Escape Artist
Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 4 (April 2003)

Escape Artist

On The Getaway—a new form of entertainment that blends gaming and cinematic storytelling

Gavin Moore is lead artist/senior animator at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. His latest game is The Getaway (see "Character Driven").

Q Would you consider The Getaway to be a breakthrough in terms of combining cinematic storytelling and interactive game play?

A There is nothing new in blending cinematic storytelling and gaming. Games have had stories ever since Space Invaders: Defend the Earth against the all conquering, invincible, relentless alien horde.... The difference is in the way we are doing it—using film techniques of storytelling. We have a proper script, all our locations are found by a location scout, and we have real actors. The main point is that we want to involve people more in the game, to feel part of what they are doing, to care for some characters and hate others. To do this, we have tried to tell our story in the same way a film would. The only difference is that to see how the story progresses, the player has to succeed in controlling the game.

Q Lots of games use cinematic clips, or cut-scenes, to move the story along. How is what you're doing different from that?

A Many stories are bolted on at the last minute to add some substance to a game, but these never work. We've created an engrossing script. We spent a lot of time on rewrites, actor casting, and rehearsals to make sure that we got the performances we wanted. We have also tried to blur the line between the cut-scene and the game by showing the cut-scenes in real time. We use the game engine to do this, and this stops the jarring between in-game graphics and cut-scene graphics.

Q Do you consider The Getaway to be a cinematic game or an interactive movie?

A A cinematic game. The term "interactive movie" leaves a bit of a bad taste in my month. I was asked the other day if I was a frustrated film director. I may be frustrated, but I don't want to be a filmmaker in the traditional sense. I want to create stories and characters for game players that will make them hate, laugh, cry, and so on, and drive them to want to find out what happens next. Good stories can make great games. I believe it's the future of gaming.

Q What technology advances made this possible?

A The power behind this is in the consoles. We can now create environments and characters that make people believe in the stories. But, that said, the most important things are still the story and the script and the acting. I saw a shadow puppet show once in India. It was very basic stuff, but what a fantastic story. I was engrossed. So the moral has to be, yes, it's easier with more power and technology, but if the story is rubbish, then no one will want to play.

Q Are you targeting a new audience?

A That's the idea. Outside of Japan, gaming is perceived as childish. But I don't believe it is or has to be. It's mainstream entertainment, and it should take its rightful place alongside film, music, and literature. To take gaming to this level, we as game makers have to start making product for a wider audience. I would love one day to get fan mail for my virtual characters, or better yet, hate mail. Then I would know that I'm on the right track. The Getaway for me is a first step toward this. I see no reason that we can't make games in all the different genres, love stories, dramas, crime, murder, action, war, horror. These exist already, but not to the standard that will break games out of their niche market.

Q Movies are meant for a passive audience while games require active participation. What evidence is there that people want both at the same time?

A There is no evidence. But I think people are fed up with the old gaming aims: collect all the gold coins, and so on. Something has to make you want to play, and I think that something will be the story. I believe that people will stand around water coolers discussing a game story soon. I just have to make something that will make them do it. Isn't that the dream of every author or director?