This past week saw the project really begin to take shape. The groups were developed and I’ve been appointed Team Lead of a group of 5 (myself included). This wasn’t a choice that I wanted to make – during my presentation, I made it a point to say that I would much rather take a artistic role within a team but I admitted that a lot of the students in the class were younger and possibly didn’t realise what a team leader role comprised of or that they would actively choose to take on the position either. Because of this, I rationalised that if left alone, someone who really didn’t want, or was capable of being a team lead would be appointed to the role, and that I would then be paired in a team with them – to remove this option, when the class was left with only 2 out of 3 required team leaders, I put my hand up to be the final one.
There’s an eclectic mix of skills, but under me I have two very competent designers, a write and an all-rounder. To a point, I would have rather had chosen my team mates based on each person’s skill sets – but due to my own lack of friendships within the classroom, many people made decisions based on who they knew already – some of those people taking very high quality skills with them. I’m not too disheartened, however, because I believe that with good leadership that I can get my team working to the best of their abilities.
I look forward to being a motivator and a strong example for my team mates – I aim to be the best academic that I can be during my time at SAE and I feel that It’s my responsibility to instil that attitude into my team mates, in at least as far at the ANI111 unit is concerned.
I’ve already had a couple of meetings with the guys outside of This past, Tuesday’s class – where I’ve established some expectations and tried to guide each member towards a particular role and set of responsibilities they must uphold and try to meet each and every week. I’ve tried to be as fair and compassionate as I can in order to make them feel at ease with me but there’s always going to be those days when I don’t perform as well as I wish that I might have, and on those days I hope that the team’s mentality is strong enough that they can get themselves through the work when I falter.
Other than the team structure, we’ve worked on some ideas but are yet to finalise one in particular. I’ll need to touch base with them all over the course of the weekend to try and drill down on one specific set of requirements so that Simon and I can work on a final draft to submit to Adrian for approval. I feel that the team are eager to get to work on actual development, but they all lack sufficient knowledge about the life cycle of a project and so I’ve tasked them with doing some homework regarding the most important phases of project development: Planning and analysis.
I look forward to what the coming weeks will bring in terms of challenges, and more importantly, in terms of realised work – I have some talented and eager creatives in my team and I can’t wait to see what we can produce together.
First week into the second Trimester and I’m inundated with work! That’s totally fine with me though, because this is my second blog for the week and if there’s one thing I like to do – it’s regurgitate my brain words into electronic words.
Tim Dalton – great guy. Or at least, he made a pretty great impression on me and apparently to the two girls to my right that day. He’s interesting and inspiring and that’s all I really need from a tutor to feel interested and inspired in the subject itself. Tim wished for us to read through the first week’s online lecture – this will be the theme moving forward and is the primary reason for the 2-hour timetable slot rather than the typical 3 hours; this time is allocated so that the students can go home and pour over some notes to further solidify the information delivered in that respective week.
I like to read. I much prefer to watch, but I do enjoy a good tale, however this is only relevant to fiction. Prescribed texts and readings typically bore me, but can I really be blamed? I’m an arts student for Christ’s sake. I don’t buy 4th Edition Lewis and Howard’s Advanced Chemistry 2015 et al – I buy Visual Diary’s and draw pictures of myself in the image of Conan the Barbarian but with super powers. Suffice to say, I went into this week’s reading with some skepticism (because I’m cynical like that), and boy was I pleasantly surprised! That was a proper good read. I very much enjoyed the content and the flowing manner in which it was written. To whomever wrote that article: Job well done!
The article touched on quite a few points, all of which relevant to the creative industry. It set the standards for what professionals in the ‘new media’ space can expect when entering the workforce and further prompted critical thinking by the reader by asking a series of questions via a Google Form – (if anyone is reading this and you happen to read my answers to that survey, I wasn’t being facetious with any of my answers, I just didn’t believe that anyone would actually read them, however I did answer honestly!). I found that to be a clever exercise as it forces the students – many of whom have admitted openly that they’re not sure where this path will lead them – to question exactly ‘how’ they’ll turn this course and skill set into a paid, sustainable career. Luckily for me, when I quit my comfortable white-collar job in the IT sector last year to pursue my dream as an artist, I spent many a restless night questioning the sanity behind that decision. But even then I find it to be a very useful tool to constantly revisit those important questions: How will I sustain an income? What are my backup plans? How will I mange responsibilities, partners, bills and a lifestyle with those intermittent challenges? And for that reason, I did take some time to try and answer the survey in earnest.
