PSN, Sony's Innovation Engine

Posted by: Matt Vella on January 16

FLOWI wrote a piece earlier this week examining the budding competition between console download services, particularly between Sony’s Playstation 3 Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. Quickly mentioned in the article are the somewhat startling stylistic differences between the content currently available: Microsoft’s has a cut-and-dry, coin-op arcade feel whereas Sony’s is a bit more new age emo. Time and a growing number of titles may or may not mitigate these differences.

But, what’s particularly interesting is how important Sony’s network has been to the fledgling Playstation 3 from a critical and buzz perspective. Some of its most talked about games were available for download – including the unbelievably interesting flOw (play the freeware web version here), by the Santa Monica, Calif.-based thatgamecompany. As part of a three game development deal, Sony is hosting the company inside its SoCal headquarters, a neat model of incubating innovative talent. Co-founders Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago talked to me for the piece and were kind enough to take me through some of their favorite titles. There’s a bit more of our conversation, after the jump.

BW: What kind of design warm-ups can you do when you’re trying to create games that break barriers?
TGC: Since we’re attempting to make games in unexplored fields, it’s important to keep pushing and testing ourselves. Sometimes we challenge ourselves by saying, “Ok, let’s make a game in 24 hours.” Those can be the most fun. We grew up playing games; we know what is fun and what’s interesting. But we’re not just here just to make fun games – that’s not the focus of the company. We try to force ourselves to rethink everything.

BW: But, isn’t ego or intuition an important element for a game designer?
TGC:
Intuition these days for designers is actually something not to trust. A lot of what seems intuitive is actually coming from the unconscious absorption of what you’ve played before. And, trusting to much to intuition can lead you to make more traditional games. To innovate, you really have to rethink things globally.

BW: Settle this once and for all: games – art or not art?
TGC:
[Groaning.] We are sick of the question, of asking are games art? We don’t question it. They are art. We’re trying to fulfill what we see as our responsibility, to saturate the spectrum of video games as media. It’s true that a lot of games right now only offer experiences teen males would enjoy. We’re trying to saturate the feelings a game can involve.

BW: Ok, in terms of public perception then, how long do you think it will take for your brand of design to have a wider influence?
TGC:
That’s hard to say. Spielberg and Lucas didn’t change the world instantly. Between the two of them it took a good decade. Hopefully, we can bring games to the market that inspire people. But, generally, we think games are coming into theur own. Film had the same relationship with theater. Gamers are looking at film now and asking what can gaming do that cinema can’t.

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About

No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.

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