Steven Spielberg interview

Yahoo is running a slightly streamlined version of an interview I did with Steven Spielberg as part of their “Celebrity Bytes” series. The following exchange didn’t make the cut, which is understandable given the target audience and that the interview was supposed to be specifically about his involvement with Boom Blox. But I found it an interesting bit of insight into how one of the most prominent determinants of American culture views videogames.

TC: Is there anything over the least year that you’ve played that really grabbed you?

SS: There have been a lot of games, including all the sequels, for Medal of Honor that I’ve really admired. I love the direction it’s taken. I also like the competitive games. I’m currently playing Call of Duty 4. A lot of these first person shooters are very interesting.

TC: A lot of surprising and indeed very violent things happen in Call of Duty 4. I don’t want to spoil it, but have you gotten to any sort of amazing “Holy cow!” moments yet?

SS: Not yet, because I just began. Should I expect something like that?

TC: They do a couple of things that videogames don’t normally do. I’d be curious what you think but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Suffice to say you’re in for some nice twists.

SS: That’s good. You know the thing that doesn’t work for me in these games are the little movies where they attempt to tell a story in between the playable levels. That’s where there hasn’t been a synergy between storytelling and gaming. They go to a lot of trouble to do these [motion-capture] movies that explain the characters. And then the second the game is returned to you and it’s under your control, you forget everything the interstitials are trying to impact you with, and you just go back to shooting things. And that has not found its way into a universal narrative. And I think more has to be done in that arena.

TC: Some games avoid those cutscenes altogether. Are you familiar with Half-Life?

SS: Yeah, I’ve played Half-Life, of course. But some games will not let you quit out. I think Battlefield: Bad Company, which I played though, doesn’t let you escape the interstitials.

TC: It’s a dilemma for gamemakers. They don’t have the freedom moviemakers have with a single medium, since they have to transition between storytelling and gameplay.

SS: I do applaud them for trying the storytelling. It’s important to try to invest in these characters you don’t get to see when you’re playing them. You only get to see them during the little movies. But you don’t get to see the faces or recognize the foxhole buddies when you’re just targeting the enemy. Yet I applaud them for at least attempting to tell a story.

TC: Do you feel that filmmakers can learn anything from videogames? And if so, what?

SS: I think filmmakers are learning things from videogames. Movies are starting to look more and more like videogames, like the digital introductory teasers videogames give you before they turn control over to the player. A lot of movies, like this movie with Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy called Wanted. It had a lot of videogame savvy. The Bourne Ultimatum had a lot of videogame savvy in the quick cuts and the audacity of camera angle.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Hah! Steven Spielberg doesn’t like cut scenes either! Victory is mine!

edit: Oh ho, so you tried to push Spielberg on Bioshock? How did he react to that?

He seems to be supporting stories in games that are told without taking control away from the player.

i.e. letting them move.

our very own Tom Chick, rubbing shoulders with the stars. good interview!

He’s working on LMNO with Doug Church as Creative Director? Awesome! I can’t wait for LMNO, whatever that is.

Great interview, not sure why I was so surprised by the answers. The man has put out some of my favorite movies, but I guess the Crystal Skull left a disproportionately bad taste in my mouth.

That’s just an awesome quote. Imagine a funny animated gif of my head exploding here.

I don’t get this response though.

Oh, that Woodstock!

Wait, I still don’t get it.

Oooh… fun activity! “What does LMNO stand for?” Let’s all play along!

Look Ma, No Objective!

Larry Meets Nurse Orderly (a new Leisure Suit Larry game)

Long, M-Rated Nerd Orgy

Next do PQRS, which was the working title for Boom Blox!

As for the Woodstock comment, I think he was going for the idea that Pong was Something Important. It doesn’t really scan unless you consider it as a response to being asked what he thought about videogaming at the time.


God Bless the Boomers. Nothing exists if it isn’t relative to their seminal experiences.

I do feel like he might have had more to say, but it’s hidden behind a very polished interview facade.

I stared at this for a good ten seconds before realizing that you weren’t referring to corpulent, puking zombies. I need to start cutting back on my Left 4 Dead.

Except his answer seems to suggest he hasn’t or at least he does not remember it quite correctly. There are no cinemas to skip in Half-Life as far as I recall. I assume that’s why Tom brought it up, so his answer reads a bit like an evasion.

He’s not endorsing a particular solution. I think Bioshock handled this problem very well, yet at times, still restricted your movement. A key component is maintaining point of view even when you do take control away and only take control away rarely.

Well, I said what I said because of what he said about Half-Life. You couldn’t skip the story in Half Life, but you weren’t taken out of your view or context to be told the story, either.

Well he didn’t say anything about Half-life in particular other than he played it. He then through implication contrasted it with Bad Company which doesn’t let you “escape the interstitials.” But really, he started talking about cut scenes before Half-life even came up.

You couldn’t skip the story in Half Life, but you weren’t taken out of your view or context to be told the story, either.

Well, you could skip it by not paying attention. =P I understand, but you walked away from a general point about cut scenes actually getting in the way of storytelling in games with a very narrow interpretation of the solution.

Apparently, it is combat-less.

Just taking the piss now aren’t you.

Ah, that makes a little more sense.

I didn’t get that impression, even after rereading that section and attempting to.

“Yeah, I’ve played Half Life. Of course I’ve played Half Life, Jesus. What do I look like, a noob? Seriously, who hasn’t played Half Life? Also, it’s like twenty fucking years old dude, I think I’ve discovered it by now, Christ. Fucking dick.”

Are you confusing what he said about Bad Company with what he said about Half Life? Because uh, I really don’t see what you see there…