The article went on to talk about creative big-shots and the risks and rewards behind their success. Real life examples are always a great way to instill inspiration for young enthusiasts because I feel we all need a goal to aim for. The industry as it is, is very shaky in terms of job security and I can’t bank on finding myself a 40-year contract, so to read the success stories and set yourself a goal I feel is very important.
The video tour inside the Pixar studio was probably the highlight for me in that read. I want to work at Pixar. That was hugely impactful – I’ll admit that I’ve been scorned and twisted by my professional experience thus far between Sales and IT roles. Even though I only worked professionally for 4 years after graduating, I felt that I was more than ready to throw in the town and bury myself, and it was exactly that feeling which propelled me to make the decision to change my career pathway – but never having worked in the creative field as yet (albeit with some very limited and minor freelancing work), I couldn’t even imagine what being in that landscape would feel like. I’ve of course read the articles on Google and Microsoft offices, I’ve seen the inside of Blizzard Studios and Nintendo offices and they all blow me away. Every time I see an office environment that’s geared towards making the workers feel comfortable, rather than geared towards increasing business efficiency and worked productivity (which is what some asshole business design their office plans to imbue) , it reminds me that I’ve made the right decision and that I need to work my ass off and impress the right people so that I too can work from the comfort of a bean-bag chair in a common room full of like-minded professionals while waiting for my turn to jump in the Street Fighter tournament that’s taking place at 1:00 PM that day.
The article concluded with some very poignant and hard-hitting truths that I feel everybody – I mean EVERYBODY in the first world needs to be made aware of. We’re lucky enough to live in a time and a country where the option is afforded to us: “What would you like to do with your life?” That’s a question that is sadly locked away from the vast majority, and too many people lucky enough to have that luxury, piss it away in jobs that they hate, simply existing and waiting for the weekend or for early retirement. The final paragraphs point out that the creative field isn’t the most lucrative – it’s hard work and will typically consist of a lot of unpaid hours, multiple jobs and the necessity for creatives to will themselves into work mode in order to get the job done. Yes, there will be a need to get a job on the side that ‘pays the bills’, but the article asks that you find the silver lining to that as well, to source inspiration and ideas from the client and in the end to view the process as a journey because ultimately if we’re creatives at heart, then our job is our craft and our craft brings us the fulfillment that we need in life to make it work. That’s how I feel at least. I’ve worked unpaid hours, long weekends and capped off 70 hour weeks and all for the bare minimum, university graduate salary. My degree and all my academic accolades amounted to squat when the reality of life kicked me in the balls and so if I’m going to be poorly paid and work my ass off, you can be damn sure that it’s going to be doing something that I love because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be rich, I just want to be happy.
It’s been a fortnight since my last trimester at SAE. With high spirits I entered the second trimester and with it the first class of Production 1, Animation (ANI111).
My tutor is a gentleman by the name of Adrian Bruch and he’s very much the fatherly figure. His demeanor is pleasant and he took the liberty of establishing what I suppose some might refer to as a ‘safe zone’. In an attempt to instill what will be real world challenges, he made a point to reassure us that in our soon to be careers of creative endeavors, nothing is as important as our ability to create. However, our creative ideas cannot be copyrighted and therefore our IP is very important – throughout the trimester, Adrian wants us to feel comfortable around our peers and within the confines of the campus, so that we may share our ideas and interact in a fashion that resembles the real world.
Adrian went on to explain his love for ‘dad jokes’, but in doing so was directly transparent by letting us know that this persona is a toll he utilises to better engage with the students. They do say that laughter is the best medicine and I for one much prefer to laugh than otherwise. We went on to introduce ourselves, ala mandatory Week 1 syllabus, and then we covered the module guide to quickly touch on the deliverables ahead.
Primarily I see this unit as a real-world simulation of a creative industry. Based on the learning outcomes and assessments, it seems as though we’ll be working through the Project Development Life Cycle, including the documentation processes, development and even the communication with stakeholders. This is quite interesting to me – I’ve been involved in units that replicate industry experience in prior institutions and I like the change in pace from “this is what you need to know in the industry” to “let’s see how you incorporate those skills within the industry”. It’s a great tool for teaching/learning and I’m glad that we get to touch on it before the Tri 6 work experience.
