Oddworld CEO: “The games industry has more Britney Spears-class content than Pink Floyd”

Tuesday, 22nd October 2013 09:07 GMT By Dave Cook

Oddworld co-creator Lorne Lanning has spoken out against the abundance of ‘Britney Spears-class’ games out there today, and has called on the industry to produce more intelligent, deeper and relevant content.

Speaking with Polygon, Lanning mused, “As storytellers in the 21st century, many designers, creators, and writers will be compelled to make deeper more meaningful and relevant content that reflects the challenging issues happening in the world around them today.

“Storytellers have been doing this from the beginning. Shakespeare reflected governmental corruption in his plays, without preaching about the obvious issues of his day. Pink Floyd was able to express cleverly their issues with the negative music industry practices and general dismay with capitalism, while in turn making some of the greatest selling entertainment music of all time.”

“When content is deeper and more meaningful, then you can still create highly digestible and widely consumable entertainment products. Or, you can make Britney Spears albums. The games industry has more Britney Spears-class content than Pink Floyd. We just always aimed to deliver more of the later.”

Part of the problem, Lanning says, is that publisher’s marketing departments are more interested in sales than the subject matter itself. He added, “The least likely place we should expect to see more subtly influential, deeper content is from those products with the highest budgets and greatest focus on ‘must have massive audience consumption results.’ Anything that looks to possibly rock the boat toward that end, and reduce the size of the possible audience take will prove more likely to be cut from the end product before it ever makes it to the shelf.”

Echoing the opinion of many developers we’ve spoken to over the years, Lanning conceded that the indie space is producing the most interesting and topically challenging content today. He continued, “The more audiences realize that deeper content reflecting relevant truths can be more refreshing and engaging, [the more] we see documentary films having greater successes than ever in history. This is reflective of an evolving appetite that more people want more meaningful content and want to walk away from their experiences with more lasting impressions that add ‘more value to their lives.’”

“This is why indie music is trending far more interesting in its content than the big pop stars with the highest short term sales,” he added. “This is why indie films have more meaningful and lasting results on audiences than big blockbusters. Games are no different. It’s an investment versus returns reality.

“The best way to see deeper content manifesting in any of those mediums, is for creators to figure out how to deliver the products cheaper so that they may retain far more creative influence in the end product. Great content lasts the test of time, big pop for the moment evaporates from the history books more quickly.”

Do you agree? Is the indie space producing the most interesting and though-provoking content out there today? Is the blockbuster arena in a rut? Let us know below.




  1. CyberMarco

    Amen to that!

    Actually the more mainstream/popular a medium gets, the more shittier is going to be. That different/unique “feeling” is fading as more people try to harvest it.

    The claws of capitalism!

    Let’s rock! \m/ \m/

    #1 11 months ago
  2. Mr Sparkle

    Hmmm…What to do when you hate both of those?

    #2 11 months ago
  3. monkeygourmet

    Def agree with this.

    It’s the same with anything that becomes popular though. The real sad factor though, is when visions are changed / perverted to fit in with what a big comapny thinks is ‘in’.

    Many examples of games and great IP’s losing there way this generation through greed.

    Another problem with ‘popular’ gaming, is that it’s such a varied medium. That means, they can cram so much ‘cool’ stuff into one project and it can become a complete souless cluster fuck.

    Something that really stood out for me was playing the new ‘Syndicate’ game. There was a agent style boss fight and suddenly, out of nowhere, this extremly shitty Dubstep kicked in to make the fight TEH INTENSE!!!

    I just thought… Im not the target demographic anymore…

    #3 11 months ago
  4. DrDamn

    I agree to an extent but pressing L2 + O to Fart sounds a lot more Britney Spears than Pink Floyd ;)

    #4 11 months ago
  5. monkeygourmet



    #5 11 months ago
  6. tenthousandgothsonacid

    Pffft ‘Toxic’ is better than most of the Roger Waters era stuff from Animals onwards :)

    #6 11 months ago
  7. DSB

    It’s really not a failure of any medium if it doesn’t critisize society Lorne. That’s looking at it way too narrowly. It should be about a good story as part of a good experience, rather than always making a difference.

    If you make a difference, good, but that’s not the object.

    But aside from that I think it’s an inconvenient truth. Gaming is still a medium that’s perfectly content wallowing in B-movie content instead of ever reaching for the stars.

    We’re slowly going to get there as the industry attracts better and better talent, and the mediums start to cross over, but it’s going to be painfully slow, and that’s why it’s my mantra that videogaming is looking for its Charlie Chaplin.

    The sort of guy who looks at an industry that only cares about churning out near-identical movies that never venture further than one guy kicking another guy in the butt, and really strives to take it a lot further than that.

    #7 11 months ago
  8. fihar

    Really? It’s 2013 and the best thing he can use as an analogue is Britney Spears and Pink Floyd?
    Shouldn’t it be like, Flo Rida and Arcade Fire or something?

    On a serious note, I get what he’s saying but I don’t think it’s as bad as he described, just like monkey said, it’s just that the industry is only entering this situation now. I mean, the Flo Ridas, the LMFAOs, and the will.i.ams still exists in the music industry and they’re still just as many as they always have been, if not more.
    The problem he stated isn’t just limited to the video game industry, the film and the music industry is pretty much the same I’m certain.

