Warren Spector on Games That Make Statements

Warren Spector's next project over at Otherside Entertainment is Argos: Riders on the Storm - an innovative immersive sim that has something to do with whales. And every once in a while, he puts together a blog post for GameDeveloper (formerly Gamasutra) that seemingly has very little to do with this upcoming project, but can actually illuminate some of the design philosophies behind it.

The latest one of those revolves around the idea of video games as vessels for important statements and how they're not at all suited for something like that. According to Warren Spector, video games are properly utilized when they ask questions and then let their players form their own conclusions.

There's also a section that draws parallels between Deus Ex and Disney Epic Mickey, showing how these two seemingly entirely dissimilar titles are more alike than you might've thought.

Here's an excerpt to give you an idea of what to expect:

Now, it may be that even the team that made Deus Ex will think I’m nuts, but what Deus Ex was really about for me, can be summed up in four questions:
  • What happens when you take a guy who believes the world is black and white and throw him into a world that – like our own – is all shades of gray?
  • What would it do to our world and the people who live in it – our world, the real world – if every conspiracy theory people believed to be true were, in fact, true?
  • What’s the nature of humanity? At what point in a world where human augmentation is commonplace do we stop being human and start being… something else?
  • What’s the most desirable “end state” for the world? Are we better off in a technological dark age in which people have genuine free will? Are we better off in a world where an all-seeing AI can gift us with total connectivity and, one hopes, the empathy that arises from universal connection, at the cost of giving up our freedom? Or are we simply better off as we are today (if conspiracies are real), ruled by a shadowy elite, not knowing it, and going about our daily lives none the wiser?
Note that I didn’t care whether players knew the game was “about” their personal answers to those four questions. No author wants his/her/their themes expressed obviously and unsubtly. You don’t want to beat people over the head with your “message.” Suffice to say the Deus Ex team’s outstanding execution resulted in questioning players without most of them even realizing that was what was going on. (And, to beat a dead horse about credit, it must be said: That wonderful team owned details and execution at a level that’s rarely acknowledged.)