In order to satisfy the assignments to come (with the exception of ANI111.1 which are the Q&A based tests/exams), we need to form groups of 3-4 students. I currently do not know anybody in my class, however I’m happy to work with anyone who’s willing to put forth the time and effort that I aim for. Adrian wishes for us to deliver a short ‘presentation’ next week rather than pick the groups there and then in class in Week 1. I believe the reasons are twofold: The first, as he explained, is because we were missing a handful of students from class, but the second I assume is because he doesn’t want the teams to be decided based on ‘who you know’, but rather, ‘what can you do’. He said as much when he spoke about what he wishes to see in next week’s presentations. It will be more or less a pitch of ourselves: “You should choose me for the group because…”. I think this is a great idea – in the past, I’ve had teachers utilise industry standard tests in order to predetermine groups, such as the DISC profile and the HBDI. Both are great tools, but I personally feel that they’re better left to white-collar organisations and not in the classroom. It’s great to be aware that these tools exist, but I prefer and feel that Adrian’s approach of introducing ourselves and skill sets formally, is a better and more useful tool for us.
Adrian admitted that he’s not a fan of PowerPoint and prefers interactive PDF’s, and for that reason, I’ll product a PowerPoint Presentation! I’m kidding – well, I’m not so sure as yet. A PP is for me at least, a much more efficient affair – I’m much more comfortable delivering a presentation from behind PP than playing around with Adobe Acrobat. Then again, I might not utilise PP at all. I still have to structure my presentation and in typical fashion, I’ll make the decision as to how to deliver it visually, after the fact.
For those of you reading this (and I assume there’s exactly eiπ+1 people doing so), I’ll be pitching myself as a character/concept artist: It’s what I love to do and what I hope to pursue in the industry, however as I’m aware that this is a creative school, I expect there to be a few others who also wish to hold that role. I’m not stingy and so I’ll also promote myself as Team Leader – I’ve been a Project lead in the past, both in education and professionally (although at a very junior level) and I appreciate that it’s a role that many students might find daunting or uninteresting. For me, this is more about the learning experience as a whole and not necessarily about the role that I’ll be assigned – this is as we’ve already discussed, a replication of what we can expect to encounter in the outside world, and to have the luxury of putting yourself forward for a particular role is an opportunity hat’s rarely afforded.
I don’t know what the blog requirements are for this unit – Adrian simply said that it’s something he wishes us to produce – as far as the module guide is concerned, this blog isn’t assessable, so luckily for me, I can ramble on each week, which suits me perfectly.
Until next week!
Blog task 4 – Curation Activity
The things that you re-blog, 'like', re-post, and share, tell your audience about your creative interests and also indicate the kinds of media that you are likely to create and contribute to.
Using an online curation platform (such as Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, etc), curate a 'board' or playlist of influences. Theme your curated content around your particular interests, and give brief descriptions of your curated content. Write a brief description of your themed content and make a hyperlink to your curated content on your blog.
For many years, I’ve been an avid YouTuber. In fact, since approximately 2010 YouTube became more or less my only viewing platform, and now with my subscription to Netflix, I have completely made free-to-air television redundant in my home. It’s a pretty great thing.
Click there to view my -> "Favourite" YouTube Playlist
You’ll notice that I have a dozen playlists. I like to have order in my life as it helps me deal with things in a methodical and what I feel is a proper way. I have a lot of interests and as I mentioned, I’m a long time YouTube consumer so I’ve favourited and liked many, many videos and so I needed to create different playlists to keep some type of order – the issue for me with regards to this blog is that I’ll only be concentrating on one particular Playlist and so some of my interests (which is the point of this blog) may not be covered. Not to worry however, because you are free to peruse my public playlists at your leisure to see what else I like, and as much as possible I’ll try to touch on my various proclivities.
Now onto tackling the issue at hand: The playlist we’ll be looking at is my generic, ‘Favourites’ playlist. My Favourite playlist is some parts miscellaneous and most parts: “I haven’t gotten around to creating sub categories and sorting these videos out as yet”. This is why if you look at the videos in each playlist, there are 80 in Favourites, where with the exception of my Music playlist, is the largest category.
I won’t be going through all 80 videos, instead I’ll pick a section from here and there and discuss a video based on an interest by referring to the number of that video (where the number represents the date the video was added – starting from the latest date, in descending order).
1. This was a great video about how to start a t-shirt business. Prior to my enrollment at SAE, I was an IT graduate, with experience in corporate sales, multimedia and of course, Information Technology. I was at a point in my life where I wished to start an entrepreneurial venture that revolved around two of my greatest passions: Gaming and drawing, so I decided to open a T-shirt business where I would sell print of my drawings. This particular video was so helpful that it made my Favourites playlist.
