David Jaffe is one of gaming’s most polarizing figures, but he’s a big softie for his fans

david jaffe one gamings polarizing figures hes big softie fans drawn to death 1
One of the most exciting announcements at Sony’s PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas came from an unexpected source: David Jaffe. As the creator of PlayStation tentpoles like Twisted Metal and God of War, Jaffe’s presence wasn’t a huge shocker. But it was a surprise — albeit a pleasant one — to see the famed designer finally announcing a brand new IP.

David Jaffe
David Jaffe

Drawn to Death is a third-person multiplayer arena shooter rendered in a hand-drawn style that resembles a troubled teenager’s notebook doodles. And that’s because the game’s characters and world are those doodles; everything you see in-game is created by a fictional protagonist, mostly unseen save for the times when his hand crashes down from on high to sketch new elements into a battle or give players a ride perched on clenched fingers.

Jaffe might object to the term “troubled,” though. “I had friends in high school. I had friends in junior high. I wasn’t, like, you know, off in the corner eating lunch by myself. But you always kind of feel a little bit like a misfit, right?” he told Digital Trends.

“I get annoyed when people look at stuff like this and it’s just like ‘Ugh, it’s so violent. It’s so bloody,’” he continued. “F–k your holier-than-thou, elitist bulls–t that says this is bad for people.”

Jaffe has never been afraid to speak his mind. That’s practically his defining characteristic, especially if you only know him as a public figure on the Internet. But watching Jaffe interact with his fans reveals another side, and plenty lined up in Vegas to snap a selfie and chat about the impact his work has had on their lives.

“On one hand I absolutely know what it means to be a fan meeting someone who’s been involved in something that has meant a lot to you,” he said. “But what is hard about it is when you’re actually doing the work … you’re making your vision. You’re making it for yourself.”

Drawn to Death 5

Game development can be a private or solitary experience, and all too often the only feedback Jaffe gets comes from the Internet. “There are days where you just get hit by such meanness,” he said. That’s why something like PSX has value for him as a creator; meeting with fans in person helps him feel a more solid connection with the community that gathers around the game after it launches.

The idea for Drawn to Death originated with a dodgeball video game Jaffe tested many years ago. Since he has no artistic talent — or so he claims — he imagined his own dodgeball game, with dorky-looking stick figures, and over time that morphed into the notebook-scrawled, stylized shooter we see in Drawn to Death.

“When you’re actually doing the work … you’re making your vision. You’re making it for yourself.”

After co-founding Salt Lake City studio Eat Sleep Play in 2007 and then leaving the company five years later, Jaffe’s happy to be back doing internal Sony development. His kids are getting older and he doesn’t feel the need to spend so much time at home with them. Luckily he learned that Sony is the best fit for him after he and his fellow developers at The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency shopped Drawn to Death around to multiple studios—including Microsoft.

“But even after all of that, and offers from various publishers, it was sitting in [PlayStation Software Product Development Head] Scotty Rohde’s office and talking with him about this game and what we loved about games and didn’t like about games, and what we loved about business models and didn’t like about business models,“ he explained. “That really just made me feel if they would have me, and they would have us … it’s been good to come home.”

Drawn to Death has no single-player mode, though there are story elements dispersed throughout it. The central character uses his creations to help work through the hardships in his life, and players can find clues during matches that help illuminate what the fictional creator of everything is going through.

“On the level that we have here [at the PlayStation Experience], we have the kid dealing with his parents’ divorce,” Jaffe said. “We see the girl that has a crush on him, we see the bully that picks on him, and all of that is reflected here. Some of it is in notes in the sky, some of it’s in objects the characters have doodled in the margins that have come alive in the notebook.”

But “we’re not going to try to get people to come to this game because of the story,” he explained. “This is a multiplayer game. And it’s a world that we feel can sustain, and we want to do stories in, but right now we’re not trying to get you to come on board … [so you can] get that story itch scratched.”

He recognizes that everyone’s experience with a game is personal, though, and that it doesn’t take a complicated narrative or single-player campaign for players to discover something meaningful.

Drawn to Death 2

“I’ve had people tell me ‘I grew up playing Twisted Metal with my dad,’ and that’s so loaded for them and it means so much,” Jaffe said. “I teared up at the very first VGAs when I remembered my dad bringing home an Atari for me. And it’s not like [Atari creator] Nolan Bushnell would say ‘Oh, well I did that on purpose.’ It just happened to be that his system dovetailed into this great moment with my dad.”

“What I don’t have a hard time connecting with is the gratitude to all of these people, and I get teary, you know. They gave me my life. It means a lot to me,” he continued. “We’ve gotten the privilege of entertaining these people and in turn they’ve helped me buy cool shit for my kids, you know? That’s amazing to me and I’m very grateful.”

Drawn to Death is scheduled to launch in 2015 exclusively on PS4.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.
Smart Home

Rocco wants to rock out. Parrot learns to use owner’s Amazon Alexa

Rocco, an African gray parrot, fell in love with his owner's Alexa unit and ordered himself treats and other goodies, but mostly uses the smart assistant to rock out to his favorite music.

Skateboarding legend says ‘Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam’ will appeal to his fans

Tony Hawk's Skate Jam is now available for free on iOS and Android devices, and Digital Trends had the chance to talk to the legendary skater about its development and how it captures the magic of his best games.

Soulja Boy’s ‘new’ console appears to include stolen Nintendo games

Rapper Soulja Boy recently released his SouljaGame console, and it includes several emulated games that appear to be stolen from companies like Nintendo, SNK, and Capcom. A handheld version is also available.

Kanye West wants to meet ‘Metal Gear Solid’ creator Hideo Kojima, for some reason

Rapper Kanye West wants to meet video game designer Hideo Kojima in New York. Nobody knows the reason behind the meeting, but fans are speculating that it may have something to do with Death Stranding for the PlayStation 4.

‘Kingdom Hearts III’ out in the wild, director asks for support to stop spoilers

Kingdom Hearts III has been leaked, with several copies of the game out in the wild. The game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, responded to the situation, calling for help from gamers to stop spoilers from spreading online.

Sharing your best gameplay moments is quick and easy on the Xbox One

The current generation of consoles make it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.

The DualShock 4 is one of the best controllers ever, and you can use it with a PC

Sony's new DualShock 4 controller has become a fan favorite, and some people want to use it with a PC. Here's how to connect your DualShock 4 and start using it, either with an official adapter, or unofficial software.

Project Stream testers get to keep a free copy of ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’

Those who participated in Google's technical test of Project Stream won't be able to access the service to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey after January 15, but they'll get to keep the game on PC anyway.

Newest ‘Destiny 2’ raid already completed by two-person team

The latest raid in Destiny 2: Forsaken is Scourge of the Past, and a two-person team has already managed to complete it. The task took 15 hours of trial-and-error effort before the duo managed to take down the final boss.

The 25 best SNES games

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games, including A Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.

Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.