Is the 21st century’s Citizen Kane going to be a video game?

Writer and director Christian Cantamessa reflects on 20 years of creating stories for games – including blockbuster title Red Dead Redemption – and discusses what the future could hold as the boundaries between traditional and interactive media blur

Christian Cantamessa has worked on major games including the original Red Dead Redemption, Manhunt, and the Grand Theft Auto series. In recent years he’s transitioned to the movie world, writing and directing feature film Air, as well as a set of cinematic sequences for Lord of the Rings game Shadow of Mordor. Cantamessa also works on comic book, virtual reality and video game projects through his own company Sleep Deprivation Lab.

CR spoke with him about how the games industry learned to love storytelling, why future writers will dream up tales that work across media, and why it’s only a matter of time before we discover the Hitchcock of video games.

Creative Review: How did you get started in the video game industry?
Christian Cantamessa: I started in the industry in the mid-90s, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I was more of a traditional writer, not much of a technical person, but I was really interested in storytelling, and I started out as a writer on a point and click adventure game. I ended up seeing a lot of potential in the medium, and I’ve spent 20+ years of my career telling stories in the industry. I worked with Ubisoft over in Milan, when they were starting to grow as a multinational company, and I worked for them in Paris as well. Then I moved to Scotland and joined a small team in Edinburgh called DMA Design, when they were working on a little-known game called Grand Theft Auto 3. I joined that team towards the end of the development cycle, but it was a foundational time in my career. It really opened my mind to what you could do with stories in games, not just in terms of technology but what could be achieved with great minds putting their skills into a platform, and what the medium could in reaching a wider audience, having more meaningful stories and more mature themes.