Gamasutra has published a nice, lengthy interview with the mythical Chris Crawford, in which the long-absent, once-visionary designer essentially pans the entire gaming industry as being derivative.

The industry is so completely inbred that the people working in it aren’t even capable of coming up with new ideas anymore. I was appalled, for example, at the recent GDC. I looked over the games at the Independent Games Festival and they all looked completely derivative to me. Just copies of the same ideas being recycled.

Coming from a published genius, one is tempted to classify this kind of rant as something other than nerdic arrogance. But one would be wrong to do so. The Gamasutra interviewer would seem to have agreed. Sensing a bit of negativity from his subject, the intrepid interviewer went for the kill, by asking:

So you’d call yourself a pessimist on this front.

To which Crawford replied:

Yeah, I think that’s valid.

Hey, if millions of internet nerds the world over can take pleasure in proving their intellectual superiority by casually dismissing practically everything they encounter as being derivative of (and therefore inferior to) something else (about which they happen to be an “expert”) why can’t Chris Crawford? I mean, if we’re comparing brain pans, after all, I think he would probably win. The first half of this interview just goes to show that he would agree. Which is a shame because he really does have a lot to say in the latter-half of the piece, and some of it even makes sense.

The general gist would seem to be that Crawford believes the industry has reached an evolutionary dead-end, and should be supplanted, or at the very least supplemented by something new and original. As it would happen, he’s currently working on just such a thing.

Storytron, Crawford’s brain-child-in-development (for almost ten years), is his attempt to create an interactive storytelling engine; the holy grail of gaming, in other words. Interactive storytelling places the player in the role of protagonist inside of a fictional tale, much like an adventure game or Choose Your Own Adventure book, but much, much more interactive.

As Crawford himself notes, there’s been a lot of talk about this sort of game, but very little actual product has been developed. Read: none. Is interactive storytelling then the New Revolution in gaming, or simply a red herring? Should we expect interactive storytelling based games any time soon? In Crawford’s own words:

No, this is still academic research, and I think it is quite revealing that much of this research has led to a dead end.

Quite. The funny thing about visionary genius-types is that they almost always sound like they’re completely bat-guano insane. Crawford is no exception, but his vision is a compelling one, and he sells it pretty darn well. It almost makes me want to believe …

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