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Interview: Kellee Santiago

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Interview: Kellee Santiago

Mensagem por IuriMonteiro em Qua Jun 15, 2011 8:22 pm

Kellee Santiago is best known as the co-founder and president of Thatgamecompany. Formerly a student at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York City, she eventually moved on to the University of Southern California where she acquired a master's degree in the Interactive Media Program of the School of Cinematic Arts. There, she met Jenova Chen and moved on to help produce a variety of award-winning games beginning with Cloud, her debut title and the game that would convince her and Jenova Chen to pursue their dreams in the industry further.

A strong advocate of the idea that video games can "create a wider range of experiences than are typically shown", Kellee Santiago has spoken extensively about the matter at various venues. Serene and unusual, the games -- such as Flow and Flower -- developed by Thatgamecompany definitely reflect upon those principles. This seems to be most especially true with their latest production, the aptly-named Journey. In development for the PlayStation 3, Journey is set amidst enormous, shifting landscapes filled with sand and the ruins of an ancient civilization.

Earlier this year, Santiago returned to the New York Game Center to give a talk about "Challenges in Evoking Unique Emotions in Video Games" as part of the Center's ongoing Lecture Series; an intriguing choice of topic given the emotional depth expected of Journey. This interview with GameCareerGuide was conducted after the event had concluded.

What is a game to you? What is your definition of something worth playing and investigating? What criteria does it have to meet before it becomes something satisfactory to you?

Kellee Santiago: A game is an interactive experience that offers designed scenarios meant to engage the audience and present concepts and emotions through the interactions. I get bored really easily, so something that is worth playing, for me, has to be something that is presenting a new idea, a new scenario, and new way of interacting, and/or is a game that has been executed at the highest quality. I guess that makes me kind of sound like a snob, but it's really just due to a short attention span. In order to be "satisfactory," to me, I want to be able to feel the artistry and craft in the experience. I think when you play a game that has been loved by its developers, you can feel it.

Is there a difference between a good game and a good commercial game? If so, what do you think are the necessary components of making an excellent commercial game? Do certain things need to be sacrificed, or do you think there's a way to appeal to everyone?

KS: I don't think those things have to be the same, no. But that's primarily due to the intentions of the developer, in my opinion. Games are a great medium, because you get that direct feedback as to whether what you've made is landing with your audience. They are either playing or they're not; they're paying for your game, or they're not. I do not think you have to sacrifice your vision to make a commercially successful game, especially with commercial distribution. That is, unless your vision is dependent on having millions of dollars to execute or if you are unwilling to change your idea even when playtesters are telling you the game is terrible.



There's a lot of talk these days about games have slowly lost a sense of definition and have become clones of one another. Do you believe this is true? If so, why do you think it happens and what do you think can be done to change this?

KS: People are just now talking about that? I'm pretty sure people have been saying that for decades now. And that's usually by people who aren't paying attention. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between most AAA titles, as has been the case for awhile. But in games in general? There is so much diversity in experiences available to players today. Of course, as I mentioned above, I always wish there was more!

Kellee Santiago is best known as the co-founder and president of Thatgamecompany. Formerly a student at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York City, she eventually moved on to the University of Southern California where she acquired a master's degree in the Interactive Media Program of the School of Cinematic Arts. There, she met Jenova Chen and moved on to help produce a variety of award-winning games beginning with Cloud, her debut title and the game that would convince her and Jenova Chen to pursue their dreams in the industry further.

A strong advocate of the idea that video games can "create a wider range of experiences than are typically shown", Kellee Santiago has spoken extensively about the matter at various venues. Serene and unusual, the games -- such as Flow and Flower -- developed by Thatgamecompany definitely reflect upon those principles. This seems to be most especially true with their latest production, the aptly-named Journey. In development for the PlayStation 3, Journey is set amidst enormous, shifting landscapes filled with sand and the ruins of an ancient civilization.

Earlier this year, Santiago returned to the New York Game Center to give a talk about "Challenges in Evoking Unique Emotions in Video Games" as part of the Center's ongoing Lecture Series; an intriguing choice of topic given the emotional depth expected of Journey. This interview with GameCareerGuide was conducted after the event had concluded.

What is a game to you? What is your definition of something worth playing and investigating? What criteria does it have to meet before it becomes something satisfactory to you?

Kellee Santiago: A game is an interactive experience that offers designed scenarios meant to engage the audience and present concepts and emotions through the interactions. I get bored really easily, so something that is worth playing, for me, has to be something that is presenting a new idea, a new scenario, and new way of interacting, and/or is a game that has been executed at the highest quality. I guess that makes me kind of sound like a snob, but it's really just due to a short attention span. In order to be "satisfactory," to me, I want to be able to feel the artistry and craft in the experience. I think when you play a game that has been loved by its developers, you can feel it.



Is there a difference between a good game and a good commercial game? If so, what do you think are the necessary components of making an excellent commercial game? Do certain things need to be sacrificed, or do you think there's a way to appeal to everyone?

KS: I don't think those things have to be the same, no. But that's primarily due to the intentions of the developer, in my opinion. Games are a great medium, because you get that direct feedback as to whether what you've made is landing with your audience. They are either playing or they're not; they're paying for your game, or they're not. I do not think you have to sacrifice your vision to make a commercially successful game, especially with commercial distribution. That is, unless your vision is dependent on having millions of dollars to execute or if you are unwilling to change your idea even when playtesters are telling you the game is terrible.

There's a lot of talk these days about games have slowly lost a sense of definition and have become clones of one another. Do you believe this is true? If so, why do you think it happens and what do you think can be done to change this?

KS: People are just now talking about that? I'm pretty sure people have been saying that for decades now. And that's usually by people who aren't paying attention. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between most AAA titles, as has been the case for awhile. But in games in general? There is so much diversity in experiences available to players today. Of course, as I mentioned above, I always wish there was more!

Everything we've heard, known or seen about Journey implies that you're attempting to take on a different stance with the game. Above all else, what is the core concept/emotion that you seek to impart on the public with Journey and what steps have you taken to accomplish that?

KS: Well, we've talked some in the past about the genesis of the idea for Journey, but I don't want to tell people how they should feel while they are playing the game. We have an idea of what we're trying to get across -- it would be cheating to feed that to our players before they get to experience it for themselves.

Your work and talks have reminded me a lot of the "notgames" movement that is gathering steam in motion. If you have heard of the idea, what do you think or feel about it?

KS: Yes, I really adore the Tale of Tales developers, who are behind that movement. I think it's fantastic to broaden our dialogue around games and interactive entertainment.

What do you feel is necessary to assist gamers in breaking out from their own conditioning? What do you think limits people most in terms of their ability to accept new ideas? More importantly, what do you feel is necessary to create games capable of appealing to both the hardcore gamer and the casual individual?

KS: I think gamers are, by their very nature, an open and experimental bunch. They love trying new things and aren't afraid of failure or disappointment. In order to appeal to a wide audience, you just have to make something good. It's not an easy thing to do, necessarily, but it's amazing to me how much people try and get away with doing everything but this in order to attract gamers.

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