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David Jaffe: Games critics must get tougher

Twisted Metal man on why journalists aren't helping ideas grow

David Jaffe's Twisted Metal was one of the most unique action titles on show at E3 2011.

Slightly odd, considering the basis for his car combat PS3 exclusive lies all the way back in the mid-90s, when the series first reared its head. Yet amongst a plethora of FPS monsters and third-person action games that obviously took cues from recent classics, Jaffe's multiplayer-focused smash-'em-up certainly managed to stand out.

We asked the Eat Sleep Play founder his opinion on why this year's crop of major games often looked similar to one another, and if he believed the industry was becoming too conservative.

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As well as discussing software publishers - and the pressure on them to perform - Jaffe had some thoughtful words on the specialist media's role in helping to perpetuate a 'me-too' culture in games.

We repeat his comments on this subject in full below.

The other day I downloaded a title on my iPhone for 99c called Sunday Drive. It's about an old man and an old woman who are literally going for a f*cking drive. As they travel, they collect photographs of the memories of their life.

It's amazing to me that game can exist alongside a mega-epic $80m title. We have a landscape that is allowing for that now. Whether you're talking about that or what Jenova [Chen] and Kelly [Santiago] are doing with Journey and Flower - two games I love - or you're talking about Uncharted 3, or Twisted Metal inbetween those, there really is a great variety both in price, distribution and content.

So when I hear that the industry seems conservative, I do push back on that a little bit.

That being true, I like everybody else have been wonderfully blown away by the tank scene in Battlefield 3 [shown off at EA's E3 conference]. But as I was sitting there - and please know that Battlefield is one of my favourite series, so I'm not knocking on it, I mean, I really love it - I realised that what most people are talking about is how amazing it looks, and that to me is potentially worrisome. It's not that I don't think DICE should get that kudos; they deserve it and their game looks beautiful.

I'm also not saying it's not going to be Game Of The Year, it might very well be. The artist and the programmers and everyone who scripted that sequence should be bought a round because it's great, great work.

But when you look to the press, you don't hear them saying: 'Yeah, but as great as this looks and let's write about that and be very positive about that, you're still kind of just sitting behind a turret and aiming and shooting - and we've been doing that since Battlezone.'

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I'm honestly not trying to be like, 'we need to be totally pure and forget graphics,' but there is a balance to be struck. And when I hear people say that E3 looks conservative, to me, I don't think the journalists have done a good enough job holding our - as in developers' - feet to the fire.

They should be demanding, and be able to separate themselves from certain elements. Take a film critic. Whenever you read Variety, at the end of a Transformers 3 review, they'll say 'tech credits are amazing'. They love it, and all those tech people on that movie will hopefully work forever because they're clearly geniuses in their field - just like the guys who worked on the Battlefield tank sequence.

But above that, you also have 'f*ck, this movie's boring', 'I've seen it before', 'It doesn't work'. You know?

I'm not saying we should try to be like movies. But when they talk about stories, we could talk about gameplay - and I'm not saying they're the same thing, I'm just saying that's the meat that makes both mediums special. Theirs is character, emotion, storytelling; ours is interactivity.

We as developers are not pushed enough by the journalists that cover us. So when I hear that E3 looks conservative, I think that if critics demanded more on a continual basis - if they applauded the graphics, applauded the tech, applauded the execution and the hard work of the team, but at the same time said more often that '95 per cent of what we're seeing is the same thing' - it would start to get both readers and perhaps publishers thinking in that way. And as they did that, they'd start to reject things that might look great but really don't offer anything new.

You know me. I'm not the guy saying 'everything needs to be Braid'. I'm not an indie guy. I like commercial titles, I love shooters. We certainly shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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We don't need innovation for innovation's sake. But entertainment should be demanding of us. It should be fresh and unique.

If more critics pushed for that, the interactivity at E3 would be what we were all talking about, not just the tanks.

Look out for our full interview with David on his life in games - and what the future holds - very soon. Twisted Metal is due for release exclusively on PS3 in October.

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