With GTA IV’s release right around the corner, and our social lives hanging in the balance as a result, co-founder of Rockstar Games Dan Houser has sat down for a rare interview where he discussed GTA from a marketing perspective, publicity, and everything in between.
So why the interview in the first place? Houser prefers to stay away from the media because he would like his work to speak for itself. A lot of outlets tend to look at video games from strictly a business perspective. Houser sees video games as becoming an art form in the eyes of mainstream media. In the end, it’s not all about money, but rather how the final product affects the people and gain a place in popular culture. Houser explains:
“I often — without mentioning any names — think some of our big competitor titles, their marketing campaign is, “Look at our great marketing campaign!” Ours is, “Look at the game, experience the game hopefully.” Then we want to have further conversations with people once they play the game properly. But the two things we want to avoid are talking purely about this as a business — its not, this is a creative activity. Obviously its young, and its not fully mature but we are trying to move it forward as quickly as we can. And obviously the counter to that is everyone wants to go on the controversy story. I’m like, “We can talk about anything in context.” Movies moved beyond that years ago.”
Speaking of movies, the chances of a movie based on GTA has been proposed, but it’s not too likely that it will happen right now. Houser stresses the media’s problem with recognizing a video game as a team effort. When it comes to movies, the media will tend to overlook the hundreds of people who worked on the film, and concentrate on the actor.
“It’s us and another well over 100 other people. I think what makes “GTA” special is still pretty much the same core people as “GTA 3.” It’s still the same core people here and in Scotland all working on it. That’s kind of unique in the games industry.”
For GTA IV as a game, one of the main differences of that separates it from others in the series is the physics engine. Houser gave an example of when someone falls down, their body reacts to the impact in real time. The characters facial animations also convey accurate emotions that gives the game a lot more depth. The writing this time around also reflects the advancements in graphics and physics the game has undergone. We should also look for more original writing as well, as it’s present in GTA IV.
On the subject of controversy, Houser had a couple of viewpoints about the matter. On one level, he sees the games as a cultural artifact, and since people obviously love the titles, it doesn’t matter what the critics say. But he also had this to say:
“If this was a movie or TV show and was the best in its field, you’d give it loads of awards and put those awards shows on television. I genuinely don’t aspire to that, but I do aspire to not being called an asshole for doing the same thing in a videogame. So what you’re really saying is, “It’s not the content, it’s the medium.” You’ve proven that by your actions in other areas. So what is it about the medium you don’t like, because maybe we should challenge those ideas. It’s not what you think it is to a lot of people. To us it’s way of experimenting with non-linear interactive storylines.”
Strong words from the co-founder of Rockstar games. It’s great to see such a high ranking person in the company speak so frankly about their product. By the sounds of it, we can rest assured – as long as the chain of command stays the same, the GTA series will continue to innovate.
[See also: Grand Theft Auto IV gallery]