Amnesia Director Ponders Why “Difference” Is So Threatening In The Industry
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs released recently and was met with lukewarm reception, with many reviewers scratching their heads over its major differences to Dark Descent and the fact that it treads closer to being an interactive narrative akin to The Chinese Room’s Dear Esther rather than a traditional game.
Amnesia director Jessica Curry has stood up to defend The Chinese Room’s work, expressing her wonder over why ‘different’ is such a threatening concept in game development.
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In a written feature on Edge,, The Chinese Room director and composer Jessica Curry explains her thought process regarding Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs being different.
“This question felt valid after we made Dear Esther, as the game (unintentionally) brought something new to the table and as a result raised some interesting debates,” says Curry.
“Move forward two years and a great deal has changed on the gaming scene. So when Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs was released we were really surprised to still be facing the question (and sometimes naked hostility) as to whether we are aiming to create interactive fiction rather than games.”
“This question rests on the idea that games are purely driven by mechanics and goals, and this seems laughably outdated as a concept. Why do we feel the need to classify and name and label before we can enjoy something? Do I need to know whether or not Bach sits in the classical canon before I can appreciate his incredible music? For me, the key is whether it’s an engaging experience (or not). The increasing breadth and diversity in games – a medium that ranges from Tetris to Gone Home – is wonderful. Why is difference such an enormously threatening concept?”
Curry personally would like the audience to determine whether or not Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is a success or not on its own merits, and not on the fact that it lacks gamey elements.
“We care about flow and immersion but the apparatus required to deliver that experience; whether it’s story or a traditional mechanic is immaterial,” she adds.
“You just use the right tools for the job. The Chinese Room is unusual in that a writer and a composer head up the company. This, I hope, brings a fresh perspective.”
“Mechanics will probably never be our core focus as they’re not the reason we’re driven to create. What this focus isn’t is: an agenda, a manifesto, a fuck you, a provocation, a purge or a stance. It’s simply us being us. We want to make games that we feel utterly passionate about and those games will most likely continue to focus on beauty, narrative, immersion. Basically, good stories told well.”
Personally, while I am a big admirer of The Chinese Room’s work and way of doing things, in my time with Amnesia so far (review still forthcoming), I have felt that their vision does not fit what the Dark Descent brought, and while Machine For Pigs appears very well put together and presented by itself, it’s the fact that it has such a strong predessor that its differences become an issue.
The Chinese Room’s next game will be Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, a PlayStation 4 exclusive that has turned more than a few heads (including mine) since its reveal.