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Jenova Chen: "People Are Getting Tired Of The Same Things"

Matt Gardner
Development, GDC 2012, Jenova Chen, Journey, Phil Harrison, PSN, Sony, Thatgamecompany

Jenova Chen: "People Are Getting Tired Of The Same Things"

Thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen has spoken about how "lucky" he and his team were to land a contract on PSN, ascribing Journey's critical success to a mixture of timing, people growing tired of traditional forms of gaming, and a greater appreciation and affinity for development, which comes with time.

"I think we were very lucky to be able to work with Sony," said Chen, chatting to GamesIndustry International at GDC.

"Right now digital distribution is the future but at that time no one was developing anything for it! When we signed the contract the PlayStation was due to launch in four months, so they were in dire need for content."

He readily admits that the pitch for Flower wasn't even fully formed in his own mind, but praised Sony for having the bravery (he uses the word "crazy") to take a risk.

"When we pitched Flower I didn't really know what the game was," he admitted with a smile. "I just said 'hey, we want to make a game that is about feeling of being in love to others.' Sony's publisher side was actually crazy enough to sign that."

"I think it was also because at the time Phil Harrison was the president and he was really trying to push for innovation because Microsoft had the lead."

Harrison, having left Sony a couple of years ago, has just joined Microsoft's executive team, and Chen is rather of the opinion that it's reached a time when people are starting to look again for something outside of the box. Comparing the reaction to Journey wit that of Flower, Chen believes that timing has much to do with the former's landslide positive feedback.

"People are just getting tired of the same things. Maybe when Flower was launched three years ago people weren't necessarily that sick of the [traditional] games," he said.

"I think the most important thing is that it's 2012, it's not 2005, it's not 2007. Humans always have a desire for bigger variety, we started eating just fruit and raw meat, but look at how how diverse they type of food we're eating today is."

"Secondly I think we are just better as making games. We learn and we improve our skills. And Journey is also more conventional compared to the other games."

Chen also noted that he feels developers aren't making the most of the concept of 'playing together', with multiplayer games primarily focusing on individual empowerment against others.

"Everything I just talked about means shit to a kid," he added.

"Everybody keeps talking about social games, but the social games today are not really socialised. You play an online multiplayer game, and the technology allows you to bring 64 people together but what they're doing is focusing on their own power. Not on connecting or being friends or having a shared emotional state together."

"Entertainment, in the end,is a food industry for feeling."

We can't help but feel that the games industry could do with more people like Jenova Chen and his team.

Add a comment2 comments
DivideByZero  Mar. 14, 2012 at 12:40

He's right. People are growing tired of seeing Call of Duty released year in, year out. The indie scene has really been pushing gaming along lately and in itself is becoming more the mainstream with big companys buying in to tiny studios.

This can only be good for gaming as long as the big companies really just help the smaller ones and dont start taking over and messing with things.

As for gaming being social, I don't know. There are loads of MMORPGs that disagree with that statement.

Last edited by DivideByZero, Mar. 14, 2012 at 12:42
jonnyq  Mar. 14, 2012 at 14:21

Sony need to keep pushing different ideas, some may not always work but consoles are full of the same stuff. Not even in terms of genre but variations of WW2 or space shooters.

Social gaming in terms of having a network, mic and shooting stuff together works. The focus is on the technical rather than emotional, that's what I think he's getting at. Some games already do this but consoles need more things that bring people together, sharing an adventure and having unique experiences. It plays to the strength of the medium and offers something for everyone.


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