God Of War Developer David Jaffe: To Tartarus And Back
David Jaffe has one of the most notorious mouths in gaming. His comments easily rival Peter Molyneux or Bobby Kotick in terms of sheer headline fodder, but, while he’s certainly a very opinionated developer, he’s not at all the rage-infused, sabre-toothed madman fans want him to be. Or that the media needs him to be…
A visit to David Jaffe’s personal blog reveals not a single headline-worthy rant. In fact, he spends most of his blog real estate unabashedly praising everything from Splinter Cell: Conviction to Doodle Jump on the iPhone, as well as a handful of non-gaming books and music albums. He lists the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups as one of his top three summer films (naturally sandwiched between Prince of Persia and Inception) and randomly Twitters that he’s feeling the desire to watch When Harry Met Sally – not exactly what you’d expect from the creative director of Twisted Metal and God of War.
However, while Jaffe is best known for launching Kratos’ jaw-dropping journey of revenge, power and quick-time events, his propensity to speak freely and sincerely has defined his public persona, and occasionally landed him in trouble. We met with Jaffe at Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, and it’s clear that the bustling, media-saturated environment is very much to his taste. If one can glean anything from the diverse stream of opinion on his blog it’s that Jaffe is passionate about all forms of art and culture, and feels the pressing need for self-expression.
“I always wanted to make movies,” Jaffe begins, dodging crowds of people on their way to costume contests and sci-fi Q&A panels. “After college, I was out of money, I was reading in the back of one of the gaming magazines about Dracula for the Sega CD. The guys who made it were in my own backyard – they were in Santa Monica. I said, ‘Well, I need money, because I totally have no prospects.’ My movies weren’t very good, frankly, so I just opened up the Yellow Pages and called them, and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re hiring testers.’ I just did a good interview, I got lucky. I had no fucking money at all. I said, ‘How much?’ And they said, ‘Well, $20,000…’ It was fucking amazing to me – that was so much money, I couldn’t fathom it.”
It didn’t take long for Jaffe to work his way from tester to a more creative role. He had been consumed by the desire to “tell stories and…create worlds” since his early childhood, and cinema’s dominant place in popular culture naturally led to the assumption that the best way to realise that ambition was to make movies. After a few months working in the videogames industry, he had a new dream.
But Jaffe’s love for videogames didn’t start on a professional level. Specifically, it started at the Brookwood Mall in Birmingham, Alabama. “They had the movie theater where I saw Raiders and Clash of the Titans and Excalibur – those movies have been so influential. The arcade was there. The Radio Shack was there – we used to go into the back room and try to program adventure games that we couldn’t afford to buy on the TRS-80. The Circus World was there, where we bought all our Atari 2600 games… My parents really got behind my desire to make movies and play videogames and read comic books, build sets in the garage, build sets in the house. It was never a sense of ‘you can’t do’ something… I have kids now, and I think about what a great gift that was, that my parents gave me. They instilled in me a sense that my creative visions are just as valuable as anybody else’.