    The dust will eventually settle in for the video game industry. The masses can still have what they want, and the more discerning customers will have no trouble finding what they want as well.

    #8 11 months ago
  9. DSB

    @8 I don’t think that’s true at all. Queens of the Stone Age, Oh Land, Pink Floyd, Sia and countless other artists that are truly musicians rather than neatly designed marketing concepts, are still backed by multinational, filthy rich record labels. You don’t see EA or Activision giving half a fuck about indies, regardless of how talented they are.

    And while A&Rs are often treated like gutter trash by the business segment, they still influence the industry itself, so you essentially have (well, mostly) very competent enthusiasts helping to pick and vet the investments, whereas the videogame industry often has these soulless suits trying to judge concepts that they don’t understand, because they’ve never touched a videogame.

    It’s apples and pears.

    If I was in videogame publishing, I’d look for the smartest, most competent indie developer I could find and hire him to help me find or define the next big amazing videogame. That would be doing it like the music industry.

    #9 11 months ago
  10. fihar

    Again, the music industry has already went through this phase while we’re still pretty much in the middle of it. The comparison is more like a ripe apple and an unripe one.

    Valve has started doing this with Portal and Sony with thatgamecompany and there are quite possibly other examples as well. Call me a naive but I’m pretty sure EA and Activision will eventually come around.

    #10 11 months ago
  11. DSB

    @10 Ah, fair point. We can hope!

    That’s what I mean by Charlie Chaplin. Before he came long movies as a whole were really low brow and primitive.

    Maybe I’m a pessimist, but it seems to me like the industry is doubling down on keeping games primitive and predictable. Their only concern seems to be delivering more of the same to the exact same customers, rather than trying to find the next big thing that will actually deliver gaming to entirely new people.

    #11 11 months ago
  12. fearmonkey

    All I can think of is Activision releasing another COD and saying “oops I did it again”.

    #12 11 months ago
  13. fihar

    Yeah, but wasn’t Charlie Chaplin the one that refused to move to talkies because, I quote, “They are defeating the meaning of the screen”?
    Citizen Kane and Vertigo is a talkie.
    I found it odd that you use him as an analogue for this case.

    I thought the mobile push of recent years proves that companies are actually tapping into an entirely different group of people?
    And there already was a big thing that delivers gaming to an entirely new people, it’s called the Wii.

    I don’t think you can reach an entirely new group of people by relying on software though, it has to come from the hardware side. Touchscreen did wonders for mobile devices and handhelds. Motion control did the same for the Wii and for the next thing, Oculus Rift perhaps?

    #13 11 months ago
  14. DSB

    @13 That’s technology though. His contribution was in shifting the entire way the industry conducted itself.

    I’m not saying he was the be all and end all, but really everybody was shit scared of talkies. It was new tech, they had all become famous on basically being clowns, rather than real actors, but keep in mind that Chaplin was one of the few silent movie actors who managed to nail it after the transition.

    The Great Dictator is arguably one of the best things he’s ever done, and it would never have been the same without the Hynkelspeak or “Look Up Hannah”.

    What makes him important is that he was instrumental in handing the power over to creatives rather than whoever is holding cash, and thinking cash.

    I beat this drum a lot, but Jason Rubin is a similar type.

    He obviously felt pressured to leave the company after making that speech, so unlike Chaplin he didn’t win, and obviously the creatives don’t feel strong enough to push their influence yet, but guys like Rubin are what the industry needs in my opinion.

    #14 11 months ago
  15. bradk825

    Yes and no. I find there is some fluff coming out of AAA right now but there is also some great storytelling being produced.

    I take things said by Lanning with a grain of salt. He is very much a “I am a genius and everyone else produces pure shit” kind of personality according to everything I’ve read from him. E.G. he just compared himself to Shakespeare.

    I’ve played games this year in which I found the story exciting, addictive and intelligent. I’ve also played games where the story was an afterthought. We’ll soon be seeing what happens when you have hacktivists deciding to take their vigilante justice into the physical world in WatchDogs for example. That’s a very interesting idea driven by current events (Annonymous and their fellows) and it’s coming from a AAA studio.

    It’s also worth mentioning that there is a mix coming out of the indie scene too. How many indie titles can you buy right now that are nothing more than a rip off of another game? An indie title just got pulled from the virtual shelf at Steam for being incomplete.

    So I’d say he has a point as far as some of the content that’s out there, but he’s being far too general as usual.

    #15 11 months ago
  16. fihar

    Ah, I see your point.
    I’m not familiar with Chaplin all that much really, The Circus is pretty much the only thing I’m familiar with, and I never knew that Rubin was that outspoken. Granted, I was 13 when he made that speech and back then I don’t even knew the guy existed.
    Thank you for pointing that one out.

    Still, I always thought that creative freedom is something you earn though. I seriously doubt Inception would have been made if Nolan’s Batman bombed.
    And that deal Bungie had with Activision allows them to keep the rights to any game they made for the duration of the deal didn’t it? And as I understand it, Sony is quite lenient on Team ICO and Naughty Dog.

    Indies and newcomers are still going to have a hard time if they ever wanted to break into traditional console space but The Chinese Room and thatgamecompany did it and at fear of sounding like a fanboy, I have complete faith that Sony will do the right thing in the hopefully not-so-far future.

    #16 11 months ago

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