March 13, 2005

Prayers For Kane

by Andrew Stern · , 9:25 pm

I’d like to write up my impressions of GDC this year in a series of smaller posts instead of a single huge one.

One of the comments that came out during the panel discussion Why Isn’t the Game Industry Making Interactive Stories is that the game industry has yet to reach its “Citizen Kane moment”. This is the idea or hope that at some point someone will finally create a game that uses the medium in such radically new ways that it uncovers a new grammar of expression, and in the process reaches new artistic heights.

Tempting as that theory is, I somehow doubt it’s going to work that way. We already have such a diversity of form and of platforms for digital games, from PC to console to handheld to browser to pervasive games, from text-based to graphics-based, from single player to massively multiplayer. While it’s impossible to tell how far down the timeline we are without a lot more history behind us, digital games already seem to me more diverse in form than where things were with cinema in the late 1930’s. Future innovations in interactive entertainment, even radical ones, each will probably only push on a subset of many simultaneously active fronts. It seems unlikely that any one new work could end up as historically significant as Citizen Kane is considered to be.

Perhaps we should think of innovation as coming in waves, analogous to the emergence of rock and roll music, or Modern art, or New Wave cinema. At this moment in the history of interactive entertainment, I’m hoping we’re on the cusp of a procedural wave.