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Former Grand Theft Auto dev says industry needs methods other than violence to depict conflict

Former Grand Theft Auto producer Jeremy Pope left Rockstar games determined never to work on violent video games again, because explaining to others he was working on the controversial and mature titles made him uncomfortable, he said in a recent Games Industry International interview.

Pope — who served as producer for Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Max Payne and now runs his own mobile startup Rally Games left Rockstar during the development of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas when he began to have mixed feelings on the titles he was creating.

"I think at the time it was really only an inkling that I had," he said. "I was still in my early to mid-20s, I had grown up playing all types of games, violent games included, and worked on Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto, e.t.c. I would always kind of defend the games we were making and I was pretty proud of being involved, but then when I would visit my grandmother in highly religious Alabama and have to explain what I do for a living, I didn't feel so great about explaining to them that I was a part of 'that game' they've been hearing about. I think that's what sort of planted the seeds of me wanting to work on different types of games."

He explained the controversy surrounding the games was a large factor in his decision to leave Rockstar, although he made it clear that he likes Rockstar's games, but is no longer interested in developing those kinds of games.

"Grand Theft Auto just pushed the boundaries in almost every possible way," he said. "So it's a shame that those games have become a talking point. I worked on Grand Theft Auto, and the whole thing about being able to run over a stripper or a prostitute was something that we didn't even really... Well, I guess you could say we knew about it, but it was something that was so contrived that it was almost like off the radar — so absurd and such tiny fraction of what's possible in the game."

Pope said he believes the industry needs to create games with more meaning and rely less on depictions of violence as an easy way to present conflict. He also said developers need to push away from "sequels and rehashing" and use the latest technologies to tell better stories, not as an excuse to produce "another rehash" that's been "souped up" with updated graphics and features.

"With any storytelling medium or any medium at all, you want to have conflict because that's how you can generate interest, and oftentimes the simplest or most base way to do that is through violence that isn't necessarily tied into a deeper, more meaningful story," he said. "I think it's often easier to do violence than it is to generate meaningful, interesting conflict through nonviolent ways."

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