RockPaperShotgun’s Nathan Grayson very recently had a sit-down with Harvey Smith, the man whose name you may find in the credits of games such as Dishonored and Deus Ex. If you’re anything like me, you probably just experienced a wave of unbridled excitement (without the sexual aspects… I think).
What the hay? Didn’t you mention in the last post you won’t be talking about games in this blog any more? STOP LYING TO US, SERPENT; YOU DECEIVER OF MEN; YOU MONSTER.
Rather than focusing on game design, I want to highlight instead on a little something Smith said during the course of the interview:
“I still, to this day, love games where I’m in a dark, creepy, scary place, and I’m underpowered, and I’m facing monsters, and I master those monsters by defeating them with trickery, stealth or whatever. I think there’s still a component of that, that is… The reason that’s soothing or titillating in some way is that it’s based on some pattern that a lot of people share. Anybody who’s gone through something like that when they’re very young, in a formative time.”
Smith had a troubled childhood. He watched his mother overdose when he was six while his father killed himself, thrusting him into the sort of environment that moulds kids into very interesting individuals. In Smith’s case, he coped via writing and escapism, which later led to videogames as a passion before it became a career.
It’s highly intriguing to see the reasons behind Smith’s fondness of stealth gameplay, considering how Deus Ex and Dishonored happen to be two stellar examples of the genre (leaning notwithstanding).
I don’t claim to have as dramatic a personal history but I do enjoy sneaky games for the same reasons as he does. Centuries ago, when I was but a feeble teenager, I had a recurring dream where I’d be hunted by inhuman nasties in my old neighbourhood. There weren’t any glorious battles or bloodshed so copious it would put sanitary bins to shame — no, it was just me as a kid, hiding, running and being scared 90% of the time. (There’s another where I’m just a pants-less kid in a crowd but I’ll leave that to the psychologists.)
My fascination didn’t end at just video games either, extending into a real-life interest in espionage, assassins and ninjas. Which young boy’s life would be complete without ninjas? I enjoyed over-the-top action as much as anybody else but the shadows was where I found my calling. I’m proud to say that lots of early experimentation has led to my ability to sneak up on most people with considerable ease these days. Pretty soon I’ll be stealing clothes off their bodies or placing live grenades in pockets too, I reckon.
I’m overjoyed that the stealth genre is seeing a revitalization in the industry and can’t wait to pour hours into them when I get the chance. Let me end on the topic of ninjas, however: Tenchu desperately needs a good reboot. The series died in ignominy and as someone who enjoyed the first three games immensely, I cannot stand by that fact.
And in case you’ve gotten lost or have forgotten, don’t forget to read the great interview with Harvey Smith over on RPS.
P.S. Shameless plug for A Gaming Nation.