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Elon Musk loves Overwatch, but wants more from modern storytelling

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“The old Mario games had incredible storytelling”

Elon Musk, billionaire CEO of major companies like SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is a known Overwatch fan. He reiterated his love for Blizzard Entertainment’s multiplayer shooter in the outtakes of an interview with Sam Altman, president of startup incubator Y Combinator, but he didn’t stop there. Musk’s brief chat with Altman went from a celebration of all things Blizzard Entertainment to a discussion of what the pair see as one of modern gaming’s big weaknesses.

Altman asks Musk for game recommendations, and he offers Overwatch and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Musk has talked about his Overwatch fandom in the past, tweeting last June about how much he can’t stop playing the game.

The billionaire is also a big Deus Ex fan, as he reveals later after turning the tables on his interviewer. It doesn’t sound like he’s played last August’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided yet, but he’s heard some unflattering reviews of it so far.

“I think that [storytelling’s] really neglected,” he says, after the producers off-screen praise the stories in games like The Last of Us and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. “That’s the criticism I’ve heard of the latest Deus Ex, is that the storytelling is kind of lame.”

Mankind Divided’s lackluster conclusion was one of our biggest complaints, as we said in our review. Musk and Altman chalk the disappointing narrative up to a larger problem with contemporary games, which Altman compares to the biggest mainstream entertainment there is: sports.

“As games have become more like the replacement for the NFL, I think the storytelling just gets generally neglected,” he says, “so it’s especially striking to play one that was, like, absolutely cinematic.”

Altman’s talking about The Last of Us here, a game with one of the most memorable narratives of the last decade. Although Musk hasn’t played the Naughty Dog-developed modern classic, he agrees — even as his most-played game, the multi-million blockbuster Overwatch, could fall into what Altman is describing.

Overwatch does have an expansive, overarching backstory. It’s just that Blizzard chose to keep most of that outside of the game itself, instead building out the story with comics and animated shorts. Playing Overwatch itself is mostly a story-less affair, and Musk has an explanation for why older games may have been more plot-focused.

“Some of the oldest games, the graphics and sound were terrible, so they had to rely on storytelling,” he says.

That’s why his beloved Deus Ex, which launched in 2000, may have a stronger story than its 2016 sequel. But Altman immediately undercuts the argument with his final, tongue-in-cheek comment:

“The old Mario games had incredible story,” Altman says drily.