Obsidian Entertainment - Josh Sawyer Answers # 2
Josh Sawyer has answered more questions from the public at his formspring account. They range from how he sees the mixed reception Alpha Protocol has gotten to how one enters video game development. Here's some of the Q and A's:
Regarding your criticism of subtext in games, what is your opinion on Bioshock's thematic delivery?
I think most of it went over gamers' heads because a large portion was conveyed through subtext: Marxist imagery in Atlas posters, Bible smuggling, etc.
I think Bioshock did a fantastic job, personally. While I think Bioshock's game play/choice mechanics weren't super compelling (this criticism is directly mostly at the late game), I think their environments and theme were executed very well. And while I do think there is a lot of subtext in Bioshock, there's also a lot of overt discussion of theme. It doesn't get much more overt than locking you in a bathysphere and playing a video that's a direct critique of modern American, Soviet, and Christian societies. I think that was the right way to do it: immediately introduce the player to the central philosophical idea behind Rapture and convey many of its various strengths and shortcomings through subtext over the course of the game.
Is it even desirable for a game to have good writing or to consistently establish and reinforce themes? Isn't that straying too far into games-as-art as opposed to games-as-good-games?
I think of it as "content-as-something-that-isn't-worthless-garbage". If you're going to bother putting something into your game, put a little effort into conceiving it.The best concept artists I have worked with have a *concept* behind their concept. It's goofy that I have to call this out, but a lot of artist don't. If you bother thinking about why you're making content choices -- the marks on a drawing, the words in a conversation, the choices in an advancement system -- it tends to help create the feeling of cohesion. Elements are rooted in the fictitious place and time you have created. If it matters for visuals (and I believe it does), it matters for dialogue.