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Bushnell clarifies 'unadulterated trash' talk, moans about innovation etc.


Following up on Nolan Bushnell's recent labeling of our post-Pong games as "unadulterated trash," Gametap's Curt Feldman decided to have a chat with the Atari founder on the tel-uh-fohn. In the resulting interview, Nolan Bushnell explains that his scorn is just reserved for a "narrow segment" of gaming, which happens to include (you're not going to like this) Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto. While Rockstar's sandbox gets predictably deplored for its "deification of antisocial behavior," Bungie's critically acclaimed shooter is deemed no more than "Doom 1 in different clothing." As he puts it, "Clothing or not, the clothing is nicer, but the game is the same."

It seems spurts of progress and nuance are all but lost in the despicable genre condom being passed about the industry, and Bushnell quickly falls into the usual prominent designer cliché of harping on a lack of oh-my-god-there-it-is innovation in games. Among the experiences that aren't the same, Bushnell lists the alternate input methods of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution (which, sans peripherals, are essentially the same game) and of course, the Wii. "Even though the bowling is the same, doing it on the videogame, using the Wii controller, that's an innovation," says Bushnell. That's good news for Wii Pong Tennis, not to mention Truth or Dare (now played by rubbing your greasy finger on a touchscreen in your local uWink restaurant.)

"There's a lot of people [who] think that bigger, faster, better is an innovation. It's not. It's just bigger, faster, better." Innovation is marvelous, but not when it's used as a simplistic and meaningless buzzword which somehow implies that innovating just for the sake of it takes precedence over making games better. If only innovation could be so simply marked, torn out and served on a plate! We think Bushnell was right to levy criticism against the majority of games -- which, much like ten years ago, aren't "better" in any way whatsoever -- but don't believe that ticking an obvious innovation box gets you a free pass. There are a plethora of factors that can yield a fun and engaging title, which is ultimately what gamers are looking for. Finding innovation in a box might be more likely in a world where you only experience the things you like once, experience new genres every ten minutes and play Tetris with your toes.

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