Conversations We Should Have: Bioware’s Manveer Heir on Diversity in Video Games

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Bioware’s Manveer Heir discusses the importance of diversity in the development of video games.

(Article published on Gameranx.)

When I first started studying and writing about media and games, discussing diversity within the medium never crossed my mind. I was naïve in my idealism—complacent in ignoring the nuanced bread crumbs that would eventually lead to conversations we should all be having. But this changed when I began to attend industry conferences, a change elicited largely thanks to people like Bioware’s Manveer Heir (a designer currently working on the Mass Effect franchise).

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Ken Levine’s “Narrative Legos”: A World of Infinite Replay GDC 2014

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Creative mastermind Ken Levine discusses how games have infinite potential in narrative design.

(Article published on Gameranx.)

In a panel at this year’s Game Developers Conference, BioShock’s Ken Levine discussed his aspiring ideas on how to break the mold of linear narratives in game design. His goal? To create a system that allows for infinite replays. In other words, he wants to create a circle that remains unbroken…. without falling into the linear redundancy that he graciously admits games like BioShock often rely on.

Cultural Implications: The Defense of Jodie Holmes

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

2013 has been a year of progression in terms of tangible female protagonists in games—but does that matter if the media ignores them?

(Article published on Gameranx.)

When Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls released in October of 2013, it was met with mixed criticism that often questioned its validity as a video game.  Throwing incessant invectives at the overuse of quick time events and the minimalistic use of game mechanics, reviews often failed to bring into question what the definition of a video game actually is. IGN’s review was titled “Look, Don’t Touch.” Kotaku emphasized that you would like the game if “you don’t mind a game that’s basically a movie” and if “you’re down with the idea of playing as a teenage girl.” I’m not going to say Beyond was the perfect game; it’s based on a genre that isn’t necessarily for everyone. However, if we look closely at how some games are widely reviewed in media, we can witness the cultural implications they carry. Media, after all, helps to establish the standardization of the industry.

Titanfall Beta: First Impressions

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Wall running and jumping, massive robots, and a fast-paced shooter have been blended together in a gorgeous narrative of strategic gameplay that never fails to lose speed.

(Article published on Cinema Blend.)

What do you get when you mix Mirror’s Edge, Mech Warrior, and the FPS genre together? Utter chaos, one would think. And yet Respawn’s Titanfall seems to be the successful marriage of all of these. Wall running and jumping, massive robots, and a fast-paced shooter have been blended together in a gorgeous narrative of strategic gameplay that never fails to lose speed. In creating a new IP, Respawn was absurdly bright in that they didn’t pull as much from the traditional FPS games like Halo or Call of Duty as they did from other titles. The FPS genre, after all, has been losing its originality. The majority of the hype around the Titanfall stems from the idea that people are growing tired of the incessant monotony of FPS formulas. But was all of the hype worth it?

After playing the beta, I would say it’s completely justified.

Literacy and Critical Thinking in the Modern Classroom

Education, Games and Media

Writing. Critical thinking. Rhetoric. We often times find ourselves placing these words on a pedestal that focuses only on canonical literature or verbal literacy and communication.

That’s a major problem with academia, something that stems (somewhat) from the rise of philosophical thought and the shadows on Plato’s cave. Not that philosophy is bad, but it did undeniably see itself over art and visual thinking as some sort of intellectual behemoth well above cathartic moments and classical art. It was in this that our conceptions of the verbal and visual were divided as two separate and unequal modes of thought. *rant rant rant, academia, rant, ivory tower*.

The Sound of Supergiant Games: An Interview with Darren Korb

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Following Transistor’s new build at PAX Prime, Katy Goodman and Robyn Miller talk with audio director Darren Korb about music in games, inspiration, and are even joined by a special guest.

(Article published on SaveGame.)

At PAX Prime I had the pleasure of getting some hands-on time with the new build of Transistor, Supergiant Games’ spiritual successor to their title Bastion. Though little changed in terms of the actual level within the demo, it was an entirely different beast in terms of how it came together as an overall experience. I’m always amazed to see how small subtleties can completely change the way in which we view games—this is something that we witness even in “next-gen” graphics, which use the smallest of environmental aesthetics, such as shadows and lighting, to create titles that brush the rim of reality. But, in the context of the current Transistor build, what truly caught me off-guard was the difference the soundtrack made in the overall emotional appeal of the title. With music,Transistor went from feeling like a game in development to a completed entity that had a voice of its own (despite its protagonist’s lack of one).

An Interview with Ralph Ineson: Meet Assassin’s Creed IV’s Captain Vane

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Known for his roles in BBC’s The OfficeGame of Thrones, and Harry Potter, English actor Ralph Ineson is not new to the realm of playing somewhat immoral, albeit colorful, characters–a trend that continues with his character Captain Charles Vane in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

(Article published on Cinema Blend.)

.Given the popularity of the Golden Age of Piracy, it’s safe to assume that many of us know who Edward Teach is, better known as Black Beard. So who is this Charles Vane then? Historically speaking, Vane was a successful pirate captain based out of the Bahamas in the early 1700’s, made infamous for the intense cruelty he held towards both his own men and those aboard the vessels he plundered. In the context of Assassin’s Creed IV, Vane, who appears to lose little of his nefarious personality in the transition from reality to game, acts as an early mentor figure for Edward Kenway.

Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag Review

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Ubisoft provides us with a bold and successful move than can help revitalize the franchise.

(Review published on Gameranx.)

Pirate. Assassin. Two words that, when juxtaposed, evoke feelings of nostalgic childhood ambitions. To the overzealous imagination, a pirate assassin works as a flawless mixture of career choices and vigilante work. Conversely, in the context of a non-satirical video game, the terms can seem somewhat silly. Yet there is little silliness found in the pirate assassin Edward Kenway, the protagonist of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

How Video Games Help: Soldiers Deal With The Troubles of War

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

A charity is stepping up to help soldiers suffering with PTSD, and they are doing it through video games.

(Article published on Kotaku.)

War takes a terrible toll, not just in lives lost but in psyches shattered. Depression in the armed forces is widespread, and suicide rates among members of the military are higher than they’ve ever been. In addition to more traditional treatments, soldiers have been looking to video games to help them cope with the horrors of war. And it’s working.

Interview with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s Director, Ashraf Ismail

Games and Media, Journalism, Portfolio

Game director Ash Ismail talks about historical credibility, setting, easter eggs, and those lovely Kenway boys.

(Article published on Gameranx.)

When game director Ashraf (Ash) Ismail talks about Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, an inevitable sense of pride beams across his face—a trait that immediately displays the passion he and the team at Ubisoft are putting into the blockbuster title due out later this fall. This passion is heavily reflected in the game itself, which displayed an impressively vivid world in the demo at PAX Prime. I recently had the pleasure of playing said demo, and after the experience I sat down and chatted with Ash about the history behind the title, the benefits and challenges of going into the next generation, and Edward Kenway himself.