For the past 30 years, discussions about the merits of video games, their strong suits and shortcomings, and what their role in society is have been touted by both the common man and the famous. And while the discussions will most likely rage on for another few decades, sometimes you see a statement and just have to stop for a second. In a panel at the University of Southern California in 2013, George Lucas had made the statement that video games can’t have plots.

“They’re always going to be different,” Lucas said when asked if movies and games were going to become more similar. “They’re never going to be the same. Storytelling is about two things. It’s about character and plot.”

“Like sports. It’s about Tebow. It’s about, you know, Kobe. They’re starting to realize that if they focus on the characters it makes the game much richer. But by its very nature there cannot be a plot in a game. You can’t plot out a football game. You can’t plot out feeding Christians to lions. It’s not a plot.”

As the head writer, director, and creative source of the Star Wars prequels, he’s in a tight spot for making such a bold brush stroke of an answer. After all, glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The second panelist, Steven Spielberg, emphasized George Lucas’s point, but with some actual points to argue and wrestle with.

“I think the key divide between interactive media and the narrative media that we do is the difficulty in opening up an emphatic pathway between the gamer and the character — as differentiated from the audience and the characters in a movie or a television show,” Spielberg stated. He then used a hypothetical comparison of a game based off saving babies falling off of buildings to emphasize the argument.

“That idea came from an urge of a gamer to say, ‘Let’s create an empathic experience for a player to save babies.’ Who’s more helpless than a baby thrown into the air, heading for the ground? You gotta catch the baby. But as players started to play the game they stopped looking at the baby as a human being and they started looking at the baby as a score… So they were looking at the numbers they were racking up, and the baby became parenthetical to the calculation in scoring more points than your friends and being able to brag about it at school the next day.”

Spielberg definitely has a point that game developers have been keen to address: seeing the game as more than a game, as something with humanity and not something played in a “practicality first” mindset.

How do you feel about the statements these prolific directors made about video game narrative? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you might even think about one of these director’s own movie plots.

  • szupan

    Wow. All I have to say here is: Howard The Duck. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Strange Magic.

    This guy wouldn’t know a “plot” if one ran him over with a 4×4. I’m starting to think that the original Star Wars was an accident.

    • Aron Love

      Why would you not think it was an accident? It was a shitty story about a farm boy and his pets that meet an old wise man who takes the farm boy to a pirate and his pet who all then decide to save a princess for the evil wizard and his knight in black. The only thing ever done by Lucas that was actually good was putting his shit story in space. It was the dude that made the models and whoever did casting that made Star Wars the cultural phenomenon it is. Lucas always has been and always will be a fucking idiot.

      • Bruce Key

        The article is not about good or bad plots, it’s about Lucas saying that games can’t have ANY plot. Star Wars is a story about a father and son, which you apparently missed, given your child-like and shortsighted synopsis of the story. Whether the plot is good or bad is irrelevant, because there IS a plot.

        You can praise any Star Wars production team member you want, but it won’t change the fact that they would not have even had a film to work on in the first place if Lucas hadn’t come up with the story and made the decision to turn it into a film. If you like Star Wars AT ALL, in ANY capacity, for ANY reason, you are obliged to give credit to Lucas. I think he screwed up episodes 1-3 too, but I’m still smart enough to recognize the fact that Star Wars exists ONLY because of Lucas.

        However, I will agree that he clearly didn’t know anything about video games when he made the statement that is the focus of this article.

        • Aron Love

          Good thing I was reply to someone else and not commenting on the article. Frankly don’t give a flying fuck about the article or what Lucas thinks. And fuck that father and son bullshit, this wasn’t some carefully crafted story but rather a trainwreck that had an amazing explosion that people enjoyed watching.

  • phinn

    Says the idiot who wrote the worst story, characters and plot of any trilogy in history with Episodes 1-3. Why was the best film in the saga Empire Strikes Back? Because he had almost nothing to do with it.

  • Whats the point of this article bringing up a statement from two years ago?

    • Mr.Towel

      Heh, probably because as the new movie gets closer anything remotely related to Star Wars becomes more relevant to people

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