One of the people who came up with the story for the most recent Star Wars movie has written about games and crafted their stories. He’s also authored books and penned television episodes. And while he sees each medium as valid, he also recognizes many of the advantages that games have over creative outlets like film.
In an onstage conversation at the GamesBeat Summit today in Berkeley, California, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story writer (and former PC Gamer magazine editor-in-chief) Gary Whitta explained to Google Play portfolio manager Jamil Moledina that games have a distinct advantage when it comes to earning a player’s attention. He also thinks that interactive entertainment can do more with some of the harder elements of a genre like science-fiction thanks to the fundamental mechanics of many games.
At the same time, he doesn’t treat games and films as opposing forces.
“Writers and creators have ideas for stuff all the time. Whenever I think of a story, one of the first things I’ll ask myself is — well, what is it,” said Whitta. “What’s the best way for this idea to be expressed. If it’s dependent on a lot of action, it might be a movie or a television show. If it’s inside a character’s head, it might be a novel.”
Whitta then described how he has struggled to figure out how to express one particular idea for a long time before realizing that it is ideal for virtual reality.
“I think stories will just find whatever is the best nest for them,” said Whitta. “Whatever will enable them to grow.”
And something like a sci-fi story might bloom better as a game or VR experience for multiple reasons, according to Whitta,
“First, there’s the agency a game gives the player,” he explained. “And when you think about science as the foundation of science fiction, it’s about observations, it’s about experimentation, it’s about trying things and puzzle solving — and those are all things that we do in video games.”
Whitta also credits that interactivity with gaming’s capability to keep players fully engaged for long periods of time.
“I think that the biggest inherent advantage that games have over all the other kinds of screen-based entertainment,” said Whitta. “I hear from people in television all the time that they hate the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to get people to look at just one screen. There are probably 15 people right now who, while they’re listening to me, they’re also looking at their phones. It’s unavoidable. TV showrunners hate this now because they realize they can’t win, so they lean into it. They are now livetweeting their shows, but they hate the fact that they have to do it.”
That’s something that many games do not struggle with, according to Whitta.
“When I play a game, it’s the only time that I’m engaged with a screen and I put away the phone and forget it exists,” said Whitta. “The game demands your full and complete attention in a way that nothing else can or ever will.”
As an example of just how demanding games are and how we let them take over our lives and even our bodies, Whitta talked about how he was playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch with his wife recently. She told him that she wanted to itch her nose, but she was too engaged with the game to take her hands off her controller.
That’s simply a level of dedication that only gaming gets because only gaming asks for much of your attention.