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Steven Spielberg Talks Gaming

sjohnson
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Posted May 20, 2009 - By Stephen Johnson

Steven SpielbergSteven Spielberg (E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1941) recently found himself on The Guardian's Tech Weekly podcast somehow, and Spielberg got down to talking games. He explained that he was very hands-on with the Boom Blox games. Rather than simply conceptualizing and lending his name to these Wii puzzle games, he worked closely with the developers, meeting with them regularly.

Spielberg also had some important, big-time Hollywood thoughts about the future of video games. "Someday we'll be playing directly on our TV sets, bypassing all of the platforms," Spielberg said. He foresees 3D games developed for "a real three-dimensional experience in front of an appropriate monitor designed just for 3D...and after that, virtual reality."

He also compared video games to "parlor games we've played for hundreds of years." It was said as a way of explaining how films and games relate, but perhaps this is an unintentional slight to the industry. Comparing video games to parlor games shows fundamental misunderstanding of video games as an art form. Video games are to parlor games as films are to shadow puppets: Both shadow puppets and films entertain by manipulating light and shadows, but it's very, very difficult (if not impossible) to tell a deep, complicated, artistically satisfying story through shadow puppets. Just as great video games provide a richer, more complex experience than a bridge game or a round of charades ever could.

Maybe I'm reading too much into a simple comparison on Spielberg's part, but it really seems dismissive of video games as an art form. It reminds me of the early days of film, where "serious" people regarded movies as either a passing fad, a novelty entertainment or as a pastime for the morally corrupt. Even the most "enlightened" person in 1914 would probably only concede that films are a watered-down version of theater.

The idea that films were a separate medium as important, versatile and interesting as novels or Opera wouldn't be adopted until a later generation -- a generation that was raised on cinema -- that lived and breathed it-- and so understood film's potential and were able to create great works of art from the medium. You know, film people. Like Steven Spielberg.

All respect to Spielberg, of course. He's among the greatest directors who ever lived, but even if he tried, I doubt he could create a video game comparable to Jaws. He was born at the wrong time. Judging from this statement and from Boom Blox and Boom Blox Crash Party, Steven Spielberg's vision of games is as bright, shiny casual novelties, not complete works of art. Novelties and parlor games are fantastic, of course, but they aren't the games we'll remember.

What do you think? Am I right about Spielberg, or am I just being totally pretentious here?

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