Can a video game be as much a work of art as a novel? David Cage, the writer and director of Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain, creates games that put characters and storytelling above guns and monsters. As he prepares to release his latest title, Beyond: Two Souls, he tells us about writing a new kind of video game and how indie developers will rescue an industry that’s drowning in blockbusters.
Beyond was inspired by an experience in my personal life
"I lost someone I’m really close to in my family, and that was quite a shocking experience. It was totally unexpected and brutal. One second this person is there and you love her and the next second this person is gone, forever."
I had in mind a story of a girl who has a link with an invisible entity
"But the more I wrote, the more I realised I was writing about what I had experienced. Writing is a strange process, because you don’t always know what you have to say when you start. It’s only when you read yourself that you realise 'okay, this is what my inner voice had to say.'
"I know it’s unusual to write a video game that is personal and moving. The video game medium is not known for writing very personal and intimate things. But this medium is as valid as any other to say what you have to say, so why not?"
The script for Beyond was over 2,000 pages long
"It’s difficult to say how much of it a player will experience, because different players do very, very different things. Some will see 70% of what I wrote, some will see 40%. My goal when I was writing was to make sure that whatever path you take in the story, it’s solid, it’s consistent, it’s enjoyable and it’s correctly paced. And that was the main challenge, because when you have so much freedom in this narrative space that I tried to create, it’s difficult to guarantee that whatever route you take, it’s going to be an interesting journey. But that’s also the best part of the challenge."
I was a composer before I wrote video games
"And I ended up realising that the creative process is the creative process, and whether you use it to create music or a novel or a game, basically it’s the same thing. It’s a way to listen to your inner voice, in a way, and you can express it with different techniques, if you’re a musician or a painter or a writer, but basically it’s the same thing."
For me, writing films is like taking the audience for a ride
"You know exactly where you want to go, where it’s going to go up and down, and when it’s going to be scary, and you control all those things absolutely. But when you’re writing a game, you create a narrative space that’s three-dimensional, and the player is free, so he’s not on a ride any more, he’s on a road. And how he explores the road is up to him. Writing something interactive is very exciting because you become the co-writer with the player. The player helps you decide what story is told, so it’s a collaborative work, and it’s also more immersive for the player. The player is in the shoes of the main character and really feels, in a unique way, what your character feels."