These days there is a lot of junky gaming news. One cause of this is the obsession with giving every member of a development house a chance to sit down and shout out. You don’t have to be an artist, programmer or designer – if you deal with the corporate side, you are just as eligible, and if you make one successful game, you will be held in higher regard than other hard working members of the industry, regardless of your future sales or if your ideas have any merit.
Some fans are getting tired of this situation and are mouthing back. For example, one of the worst recent offenders is BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka. While he has been a name and a presence in the industry for a while now, lately he has been spouting off some of his least insightful “wisdom” yet. For example, he calls the Wii a toy not because it is a gimmick, but because its lack of processing power means that Ray and pals cannot make more gripping stories. And since, according to Ray, games are “defined by narrative,” then playing the Wii isn’t much like gaming.
Commenters on blogs like Kotaku responded unfavorably, citing the obvious fact that this theory would throw out entire generations worth of games with limited or no storylines, and that the concept of games in general has little to do with fixed narratives (though the actions caused by a game can tell stories). The reason for his statement is obvious however; Muzyka’s company makes story heavy games, and if he, the CEO, can convince you that story is the most important part of a game, then he can expect more sales from you.
The next silly idea comes from a new interview where Muzyka feels that the sex scene in Mass Effect helps prove that games are art. He claims that everyone talking about the scene shows it impacted them emotionally. Reading a few of these Kotaku comments shows that some gamers get it – people were mostly talking about the controversy that the mainstream media tried to create around it, not about the “emotions” of the scene. In fact, as some state, the sex scene feels cheap, and isn’t any different than what you would see in the average film. Despite the hoopla, it is nothing special. Games may be art, but this is not proof of it.
In the end, I don’t expect a CEO to have the most insightful comments on the games Bioware makes. But when interviews like these are the increasingly the norm in this age of click-through’s and ad revenue, I am glad to see that some folks are calling bullshit, rather than taking these as serious topics of discussion and further wasting our time.