In the Search for the Game Design Auteur

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One of the reasons why getting into game design right now is so interesting is the fact that part of the business, of the creative process and of the production is still forming – and in a constant state of flux.

While on one hand, game production teams have grown larger in order to produce even more content (after all, many AAA titles boast to have 50+ hours playtime – which is 25 times as much as a normal action film), other people reduced their teams and are producing awesome games with teams of three or four people.

Jason Schreier over at Wired’s Game|Life argues as well that games need auteurs: a single person with a vision for a game, as opposed to “design by committee”:

Most games, like most movies, are a massive undertaking involving the work of hundreds of people. But many films — the best, some would argue — are driven by the central creative direction of a single auteur. No matter how many other people work on a project, auteur theory holds that it is possible for a single, strong creative vision to shine through. Bringing such a dynamic to videogames could result in stronger stories, more compelling gameplay — and fewer artistic and commercial failures that result from that well-established enemy of the creative process, design by committee.

And, which is even better, the industry is slowly adapting that as well. THQ are now gunning for more daring projects as well:

Danny Bilson, vice president of core games at publisher THQ, says the industry desperately needs auteurs in order to produce outstanding new videogames.

“Ultra-collaboration can be deadly in the game business,” Bilson told at a press briefing in New York City recently. “One voice must lead.”

Since its founding in 1991, THQ has largely focused on acquiring and producing games based on strong franchises like World Wrestling Entertainment and SpongeBob SquarePants, but lately the company has enjoyed success with original games like Darksiders and Red Faction: Guerilla.

Bilson, who has roots in Hollywood (he co-wrote The Rocketeer and co-created TV series The Sentinel), wants to go even further. That’s why he’s snagged several of gaming’s few recognizable names, including Tim Schafer (Brütal Legend) and Patrice Desilets (Assassin’s Creed). He came close to signing Call of Duty’s creators and successfully recruited filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro to make a game called inSane.

“The great films of all time came from one vision,” said Bilson. But does auteur theory hold true for videogames? Perhaps, if the industry can find the right people.

I guess that’s good news then. I think I’d like to apply for the position of auteur.