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'I felt we could build more empathy into the play': Lorne Lanning reflects on his  Oddworld

'I felt we could build more empathy into the play': Lorne Lanning reflects on his Oddworld

November 11, 2016 | By Alex Wawro

November 11, 2016 | By Alex Wawro
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More: Console/PC, Design

"With Abe, the reason I gave him infinite lives is because I wanted you to never give up. No matter how fucking sucky you were, if you stuck with it, you'd get there. And that's life, man."

- Oddworld series creator Lorne Lanning.

Oddworld Inhabitants cofounder Lorne Lanning is best known in the game industry for, appropriately enough, the Oddworld games he led development of during the late '90s and early 2000s.

The games were often lauded for their cast of bizarre characters (included slave-turned-messiah Abe and animal-wielding bounty hunter The Stranger), and in a new interview with Vice's Waypoint Lanning opens up a bit about why he thinks its important for game designers to create characters that are vulnerable and easier to empathize with than, say, a space marine with a rocket launcher.

"I'm of the belief that if you can make characters more emotional, and empathetic, then you're going to have a greater connection to them, and you'd feel for them in ways that I never felt for the guy with the big gun and the big biceps," said Lanning. "Those kind of characters—I'm gonna be the ace pilot and save the day—they're a little done. I'm more into people who work in the pizza place, who are also going to save the world. He's going to do it in a really interesting way."

Later in the conversation, Lanning encourages fellow game developers -- and any creative types, really -- to look upon the work of crafting entertainment as not just a job and a passion, but a way to improve the world in a small way. 

"I believe, if you're going to make entertainment, don't just do it to make a buck," Lanning said. "Do what you have to do to pay the rent, of course; but if you have the luxury of having a choice in what you do for a job, try to make the world better. I'm not saying what that is, as our situations are all different, but I think that's what we all need to do, now."

The rest of the conversation, which digs deeper into the character design of the Oddworld games and Lanning's opinion on where game creators stand right now in the greater entertainment industry, can be read over on Waypoint.

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