competition, anger. These are the kind of feelings games give you.

But there are many other emotions out there. You can feel empathy - and some games do that very well. But there is sadness, there is guilt - there are many more subtle emotions available that very few video games try to trigger.

In any type of experience, what matters is not so much what you do - it's how you feel. When you see a painting, you don't enjoy just standing in a museum watching the paint; what you like is how it makes you feel. When you go to the cinema, you don't just enjoy sitting in the dark and watching moving images on a screen; what you like is what you feel.

Why not, in games design, focus on what the player is feeling second-to-second? Storytelling seems to be the best way to trigger these emotions, which need to be as varied, subtle and complex as possible. Triggering only one emotion is boring. People like the emotional rollercoaster. Why should interactivity be any different from all the storytelling mediums that humanity has invented so far?


Video games are also based on the same repetitive mechanisms. What you do in a video game is basically involves ten actions. And when you press buttons in a certain order or timing - and if you are quick enough - you can go through a level and see another one. This isn't new; you always do the same thing in these games. That's another limitation.

The last problem is probably the worst. When you think about it, video games have been based on the same paradigms for 13 years. The technology has made tremendous progress in that time - it's amazing. But when you think about the concepts of games, most of the time, you can take the last game you played and compare it to a game that was released 20 years ago. They are both probably based on the same basic rules.

In Heavy Rain, we tried to answer all of these challenges. The first one was to make a game that would clearly feature adult themes and tone. The tagline for Heavy Rain is: "How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love?" It's a very complex and difficult question.

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