Tim Schafer says being inclusive makes better video games

Tim Schafer

Double Fine boss Tim Schafer said video games being “inclusive” make for better experiences, noting comedy in his old games wouldn’t fly in today’s culture.

Schafer noted there was “a lot less sensitivity” in the games industry when he started back in 1989, and talked up the differences between Psychonauts and Psychonauts 2, which were released 16 years apart.

“Some things we did in the first game, we didn’t do in the second game on purpose – but we’re just older, and had more sensitivity to a lot of issues that naturally express themselves in the game,” Tim Schafer said (via NME).

The company boss said Double Fine felt that it “was important that it had the same kind of jokes and humour, but [also] cared more.”

“It was really important – because it’s a comedy – that people knew we weren’t making fun of people, but were looking humorously and lovingly at the human psyche,” Schafer said.

Tim Schafer also said inclusivity is “an ongoing education” for everyone, and that nothing is set in stone.

“I thought I’d learned a lot, and then we tested a game and people pointed out a word and asked if we knew what this word means to certain people,” Schafer said. “I had no idea – and people will criticise that and say ‘woke culture, PC police’ and stuff – but for any art, I’m thinking about how my art will be interpreted by the viewer. If I’m making a horror game, I want the viewer to be scared – is this effectively scaring people? If it’s a comedy, is it making people laugh? Is a romantic comedy making people feel romantic?

“If you’re told you’re hurting people [and it’s] a comedy, it’s not supposed to be hurting people. You naturally want to think about how your words affect people, and make sure that the artistic intent is successful. Are you using shaming words? Alienating depictions of people?”

Lastly, Tim Schafer noted the best writing method is to avoid stereotypes, while adding your own personal research is key.

“The best writing is never based on stereotypes,” Schafer explained. “The best writing is based on research, or real world found-dialogue, or your own personal experiences. It always makes for writing that punches through as unique, as opposed to a grab bag of stereotypes.”

Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s latest game, Psychonauts 2, has been available since August 2021 across Windows PC (via Steam and the Microsoft Store), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 4. In case you missed it, you can find our thorough review on the game here.

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