At Wednesday’s Video Game BAFTAs, PS3 exclusive interactive drama Heavy Rain scooped the awards for technical innovation, original music and story. As soon as the ceremony finished, I braved the media room – which was a scrum fiercer than anything at this year’s Six Nations – to grab an interview with David Cage, Heavy Rain’s writer and director.
What are your initial feelings after collecting three BAFTA awards this evening?
I’m very proud to have collected three awards. We came here with no expectations and I’m proud for my team who all worked so hard during those three years of development. I’m also proud for Sony, because they took a big gamble on this game and showed faith and support throughout, which not all publishers would have done.
Which is the most gratifying to you personally: winning awards, critical acclaim or lots of sales?
Definitely sales, and not because of the money. When you create games, you don’t create them for journalists or awards panels; you create them for real people – for gamers. To have nearly two million people paying good money to play Heavy Rain is a really great feeling for me.
Which of tonight’s awards is the most pleasing?
I’m proud of all of them but, from a personal point of view, it has to be best story. I worked so hard on this aspect of the game, inventing rules for the world; trying to be creative and emotional while all the time thinking about the technical aspects like structure and the different variables that were necessary to make it all work. I spent a year writing for 12 to 15 hours a day and there have been many personal sacrifices. As I said on-stage, I want to dedicate this all to my family, especially my two sons, who I didn’t see much of during that time but they shared my passion.
Can the auteur theory be applied to games, with development teams getting bigger all the time?
It must be applied to games – there is no other way. If this industry wants to mature and evolve then we need to talk about emotions and work on stories that appeal to all people, not just hardcore gamers between the ages of 15 and 17. We have a much wider market out there just waiting to interact if we can go to them with the right ideas.
I know no good stories written by 50 people. A story is something emotional; something personal that you want to share and it is strongly linked to your own life and experiences. We need auteurs and the biggest problem in this industry is that we don’t trust them – we trust programmers instead. Auteurs are scary because they come back with ideas, but that is exactly what this industry should be about.
We are working with a young medium and there is no pre-existing language with which to tell an interactive story. Everyone needs to learn and I’ve had 15 years of learning, starting with Omikron: The Nomad Soul. Nobody knew what the story was about in that game because it was so messy and poorly told, but then I had the chance to work on Fahrenheit and the story was kind of OK for two-thirds of the game, but got a bit messy at the end. So I progressed some more as a writer and, with Heavy Rain, I feel that there were many stories in there and they were all good from start to finish.
Heavy Rain is the result of those 15 years of fighting and struggling with this new language. Receiving this award is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my career but I don’t see it as an achievement, more like the first step – it’s like I’ve finally got something that works. Now, I can build on it and continue learning. I’m a student and I’m still at the beginning.
For our next project we’re going to build on what we have discovered with Heavy Rain. We own this genre of Interactive Drama and we want to show that Heavy Rain was not a coincidence; it is something that makes sense and we can build on it.
At the same time, we will not make a sequel and I made that very clear from the beginning, regardless of whether the game was a success or a failure, because I wanted to show that this is a new genre that you can use to tell any kind of story, in any style.
We’re going to be exploring a different direction, which will still be very dark and still for adults, but completely different to Heavy Rain. Our challenge is to satisfy our fans, and also surprise them.