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I just got through a podcast on PAX keynote, “How To Pitch A Video Game”, courtesy of G4. One of the points Zack Karlsson (Namco-Bandai of America) makes is; “Don’t start with the story.”

Now, granted, a game is primarily that, a game, and should be played and interacted with as such. The simplest ideas have found the most success (Tetris, anyone?), but I think we’re on the forefront of a new horizon in video gaming, one I hope to finally capitalize on.

Movies are passive; you sit back, watch, and you have fun (mostly), but you don’t interact in any way. Whatever is happening on screen will happen whether you like it or not. Books are passive, but much more intense; as you read, your mind creates images based on the words, which allows for a much more intimate following of the story.

This is where the saying; “The book is always better than the movie” comes from. If everyone experiences a different telling of the story in his or her own mind, how is one vision supposed to please everyone?

This is where games come in, and this is where they can be elevated into an art form. Games give people the ability to interact and even manipulate a universe that they don’t have to imagine, but see and hear. More and more titles these days offer players the opportunity to custom-create their own character to allow for deeper immersion. In this light, I’d classify Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto or Bully franchises as art because you can play them any way you choose—and they are set in worlds not too far removed from our own.

I’m hoping that this is where Modern Magic finds its groove; it’s my belief that any game released today should bring something interactively new to the table. It’s a game and it needs to stand out. I want to offer stories so compelling that you just have to know how it ends (Legacy of Kain did this beautifully, IMHO). I sincerely believe that a story can make a game, when done right. Final Fantasy VII proves this.

I tend to write a story and then design a game around it. I was so dissatisfied with the “me-too” gameplay of Flight 271 (working title) that I took a step back (thanks to Jake and Shan) and remembered why I got into this business in the first place. Just because the game is relatively simple doesn’t mean the plot should be.

Having completed the story, we approach the game anew. Lucky, we didn’t lose any development time.

And the band plays on.


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