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Interviews

Randy Pitchford interview: 'For me, making games is like playing with amazing toys'

Gearbox boss on critics, Borderlands 2 and games as art

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Would you do anything differently if you were remaking any of your games?

I don't regret anything, but I do look forward to doing more in certain spaces. I love our Brothers In Arms brand and I'm looking forward to the things we have to do there; twisting the brand in Furious 4 and also following Sergeant Baker and the authentic game. And there's some uncharted territory there I'm excited to talk about later.

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So the classic Brothers In Arms games aren't going away?

I love them. I'm really proud of that stuff. We have more to do there, that's all I'll say. And clearly, when I acquired Duke Nukem I didn't acquire it just so Forever could come out. That's a prerequisite to what the real goal was - to build the real Duke Nukem game . I haven't announced anything yet, but there are things looking ahead that are going to be really exciting. In many ways I feel like I'm just getting started.

Is the next generation of games for you going to be about prettier games, or is it going to be about new ways to play?

In this exact second in time, my mind share is mostly consumed with the very sober and important goal of making sure Borderlands 2 is delivered and is awesome. Beyond that I've got Aliens Colonial Marines coming in February. For me, making games is like playing with amazing toys.

What's neat is that in this industry there are always new technologies that allow you to do a lot of things. Sometimes new types of gameplay will emerge and sometimes it allows for different conveniences in how we play games - mobile games, streaming... all of that is really exciting. I think that, ultimately, what we get are more options and more pathways that help content and customers reach one another. It brings us closer together than ever before, which is really exciting. I love all that stuff. I'm a big fan of everything that's going to move the ball ahead.

We're at a point where many developers feel compelled to pander to an audience only interested in military shooters and sports games. Does the current market limit you?

Well, what we create is certainly art, and in art there's a spectrum between expression and commercialism. On the extreme expression side of the spectrum the thing only exists for the artist. Some of the stuff that comes from that side of the spectrum is so bizarre and unilateral that there is no audience for it.

No one can understand it. It's the artist's art and that's all it's for. Meanwhile on the extreme commercial side of the spectrum there are things created for a specific purpose. If someone designs and builds a table they're building it for its purpose, and it's a piece of commercial work right? If the table was completely utilitarian it would be a soulless thing that only exists for its function. That's the extreme commercial side.

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Nobody really exists on the extreme points in any medium, though. Some people are close to the edge, but most people live in the middle somewhere. There's no real successful world where either side has total control. As a consumer you don't want a soulless experience. If I told you 'make it exactly like this' there's nothing surprising about that.

Meanwhile, if you're on the expression side and you don't care about me as a consumer, I may not even get what you're trying to do. It won't make sense to me and won't be consumable in any way. No matter what, we're all going to live here in the middle, and the middle's wide enough that it's not limiting.

The games business is even subject to moral panics now - Hitman's Nun Squad and Lara's assault scene are two recent high profile examples...

I'm going to get cynical and reference the Lara Croft thing. I haven't even seen the scenes that are contentious, but I do know this - I'm thinking about it, and more people are talking about Tomb Raider. I'm thinking about it more and talking about it more than I have since the first one. So who's really winning there? Are they changing their game because of the feedback? Who's really winning?

Are games mature enough to handle topics like that, do you think?

If they're art, they're a reflection of society and they can handle anything. I don't believe there are thought crimes - if videogames are a form of thought and expression, then anything goes.

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