Warren Spector speaks at Bryant


     On Tuesday April 15th 2014, legendary game developer Warren Spector gave an exemplary presentation at Bryant. Spector, who notably has a video game program at the University of Texas, spoke about how video games have become so popular recently.  In other words, why are video games “the medium of the twenty-first century?”

     For Warren Spector, it could be said that it all started with “Dungeons and Dragons.”  This stood out because in the game, the players are telling their own stories.  That in turn, means that everybody was creating their own experience.  For Warren Spector, the ability to have different experiences is a key characteristic of why video games are more popular, and is also what makes a game successful.  This can really be seen when video games are compared to other media.

     When reading a good book or watching a really great movie, you might be able to imagine yourself in whatever world they create.  However, those still have somebody else telling you what happens, and no matter what you think you can have enjoyment, but not any power (it is the author’s intent).  The difference with video games is they give the power to the player.

     In video games, by means of a controllable main character, the player can have an impact on what happens, the character’s decisions and actions are the player’s decisions and actions.  Video games therefore, come from the player’s intent.  But, some think that video games are too immersive for society’s own good.

     There are lawmakers, among others, that believe particularly violent games are responsible for violence in the real world.  For example, blame for the Columbine School shooting had been placed on the first-person shooter “Doom.”  Warren Spector has said, that the real-life violence itself is a horrible tragedy, but has also brought up that only 1:10,000,000 people are actually affected by video games like this.  Also, he said that if we were worried about every individual, there would not be any video games made.  Despite video games being the most interactive of media, it takes a certain amount of mental illness for somebody to try to imitate them, so we need to look at the context of the situation.  Finally, there have been precedents of popular things struggling for acceptance.  There seems to be a general rule where parents believe that whatever their kids grow up on is something dangerous, like “the Looney Toons.”  Now for video games, what does the larger audience itself mean?

     Warren Spector said that a larger number of people playing video games means that there needs to be more diverse content to accommodate them.  For this reason, we cannot always blame video games in general for what happens in the real world.  They have also become more diverse in the sense that there are video games today that were never thought of before.

     With the emergence of social media, there have been more games that involve creating a community through online interaction.  The video games themselves could also be about different things, but ultimately they are about problem-solving in some form (at times, the player can be inspired to learn about the real setting that inspired a certain level in the game).

     There are always some obstacles to overcome, and it cannot be stressed enough that it is the player solving these problems.  This indicates that there is a quick thinking type of strategy involved.  And there is no single possible way to solve them, which reinforces the fact that for a game to be successful different people should have different experiences.  That is what would give the video games, their replay value, because there is always something new to try out.  And isn’t that true of life, we cannot grow without trying something new.