Interviews// David Braben, Industry Veteran

Posted 29 Aug 2008 16:19 by
The Outsider
The Outsider
SPOnG: Do you think some of the older franchises will weather the shift towards more content-driven games? Things like Mario and Sonic?

David Braben: They have a timeless quality, anyway. If you go back to the film analogy, you look at what weathered from the '20s to the '30s, when you went from black and white, no real story, to emotion, talkies, that sort of thing. Charlie Chaplin did, and he changed what he did, but it was still recognisably Charlie Chaplin. My fist sight of Mario was him going 'beep, beep, beep, beep' with just a few animations and jumping in a very un-physics-y type jump.

If you look at something like Mario Sunshine or Mario Galaxy, it's much more naturalistic and they've decided to style him on (this is my assumption) the way a baby runs because it's very cute. What they've done it they've very lovingly got him to make the transition. So, the fact that he's made a transition at least once... I see no reason why he can't make future transitions. As long as it's not a God-awful film. (Grins).

You're right, some games either shouldn't have made the transition or they didn't really and weren't very successful. Others have done really well. I think with Sonic it's more a case of, they lost what was good. The games haven't been as consistently good as the Mario games.


SPOnG: Hopefully SEGA's back on the right track with that. Sonic and the Secret Rings was better-received than the next-gen game, and Sonic Unleashed looks promising...

David Braben: The point with that is, you're right, there are transitions, and maybe Buster Keaton didn't quite make it into talkies but Charlie Chaplin did, as did a few others. It's usually kind of obvious which are going to work and which aren't.


SPOnG: While we're on the subject of older games making the transition, I have to ask: the next Elite game, do you feel good about that making the transition?

David Braben: Yes. It's quite a different game, it's the spirit that carries over.

SPOnG: So, that's underway at the moment?

David Braben: (Grins). No comment.


SPOnG: Going back to games being content-driven for a moment, there seems to be more focus than ever on violent games in the mainstream media. Do you think that, in some ways, is a reflection on games being content-driven?

David Braben: To an extent, yes. The trouble is, the TV used to be the whipping boy of the '70s. So, all society's ills got blamed on TV. We're now in the spotlight, so we get that blame. There's a lot of controversy about so called 'video nasties' and game 'video nasties', but 2.4% of games last year got an 18 rating, 5% by sales. But, the point is, not very many. The vast bulk of games are completely wholesome, entertaining, great fun. They're stimulating to kids, you can learn things from them. And, actually, it's not that it's an alternative to running around in the playground, it's an alternative to TV. Most surveys have shown that actually it's TV time that it eats into. And so, especially given recent positivity, I was recently at a friend's house and their kids were playing on their Wii standing up. It's great! That's probably reasonable exercise. I would have thought in another life they would probably be sitting down watching some cartoon. That's the point. Games are a force for good.

SPOnG: Yeah. The other day I was playing Rock Band with a couple of mates and the room temperature went up two or three degrees...

David Braben: You get quite active, don't you? And I think that's the point. And similarly, any competitive games, especially games like that where you're doing a lot of physical stuff, it gets quite heated and excited. And it's a great social event, so I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. There are some games that I wouldn't necessarily hold in my hands and go, ?Look! This is something I'm proud of!? much like the film industry probably isn't proud of everything. There are one or two where you go, ?Hmmm, I wouldn't want to let my kids see that, or see that myself even.?
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