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It's Pronounced "Awe-tour"
08/12/2008 em 21:30
First, a brief introduction to
The basic idea of this theory of film criticism is that a Director's personal vision can be seen in any film they create, and they are the primary author (auteur being french for “author”) of any such film. If you're curious about the theory, Google and Wikipedia can assist you with that, but lemme give a little example of it in action. (Thanks to Brian R. for the example)
How many of you know who directed “Reservoir Dogs”? A fair number, I imagine. How many of you know who directed “Finding Nemo”? My guess is virtually no one. “Reservoir Dogs”, during its entire run, grossed less than $3 million. “Finding Nemo” has grossed over $800 million worldwide.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't about the quality of the movies. They're both excellent movies, but Tarantino is a name you recognize, while even an animation buff like myself doesn't immediately recognize Andrew Stanton or Lee Unkrich.
How many of you know who Chris Metzen is?
Probably a decent percentage of you, but not everyone, even in this highly slanted population (people who read blogs related to World of Warcraft), recognizes the name of Blizzard's Vice President of Creative Development, and arguably the driving creative force behind all of Blizzard's smash hits.
Games have had a strange relationship with creative masterminds in this sense. In the infancy of videogaming, there were a lot of names that people in the know recognized.
, etc, but since then, games seem to have reached the size of production where attributing creative authorship to a single person is next to impossible. And yet, movies continue to feature big name directors, despite the varying contributions of actors, producers, screenwriters, musicians, and so forth.
Even stranger is that a very small number of people in the game industry have held onto/established their status as Auteurs even into the more modern age of gaming.
, love him or hate him, has a reputation as an Auteur. (That's Metal Gear Solid, Psychonauts, and Braid, in that order.)
What are these people doing that Chris Metzen isn't? I'm not even convinced yet that the standard MMO formula (polished almost exclusively by WoW) has room for a single creative mastermind to be attributed authorship. The trick, I think, lies in why someone plays the game. As I already hinted at in my
post on the WoW movie
, WoW attracts people for a huge variety of reasons. It's hard for me to think of Chris Metzen as the chief architect behind WoW if the only thing I really care about is cleaning up in the arenas as my Warlock. I imagine he didn't design the arenas, or the idea behind the Warlock class, or do much balancing of the classes for PvP. If that's all I care about, I don't care about any of the work he did. I might feel that way if I'm into WoW for the lore and the writing, but since any given reason for playing represents a minority of the total playing population, no cultural consensus arises about the importance of certain people, which is the precursor to Auteur status.
And yet, that can't be entirely it. It's assumed that most people played Portal because it was hilarious. Yes, the mechanic was amazing and inventive, but it's not usually the first thing that people think of. Here we have a game that we have a cultural consensus about the draw of. So who wrote it?
If you're like 90% of people who have played the game, you don't know, but it's
, who's other most impressive contribution was co-writing Psychonauts with Tim Schafer.
Even among the people who recognized Chris Metzen's name off the top of their heads, how many of you have any idea what he's like? There's virtually no personality associated with the name.
is a huge personality, Jonathan Blow is well known for his habit of
personally commenting on blog posts about Braid
, and even in the case of Schafer, who's rarely in the public eye, you get the sense of a personality that bleeds through the games. Tell me with a straight face that the writer of
Day of the Tentacle
doesn't have a sense of humor. So, in order to achieve Auteur status, you need a big personality, and a cultural consensus on the subject of why your game should be played... right?
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