Joe Mc Donagh, game designer of Republic
Polygon : What is the concept of Republic ?
Joe Mc Donagh : It's the 1990s and the mighty Soviet Union has just broken up. Dozens of autonomous countries spring from the crumbling remnants. It is into one of these, the Republic of Novistrana, that you enter the fray as a small time faction leader. Starting with a single loyal supporter, a tiny secret HQ and a very small base of local support, you must build up a nationwide faction powerful enough to oust the president and rule the Republic of Novistrana. There are up to 16 other factions (human or computer controlled) that will be doing everything in their power to stop you and seize control for themselves. And of course, most formidable of all is the President and he'll go to any lengths necessary to hold onto power.
Where did the idea of Republic come from ?
The original inspiration for the game came from a board game called Junta. There are also elements in there from Lords of Midnight (an old Spectrum game) as well as the first edition of Illuminati the card game. Aside from that, we've been heavily influenced by events such as the 1991 Communist uprising in Russia. We're attempting to capture the epic nature of these events and place them in a game.
Do you consider videogames as an art ?
An incredible amount of creativity goes into making good original games certainly, easily on a par with other creative media. However, I'm not sure that they qualify as a bona fide art form yet, but that may well change.
What makes videogames different from other kinds of medias ?
I think that the fundamental difference is that the audience has to actively participate with the game in the correct manner for the creative experience to be fully understood and appreciated. In short games are interacting with the artform in a very physical sense. This caters for the intriguing possibility of allowing the player to "create" his own storyline within the parameters set out by the game environment.
Do you think videogames can be used as a way to convey a political or moral message ?
I see no reason why not -as long as it doesn't interfere with the most important factor which is gameplay as games succeed or fail on how much fun they are to play. But you can put messages in. For example, one of the central premises of Republic : The Revolution is a profound cynism about the pursuit of power and the way in which it's exercised. Everyone's as bad or as good as each other.
What's your favorite game and why ?
Civilisation. Sid Meier once described pure gameplay as something that has you saying to yourself "Just one more turn and then I'm off to bed" -and then suddenly it's 5 o'clock in the morning. Superb depth, two games are never the same, perfect pacing and an unusually good computer opponent (even if it cheats) make it, for me, the best computer game ever. Absulutely seminal.
Interview by Pierre Gaultier (february 2000).
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