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Chen: Designers Of Online Games 'Often Do Lazy Work'

Jenova Chen, creative director at thatgamecompany and co-designer of the upcoming Journey has criticized designers of online games for "lazy work", issuing a challenge to make their games "relevant" to people's lives.

Simon Parkin, Contributor

January 12, 2011

2 Min Read

Jenova Chen, co-founder of thatgamecompany (Flower) and co-designer of the company's forthcoming Journey has criticized designers of some online games for "lazy work", saying they just add online features to old single player mechanics. In an interview with the U.S. PlayStation Blog Chen said: "It’s important [to challenge preconceived notions about what makes a multiplayer game] because your brain can be stimulated intellectually, emotionally, and socially." "When people design online games, they often do lazy work," he said. "They bring an existing single-player game — an RPG, an RTS, a fighting game, a shooter — and duct tape on some online technology. They say: 'okay, there’s multiple players, now do something cool. Here, play a kid’s game like Capture the Flag.' That’s the level of design." With Journey, Chen wanted to think more deeply about the design aims of the multiplayer experience. "If you really wanted to stimulate a social activity, you need to re-think it from the ground up," he said. "What is the skill [the player is] supposed to acquire? Accuracy? Or is it the ability to convince others? If the skill is social, it’ll be very relevant and useful. People still play poker. Why? Because the skill of deception is useful for real life." "Look at online games. How many skills are based on social elements? Most games are based on grinding, accuracy, physical dexterity. They are not social games. They’re just old games with online features." Chen was quick to point out that he enjoys first person shooters such as Call of Duty, but laid down a challenge to developers to pay more attention to making multiplayer experiences relevant to people's lives. "People still play chess because strategic thinking is useful," he said. "Brain training games, fitness games…these have relevance. People don’t have much time to waste, so they want relevance. Whether it’s emotional relevance, like experiencing joy or sadness, or intellectual relevance, or social relevance."

About the Author(s)

Simon Parkin


Simon Parkin is a freelance writer and journalist from England. He primarily writes about video games, the people who make them and the weird stories that happen in and around them for a variety of specialist and mainstream outlets including The Guardian and the New Yorker.

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