HGS 07: Clive Barker on Jericho and videogames as escapism

Clive Barker is sort of a love him or hate him type of guy. For instance, I love his books, hate his movies. And by “his” movies, I of course mean the Hollywood bastardization of his works. But listening to this man speak was interesting, highly entertaining, and surprisingly empowering as a gamer. It was a truly amazing privlege to  have him spill his thoughts on the industry and the future potential of gaming.

Hit the jump for the complete Clive Barker interview from the Hollywood and Games Summit and some details on his upcoming next-gen project, Jericho. Honestly, if you listen to nothing else from the entire event, listen to this.

The first few minutes of the audio is the introduction to the entire Hollywood and Games Summit, with a surprisingly low level of back-patting and ego fellatio. Then they turn the stage over to Gina McIntyre and Clive Barker for the good stuff.

As you will hear during the keynote, they played the Jericho Eternity trailer but apparently all their effort and money was wasted on fancy little salads and 25 cent bottled water rather than making sure that the very first thing they showed on screen played correctly. Both the audio and the video were sketchy at best, so here’s the trailer again for those of you who would like to enjoy it the way it was meant to be, sans-FAIL:
Barker starts off by addressing Roger Ebert’s comments on videogames as an inferior form of art. The thing about roger Ebert is, I have never seen anyone as intelligent or well-versed in film who could be so continuously wrong. Can opinions really be wrong? That’s debatable, but Ebert is certainly proof that they can definitely be very, very stupid. So as not to direct traffic to his site, here is the exchange between a reader and Roger Ebert that the interview references:

Q. I was saddened to read that you consider video games an inherently inferior medium to film and literature, despite your admitted lack of familiarity with the great works of the medium. This strikes me as especially perplexing, given how receptive you have been in the past to other oft-maligned media such as comic books and animation. Was not film itself once a new field of art? Did it not also take decades for its academic respectability to be recognized?

There are already countless serious studies on game theory and criticism available, including Mark S. Meadows’ Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, Nick Montfort’s Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan’s First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, and Mark J.P. Wolf’s The Medium of the Video Game, to name a few.

I hold out hope that you will take the time to broaden your experience with games beyond the trashy, artless “adaptations” that pollute our movie theaters, and let you discover the true wonder of this emerging medium, just as you have so passionately helped me to appreciate the greatness of many wonderful films.

Andrew Davis, St. Cloud, Minn.

A. Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.

He then gets into some details on the upcoming Jericho and the making of it, as well as his input in Undying and what’s being done differently this time around. It started off originally intended to be a novel, but as he explains the nature of the game makes for an amazing interactive experience and probably not so great of a read. While the trailer and screenshot’s certainly have whetted the appetite of gamers and horror fans alike, the premise of the game should at least pique the interest of those naysayers who were holding out for actual gameplay footage.

Also, let me just say that this is how you conduct an interview. Everyone else who attempted to “moderate” the speakers at the rest of the event, you should study up on Gina McIntyre’s technique. 

Click here to download The Interactive Parallel Universe.