[Interview] Five: Douglass C. Perry

Five questions, five answers. Simple as that.
Author: Marc N. Kleinhenz
Published: January 1, 2011

TotalPlayStation's Five interview series takes the brightest minds from the journalistic and game development worlds and asks them to expound on their personal benchmarks of the videogame industry, exploring the crucial components of narrative, music, gameplay, graphics, and character.

Douglass C. Perry first became intertwined with gaming journo history when he served as the managing editor for Next Generation magazine, still, nine years after its cancellation, the best-conceived and -executed videogame publication in the Western hemisphere. He doubly secured a place for himself in the history books when Next Genís parent company, Imagine Media, asked him to help found its brand-new web presence: the Imagine Gaming Network, which, 14 years later, is known as IGN.com and is the biggest entertainment site in the world.

But Dougís record doesnít stop there. Heís also been involved with DailyRadar.com, GameTap.com, and Electronic Gaming Monthly and has written for NewsWeek, PC Gamer, and CNN. And just to round things off, heís penned 11 strategy guides and has served as a consultant for several companies, including publishers and developers. His current gig is editorial director for Metacafe.com.

[Plot Point/Character Beat/Story Twist]
For someone who rarely plays RPGs, the odds of finding a good, compelling videogame story is akin to catching a 200-pound yellow foot tuna Ė for a guy who fishes every 10 years.

In the last two years, however, Iíve found that game stories have grown in depth and breadth, and itís been a real treat. There is a great series of sci-fi chapters that have spanned from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, and will inevitably bridge to Mass Effect 3. Naughty Dog has elevated the quality of voice acting, writing, and character development in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to a whole new level. And, for me, I felt the story behind Brutal Legend was fun, comical, and ultimately solidly constructed and well-voice-acted by Jack Black. And who didnít absolutely love the first 10 minutes of BioShock?

The storyline thatís had me in a tizzy for the last six months, however, is Red Dead Redemption. More specifically, the ending demonstrates a totally unconventional approach to traditional story endings (a spoiler is coming for those of you who havenít already beaten this game): John Marsden, the lead character, who youíll sink 40-60 hours playing, dies in the end. After doing his due diligence for the government and returning to his wife and child to become the father he feels he should become, he is unmercifully gunned down. But thatís not the end. Rockstarís creative storytellers place you in the shoes of his son and give you the chance to seek, and get, redemption. Like all games, the storytellers left room open for a sequel, but itís only subtly there, like an afterthought. The focus is strong, the redemption is classically done in Western style, and itís distanced from the core focus of the game. For me, Red Dead Redemption represents a clear and definite high point in game story narration.

[Song and/or Soundtrack]
I apologize if this isnít obscure enough, or if it isnít nerdcore enough. I apologize for the obviousness of it all. But, for me, the best soundtrack ever is still the multi-disc hardbox compilation from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The brilliance of the hilariously stupid DJs, talk radio shows, and commercials are all superb on their own. And Blondieís ďAtomic,Ē Quiet Riotís ďCum on, Feel the Noise,Ē Laura Braniganís ďSelf-Control,Ē and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Fiveís ďThe MessageĒ represent great musical taste and hard-to-pick selections from the burgeoning punk and New Wave of the 1980s.

When compared to the hefty selection of outstanding records from that time period that didnít make it into the soundtrack, the selections stand out as even greater. And if you donít like one of the stations, or genres, there are several more to choose from. For me, I learned about bands I had either forgotten about or had never fully explored. I was baptized with particular selections. Separated from the rest of the songs on Eat to the Beat, Blondieís ďAtomicĒ Ė which I had never truly listened to even though I had owned the album Ė enabled me to experience it as a totally new song.

[Gameplay Mechanic]
Jeez, my favorite gameplay mechanic? Which of the two dozen brilliant game mechanics must I pick from? There is clutching with mere fingers to the elbows of stone titans in Shadow of the Colossus. There are the basic-yet-revolutionary 3D controls in Super Mario 64. Who could forget tugging at your pale princessís hands in Ico? Then there is the pull of warm eddies that lift your hang glider into the air in Pilot Wings 64. What about the various bizarre bioguns in Oddworld: Strangerís Wrath? All of those are my favorites, but the one that still tops them all is the simple-yet-brilliant Ė and under-appreciated Ė grappling hook in Bionic Commando. With levels that force you to use the mechanic in every way possible Ė creating combos, forcing players to use rhythm, and anticipating the unexpected Ė the basic act of swinging on a wire takes on a whole new meaning.

[Graphical Effect]
Iím gonna make this simple, because Iím on vacation and I want to just get some sleep. But my pick of BioShockís city of Rapture should be the graphic effect that tops my list. The underwater city is unreasonably beautiful and well-executed from every angle and perspective. Itís imaginative and alluring.

But because itís 2011, and indie games are exploding like a New York fire hydrant in July, the simple-but-carefully-crafted darkness in the indie download Limbo is my current favorite graphical effect. The minimalism of the game is intelligently captured by the use of darkness, shadow, and the occasional glimmer of light, all, of course, centered around that little boyís bright, sad, illuminating eyes.

I know Iím in the minority here, but despite all the deserved love that is adorned on Uncharted 2, BioShock, Mass Effect, and Heavy Rain for character development, I absolutely loved Brutal Legendís Eddie Riggs. Ever since Jack Black helped make High Fidelity one of my all-time top five favorite movies, Iíve thought heíd make a great videogame character. In BL, he nailed the bravado, kiss-my-ass attitude, and idiotic fearlessness that made a lifelong roadie a legendary hero. Under Tim Schaeferís guidance, he spat off one-liners and retorted to opponents with apathetic glee like few others have done. He made me laugh, entertained me, and was the right guy in the right part in every way.

Thatís my five and Iím sticking to Ďem.

[The Five Archive]

Javi Rodriguez

Paul Semel

Andre Segers

Chris Roper

Dave Zdyrko

Micah Seff

Sam Bishop

Crispin Boyer

Rus McLaughlin

Chris Dahlen