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Beyond Lead

Graphics over gameplay: can ‘Beyond’ creator David Cage innovate?

David Cage is talented. He works as a musician, writer and video game designer but is best known for being the founder of the game development studio, Quantic Dream, which has brought us some remarkable titles such as Heavy Rain and The Nomad Soul. Added to that list is Beyond, Cage’s last game which was in many reviewers opinions and ours, a bland game that placed graphics over engaging gameplay. Cage is possibly the most interesting modern-day game developer, but can he now use the Xbox One and PS4 to create games that not only look good, but play well?

Qauntic Dream’s describes its titles as “interactive movies” rather than games as the company feels that most games follow the same recipe. And it wants to place the player into a position of power where they take part in a struggle between good and evil. “There are so many other stories to tell, so many other emotions to trigger. This is a fantastic new medium, we can do much more than we currently do with it.” says Cage in an article where he claims that he is “fed up with modern-day shooters,” and “the same things.” Why then, did his last game have very little in the way of gameplay innovation, much like the shooters he lambastes?

Mixed visions

Cage’s vision it seems is a controversial one. Some praise it while others feel that real storytelling and video games can’t mix. Steven Spielberg (E.T., Jurassic Park) opposes Cage’s vision and believes the two mediums cannot mix: “I think the key divide between interactive media and the narrative media that we do is the difficulty in opening up an empathic pathway between the gamer and the character – as differentiated from the audience and the characters in a movie or television show”. He described gamers as having a “great abyss” of empathy and that when someone starts playing a game “something turns of in the heart.”

But this has not stopped Cage from trying. He does not want to tell a specific story to the player but rather wishes for the player to craft their own through gameplay. He does not want the narrative to be portrayed through cut scenes but through a flow of interactive choices made by the player. He says he draws his inspiration for his games from various mediums such as films, comic books, TV-series and wants to evoke the depth of emotions he experiences through these mediums. He wants gamers to become their own “virtual directors”. But most of us would rather be in direct control of the character, not the plot. The best games fashion their stories from emergent situations, like in GTA 5 and Battlefield 4.

But Cage isn’t interested in making the next GTA or Modern Warfare. He feels the main obstacle is that gaming is presently aimed at a “limited market” and that the “potential mainstream market” still needs to be “convinced” of the merits of gaming. “Personally, I believe that it is possible to convince a wider audience to embrace games by creating experiences that are different, by reconsidering our paradigms and not being afraid to taking risks and innovating.” says Cage.

We’re getting there

Cage believes with the evolution of next gen-gaming technology, he is coming closer to the ideal he is striving for. He does not only focus on the narrative aspect of the games he is designing but also the photo realism of the visual imagery. Although he says that such high graphical quality isn’t something he aims for, he feels that it is necessary to tell the story in the way he wants it to be told. In a sense, he is trying to build a bridge between the movie and gaming industry.

Currently, Cage is working on a new title that is set to be launched on the Playstation 4.  Beyond that there isn’t much more to know except that he says his new game is “incredibly exciting, it’s one of the strongest concepts we’ve had at Quantic Dream and we’re all very excited about it.” But a sequel to Beyond: Two Souls should not be expected as, in the past, Cage has expressed his dislike for sequels, stating that they only “kill creativity”. We don’t want a sequels either David, just great games with incredible graphics and the gameplay to match.

Author Bio

Wiehahn Diederichs: Columnist
Capetonian freelance writer and photographer. Wiehahn is a lover of stories in all their forms, and has been an avid gamer since he took his first breath. If he is not working or gaming, he either pours his creative energy into his passion for music or plays foosball in some... More
  • DNA

    David Cage has his heart in the right places but gets a little too lost forcing emotion on the gamer. He needs to realize that the greatest AAA games still firmly rests in the action category and the tropes that go with it. The Last of Us is a shining example of this. It gives the gamer an engrossing story with compelling, believable characters like Cage does masterfully too but they made sure the gamer had enough action set pieces to never get bored.

  • jb223

    the Spielberg quote was very interesting. Here’s an (amazing) director who has singlehandedly revolutionized the special effects industry, basically knocking another medium for a perceived uncanny valley? I would’ve expected more from Spielberg, especially since he’s also involved in bringing Halo to the live action realm. It’s fairly obvious that he hasn’t played any games this generation, or experiences like The Last of Us & Journey, among a plethora of others, would’ve warmed even his frozen old man winter heart. The controller is a tool that allows gamers to actually have an impact on a story that is no different from a movie script, w/ shots & scenes and actors and directors, it allows another layer of immersion, how can it also create a brick wall of disconnect? He has no true explanation, only the cop out “it doesn’t feel right” which is always a statement that is followed by the implied “to me”, which automatically makes it only an exception, and not necessarily the rule. Gamers have been emotionally effected by games, directly & indirectly since their inception, the only difference being that, w/ each generation, the gamer pool gets larger. The current (next) gen should go a long way in proving these naysayers wrong, and as we move towards a more unified gaming future w/ a smaller price of admission and barrier of difficulty, suggesting that games can’t be art or can’t touch the player in an emotional manner will become more and more of an absurd statement. Good times for gamers who enjoy storytelling.