He's probably not the only game developer who is angry with Rockstar, but Warren Spector is certainly the most outspoken.
As reported in GameDAILY Biz, Spector, designer of best-selling games like Deus Ex and Thief, yearns for more design creativity and fewer "mindless pathetic killfests." Spector, who made his remarks at the just-completed Montreal International Game Summit, credits the Grand Theft Auto with a "brilliant" game design, but takes issue with its content.
"I'm really angry at the Rockstar guys," he said. "Not like I'm going to go beat them up and yell at them, but they frustrate me because Grand Theft Auto III, in particular, was an amazing advance in game design. It was a stunning accomplishment as a game design. And it was wrapped in a context that completely for me undid all the good they did on the design side."
Spector is also frustrated because he would like to use GTA's advances as an example of how video gaming has evolved, but can't.
"It's like I want to tell my mother 'This is what games can be.' But I can't because they don't get past the beating people up with a baseball bat, stealing cars and crashing them, and the foul language and stuff. At this point, GTA is the ultimate urban thuggery simulation, and you can't take a step back from that. But I sure wish they would apply the same level of design genius to something we really could show enriches the culture instead of debases it."
Spector, formerly with Ion Storm and now CEO of Junction Point Studios, blames Rockstar for putting the whole of the video game business at risk.
"The fact is things could get a lot worse for us and it could happen very soon," he said. "We are dead square in the cultural crosshairs right now," Spector said. "The kids, the teens, the 20-somethings, they love us. And what that means is the parents and politicians don't. There's a whole generation of folks out there who do not get games... They don't understand why their son is barricading himself in his room killing demons all day. And they don't understand why their daughter, instead of playing with Barbies which is something they understand, is instead raising families of little virtual electronic people. They don't get it. And people blame and fear what they don't understand."
Spector warns that the issue must be addressed.
"This is not just something we can say 'Ah well, screw them. They're all going to die some day...' There is a really fine line between waiting for a problem to go away, because you know it inevitably will, and just sticking your head in the sand and pretending it doesn't exist... And the fact is things could get a lot worse for us and it could happen very soon... I do think that a lot of the games we make lead to a coarsening of our culture. And I think that inevitably leads to government and judicial intervention."