2. As mentioned above, I love gaming. I jumped on the Fallout 4 bandwagon when it was released and after completing the main campaign I wanted to get more out of it – I’m quite tech savvy and enjoy modding my PC based games and this video was a great update on some of the graphical mods available for Fallout 4 at the time.
5. Another passion of mine is bodybuilding and general fitness. The bodybuilding scene is an umbrella for many different sub components to do with diet, nutrition, weight lifting, endurance and all manner of training, among other things. This particular video dealt with weight loss and illegal supplementation – I favourited this video because I didn’t agree with what the content creator had to say and I wanted to be able to refer back to his information in the future.
6. As a techie and admittedly, early adopter I like to stay on the forefront of gadgets and tech. I was in the market recently for a new monitor and trust the content creator of this particular video where he compared Flat and Curved monitors and as I do when it comes to research and purchases, I favourited this video so that I could reference it later.
11. I love music and I love hip-hop. In my opinion, one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time is Tupac Shakur. I love to use YouTube to watch his music video clips as well as documentaries, un released footage and interviews with him in them. The poor chap passed away in 1997 at the age of 25, so whatever footage there is of him is quite rare as it exists as only a very small part of his time in the limelight.
12. I love to think outside of the box – specifically, outside of this manufactured box that we call society. To this end I’ve spent the last couple of years’ soul searching and looking into the things that exist outside of this reality. This particular video had such an impact on me that it went straight to my favourites list.
19. I spoke about my love of drawing and of course animation in all its form is a huge inspiration for me and this content creator’s flash animation series is quite remarkable. They mix martial arts (Matrix Style) with flash animated stick figures and a Windows OS – he’s made a few in the series and they’re definitely worth a watch.
21 – 30 include much of what was discussed above: HipHop related footage, DIY Hardware modifications, Android application reviews and at 27, there’s a funny video clip from a Wheel of Fortune (US) episode which I obviously loved so much at the time that I favourited it. Sometimes I’ll favourite a video so that I can show it to a friend at a later date, after which point I’ll remove the video but as stated at the beginning of this blog – my Favourites list is my anything and everything pile. When I get around to sorting these 80 videos out, I’ll no doubt cull a number of them, this one being a prime example of that.
The rest of the playlist continues to mimic what I’ve already discussed. There are some wacky, weird and downright surreal videos hidden in my lists – some of them are there for good reason such as research, personal development, learning and some, well, after going through this list I realised I may have accidentally clicked “add to favourites” while watching, as those videos need to be moved or removed.
My YouTube channel is an ever evolving beast - I love YouTube as a platform, I’ve ‘liked’ over 4,400 videos, have a dozen playlists and as of now, 169 Channel Subscriptions.
Now that I think about it – I should probably go through these channels soon and cull the one’s that have lost my interest.
The internet is a strange field. It enables content creators to product content almost as quickly as they consume it (in the case of live streams these two things happen at the same time), but we’re so spoiled for choice nowadays that these same content creators need to always be on the fringe of whatever trends are popular at the time, lest they lose their audiences interest. But that’s a completely unrelated topic.
Reflective task 5 - Review of Independent Media
Write a review (500 words) of a piece of independent media. The media that you choose to review must be from an independent producer (rather than a major studio). Your tutor will help you identify appropriate independent content and sources. Ideally your choice will be from someone who is a few steps further on in your industry.
Make sure you include a hyperlink to the piece of media you have reviewed.
Freebird Games is an indie game development studio founded by Kan (Reives) Gao as a personal outlet, to tell stories through the form of interactive narratives and music. Kan Gao heads a very small team of 3 people, including himself yet has managed to create some absolutely brilliant video games; one such in particular that is very close to my heart, titled: “To the Moon.”
“To the Moon is a psychological, sci-fi, adventure RPG, about two doctor traversing through the memories of a dying man to fulfill his last wish.”
To the Moon is an experience that will leave you breathless and emotionally broken. I remember my first time with it – six or so hours from start to finish in one sitting, I couldn’t take my attention away. It’s very much a story driven title with a nod to the classic point-and-click adventure games of the late 80’s – 90’s. However, unlike the historical-educational premise of 'Carmen Sandiego', or the swashbuckling, adventuring humor of 'Monkey Island', TtM dealt with the idea of “Inception” before 'Inception' was a glint in Christopher Nolan’s eye. It would be the first commercial production by Gao’s indie game development team, Freebird Games, and was designed using the RPG Maker XP engine – a piece of software used to create 16-bit, 2D role-playing-games in the style of classics such as ‘Dragon Quest’ and ‘Final Fantasy’.
