Interview: Film Producer Ari Arad on Gaming

January 6, 2011

By John Gaudiosi

One of the reasons so much attention has been placed on the Lost Planet movie is that its film producer, Ari Arad (Iron Man, X-men, The Punisher) personally chose this game as a great candidate for the big screen. Arad logs a lot of hours playing videogames to the table for all of his big screen adaptations. The producer is now taking that gaming knowledge into the videogame world for the first time as Chief Creative Officer of Razer Sixense, a company that is unleashing a new motion tracking controller for PCs and any platform that utilizes USB input. Arad talks about the impact this gaming technology will have on the PC gaming industry and beyond in this exclusive interview. Can you explain how you got involved in this new motion tracking technology?

Ari Arad: Our friend, Sixense CEO Amir Rubin, came to us with this idea with a brilliant engineer and gamer, Sixense Chief Architect and CTO, Jeff Bellinghausen. Amir has been in Silicon Valley for a while and has had experience with motion based gaming systems. We went through three years of development to perfect the system and prepare it for manufacturing. In the process, we attracted partners like Valve and ultimately teamed up with Razer to help us design and execute the hardware. It has been a rewarding, but challenging process that has paid off. How big of a gamer are you?

Ari Arad: Games have always been a part of my life. I remember my first commodore 64, Atari, and NES, and have been playing steadily ever since. I have and use all of the consoles, but I still like my PC the best. What has impressed you lately?

Ari Arad: Games have become so visually stunning, and the storytelling has become incredibly engaging. Some of my favorites include the Uncharted games, Mass Effect, Lost Planet, Ratchet & Clank, Fallout, Infamous, Okami, Portal, Half-Life, and everything from Team Ico, I really like getting lost in a world. These games have such rich stories and atmosphere. Why did you decide to offer this new game technology to all developers?

Ari Arad: Recently, I have been playing more indie titles. I love that these games are totally different experiences than the kind I get with the games I mentioned. The gameplay is just as rich, but the titles cost a fraction of what these bigger games require. World of Goo was amazing. Also, Braid was very cool and emotional. How has your gaming helped with creating these new controllers?

Ari Arad: The most important thing that a new peripheral should offer is an improved experience. At Sixense we are all pretty enthusiastic gamers. Having spent so much time playing games has given us some perspective on what else we wish we could do and what kind of motion would be fun. Because of Sixense's extreme precision, we have been working to integrate it into hardcore games that require a more accurate interface than other motion peripherals are capable of providing. What was the process like?

Ari Arad: We tried to think of how we would use a motion controller to enhance the core game experience we grew up with in an organic, non-gimmicky way. Basically -- what could we do that would make a first-person or third-person shooter more fun without sacrificing any of the elements that we have been enjoying for years? The goal with games is to create an immersive experience. Until now designers have used storytelling, graphics, and multi-channel sound to bring the player in. Now, with Razer Sixense system they have the opportunity to take advantage of an interface that will ratchet up the visceral experience of a great game. As a gamer, what does this add to the PC gaming experience?

Ari Arad: When you play on your PC, you are two to three feet from your screen. This makes for a more intense experience than with a console, where you are sitting back on your couch. This proximity helps you drown out other stimuli and really fall into the game world. What games have you tried it on and how did it impact your play?

Ari Arad: The Razer Sixense controller further enhances this immersion. In Left 4 Dead 2, wielding the melee weapons so freely and with complete accuracy while being deluged with zombies makes you feel like you are really fighting for your life in a scrum of undead. Tossing a Molotov with a gesture and without having to adjust your look point more closely mirrors what the real life experience would be. What are your thoughts on this tech for the console space?

Ari Arad: Sixense could work very well on all the consoles, but we are focused on the PC. People look to their PC’s as the center of their entertainment life. They social network, make purchasing decisions, watch movies and of course play games on their PC’s. As the PC penetrates the living room, its role in the household will only expand and Sixense is poised to be the ideal input device. How does Razer Sixense compare to PlayStation Move, Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii?

Ari Arad: This new generation of motion gaming has been led by the Wii, and now Move and Kinect. All these systems have some limitations as far as accuracy. We believe that gamers will always be interested in improving the game experience and testing their skills. They want to be in real control rather than an approximation of control. Sixense is specifically designed to reach a level of accuracy that will completely reflect the player’s physical and mental abilities. Sixense can do this in part because it is based on an advanced military technology. It is used to track a fighter pilot’s head position. The military has been relying on Sixense technology for years. Sixense follows the natural cycle of technology to evolve and improve. We went from the rotary phone to the smart phone, from Pong to the current games. Sixense is the next generation.