Last week we had James Portnow from the Extra Credits team (also CEO of Rainmaker Games) answer some questions for us, but, because he actually answered them thoughtfully and constructively (who knew right?!), we split the Q&A into two parts, and today we present the second half! Here’s a link to the first half if you missed it, with topics such as gamified education and thoughts on the games industry. So without further ado, sit back, take a breather from fanboying (or fangirling) over the last Guild Wars 2 beta weekend, and enjoy a little more Extra Credity goodness!
Q: How about gamifying government? Voting, in terms of game design, is a pretty poor incentive, as demonstrated by the poor U.S. voter turnout. Do you think game concepts could be applied to even the most central parts of our society, such as the workings of democracy?
A: Eh, I really shouldn’t comment here. I feel as though the incentive structure and the engagement curve on modern politics has been purposely manipulated to make certain groups of people feel disenfranchised. I know it’s a little bit of my conspiranoia but I really do feel as though I can see how modern politics (especially through some of the modern news casting) has taken the engaging sections of politics and intentionally flipped the engagement curve for specific subsets of people through messaging.
If you live in the US your thought should be “I get to help make decisions for the most powerful, most influential country in the world”, that’s awesome and exciting – and it’s what you’re actually doing – but for many people it’s come to be “my vote doesn’t matter”, even though that’s scientifically, demonstrably, not true.
Q: Here’s a challenge question: what is your favorite and most beloved game narrative? Why did that one win out?
A: If you have a favorite game narrative you haven’t played enough games ; )
Q: On a related note, writing the narrative to a game is very different from writing a regular script or story, but can be equally touching or provoking. How long do you think it will be before games will be critically acclaimed for their depth and meaning on the same level as great literature or film?
A: I think we’ll be a little behind graphic novels. Pop culture is starting to accept the validity of sequential art as a medium I’m not sure we’ll be that far off (if I had to take a safe wager I’d say within the decade).
Q: On the story train of thought: do you think we’ll ever see a big return of deep central characters and character development in the industry from Japanese RPG developers? Or is the role of creating powerful characters and central story at risk compared to Western RPG popularity? Could we see a new genre of story driven games delivered in more modern ways than most current JRPGs offer?
A: Alright, here I’m going to sound like a git, but there is simply no way that you’re going to argue to me that the RPG with a strong centralized story is a thing of the past: the real problem is simply that of late (with some notable exceptions) Japanese developers have just been missing the mark. Or, I’ll be more blunt: they’ve been being terrible at the narrative part of a narrative driven genre. This in no way means that the genre has a failing, only that people haven’t been executing on it well.
In some ways it is akin to the Japanese anime industry. When the anime industry finally got to the point where they had the budgets the training and the technology to tell the stories they wanted to tell they were able to deliver some remarkable works, and those works were even considered mainstream; unfortunately after those works became hugely successful they were then seen as templates rather than freestanding works and so the superficial elements were copied over and over without any real understanding of the soul of the work.
That coupled with a move away from investing in narrative to an investment in high end graphics has kept the JRPG industry (in general, again with clear exceptions) from delivering the level of narrative the genre demands.
Q: What are your thoughts on what distinguishes “casual gamers” from “hardcore gamers”? What about “casual games” v.s. “hardcore games”?
Q: Finally, is there any significance to your goatee? It’s a pretty awesome one.
A: Bwahahaha…When I bite my lower lip I can make it look like a porcupine…which my nieces love.
There you have it! Again, big thanks from all of us at tl-dr to James for giving us his time. Although I will note he didn’t really answer the last question, which can only mean there’s a huge conspiracy surrounding Mr. Portnow’s facial hair. Also, Jacob is gonna kill me for not getting an elaboration on the hardcore question, though thankfully, Diane and I are forming an Anti-abuse tl-dr union for just such dangers. Say no to blogger abuse!
Now go watch some Extra Credits!