TtM was released initially on Gao’s personal website and later via Steam on November 1, 2011. It’s a story that follows two doctors, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, through an alternate reality, in which they have access to technology which allows them to weave artificial memories into patients’ minds whilst in a dream-like state, so that upon waking the patient would retain the memories of things that didn’t actually happen. The risk this procedure carries is the permanent imprint of false memories, which can conflict with the authentic memories of the patient, rendering them incapable of functioning properly. Thus, the operation is only administered to people nearing the end of their lives as a gift of sorts, to remove any regrets they may have had during their life. The patient in question is our protagonist, Johnny, an elderly man on his death bed who wishes to fulfill his life-long dream of travelling to the Moon.
However, unlike the aforementioned titles, which dealt with worlds in the midst of conflict, presenting the player with intricate, combat-focused battle systems, TtM is a puzzle solving game which tasks the player with interpreting the story fragments they’re given by Johnny, in order to manipulate his memories and bring his wish to fruition.
Gao is a man with many hats, one of his more prominent roles being music composer, and might I just say that the OST to this game is phenomenal. Gao manages to illicit a range of emotions throughout the game with hauntingly beautiful melodies that stick for days after the story has come to a conclusion. There must also be a special nod to Laura Shigihara who provides the vocals to the only non-instrumental track, “Everything’s Alright”, along with the rest of the OST, is available from the BandCamp website, which I’m listening to as of writing this.
TtM has received a cavalcade of positive reviews which praised it for narrative, music and experience. The game holds an average rating of 81/100 on Metacritic – one of the benchmark sources for aggregate video game ratings and in its release year of 2011, TtM went on to collect awards for ‘Best Story’, ‘Top 20 Games’, ‘Best Indie RPG’, Indie Game Festival (IGF) ‘Finalist for Excellence in Audio’ and ‘Best Single Player Indie.’
500 words isn’t nearly enough to credit this sublimely written, heart-wrenching tale of childhood romance, family tragedy and a climactic reveal that would leave M. Night Shyamalan with his mouth agape. Do yourself a favour and go download this game. Play it in one sitting, or over the course of a few days at an hour a night; it’s bite-sized but packs more heart than some of the 100+ hour epics I’ve experienced. If nothing else, you’ll be left with a hole in your heart which you can try to fill with pizza or last night’s Chinese take-out.
Five years is a long time in the world of technology, ten years is lifetime. If you were to look at any two pieces of technology from the same family (mobile phones, cameras, televisions) ten years apart and you’ll have a chalk and cheese comparison.
I’ve touched on how the video game landscape has shifted into light speed with no signs of slowing down in my last blog but today I’ll address an area in particular and that is performance.
Prior to my time at SAE I was an Information Technology graduate; I worked in a large Data Centre in the city and spent a lot of time, hands-on with some pretty unbelievable, enterprise grade tech. The trend over the last half a decade and increasingly more so today is businesses alleviating themselves of the cost of hardware (employee computers/desktops) by ‘virtualising’ their environment. In a nutshell this means providing the means of computing to end users via the ‘cloud’. The cloud of course is ethereal – in actual fact the cloud the physical device typically made up of an enormous amount of storage and if necessary, computing power.
When you upload data to Dropbox, or Google Drive for example, you are actually uploading your data to their private, secure servers and your data sits alongside an enormous amount of other data (without researching the specifics, I’d hazard a guess that Google have Exabytes of data: 1 Exabyte = 1 billion Gigabytes). Now if you imagine your desktop PC or laptop you’ll be able to visualise what I’m about to say. In your computer you have a Hard Drive capable of a predetermined, finite amount of storage. This is essentially what the cloud is, but of course on an epic scale. Your computer also has a CPU, Memory and other bits of circuity that ‘power’ your machine and allow it to execute the commands that you as the user input via your keyboard and/or mouse. Well in the same way that a company like Google can provide large amounts of storage (remember that the cloud is simply a label for actual, physical infrastructure), a company can also provide computing power on a very large scale and this is exactly how companies, such as the one I worked for, are able to ‘virtualise’ an environment. We would literally provide enough CPU, Memory, Hard disk storage and Network throughput that our end users could do away with their individual computers and simply log onto our ‘cloud’ via a terminal (ironically the terminal in whatever form would still require a basic computer with internet access to log in from).
My theory is that Hardware developers for Videogame consoles (there is a differentiation between hardware developers and software developers – Hardware developers create the actual consoles and software developers create the games; sometimes the Same company will fulfil both roles i.e Nintendo, Microsoft) will take this route in the near future if they haven’t begun developing a like-minded strategy already. My reasoning is simply that it makes sense on so many levels – I could parrot the same reasons that big corporate businesses have given for their move to a virtualised platform but in short, it cuts cost, ensures redundancy (a term I unfortunately don’t have the word count to explain), hastens the development life cycle, allows for quicker deployment or hardware and therefore software and a host of other benefits.
Even until this latest, current generation of consoles (Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PS4), the aforementioned hardware developers are constantly competing with each other trying to research, develop and ultimately fund the cost of the latest and greatest hardware (by providing software developers with the latest and ‘best’ hardware, their restrictions when developing their games are minimised) and hardware launches are always a tricky business investment. The hardware developer needs to outlay a significant amount of CAPX to build millions of units in the hopes that they, with the aid of third-party software developers (companies that develop games for a particular console) will eventually turn their expense into a profit. Sometimes this has a negative effect on the company. Nintendo for example, in the year 2014 I believe, reported their first financial loss in a long time and it was a HUGE loss (something to the tune of a couple hundred million). When something like this happens the company will often try to find inventive ways to recoup that cost on their next project but usually at the expense of cutting funding on R&D for hardware. This of course then puts the company at a disadvantage competitively then the competitors release their products and with greater technical specifications. The average consumer aka the ‘Casual Gamer’ really only appreciates games on an aesthetic level – Sean if you’re reading this then liken these phenomena to the casual movie goer who will trash a fantastic film because somebody didn’t get shot in a bloody fight. The rest of the game is lost on them and unfortunately, as I would imagine with most forms of media – the casual makes up the majority of the fan base and the majority typically influence the media, reviews, ratings and it puts the pressure back on the already challenged developers. It becomes this ugly, cyclic thing which doesn’t do anyone any good at any time, but I can’t go into that here.
I’ve already blown out the word count so I apologise if I’ve left any holes in this blog, but in closing – my prediction is that the future of video games exists in the ‘cloud’. Developers will create consoles with basic computational capabilities – enough to allow them basic functionality and an internet connection – users will then connect to a server owned or leased by that company and utilise a shared network of resources, both computational and storage thereby allowing for far greater hardware performance than if that company had to develop their own hardware to fit inside their latest console.
My chosen field is animation but to leave it at that would pigeon hole my passion. Animation to me is but one facet under an umbrella of creativity of which I’ve sheltered myself beneath for most of my life. Because of that, I’m writing this post in relation to Video Games as a form of media that I consume.
During my lifetime I’ve seen the Video Games’ industry undergo a great many changes. I’ve seen the graphics of games evolve into something far greater than I could ever have imagined. 8-bit textures that were stored on memory boards, housed in a plastic cartridges were replaced by disc media, allowing developers to include larger file sizes leading to full motion video, high quality sound-tracks and custom computer created game engines. I saw two of the world’s largest technology companies enter the video game market with proprietary hardware, ambition and the funds to recruit and ignite serious competition in the market, in turn forcing the industry as a whole to keep up and push the envelope with each title that was released. I’ve played games on a console sitting cross legged on the floor, I’ve played them on devices in my hand while commuting, I’ve played them sitting in the comfort of my chair at my computer desk and I’ve even played them with an all-encompassing device strapped to my head. The video game landscape has been terraformed time and time again and in such a short span of time that even twenty years ago had you told me what was possible today, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. One of the ways gaming has changed is thanks to the ever evolving infrastructure of our internet. The internet, for most of the developed countries in the world, is advanced enough that the direct distribution of digital content to the consumer is now a well-established process. Every current generation gaming platform today is capable of an always-online internet connection and your games can be purchased, downloaded, installed and ready to play at your discretion via the click of a few buttons, and therein lies my biggest gripe with this shift towards the future of gaming.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the convenience – I’m a generation which was brought up on the advent of some of the greatest technological advancements in all recorded history and the theme of the last 10 years has been one of “How can we make everything easier for us?” But when it comes to games there is one aspect I really do love and it’s one that has been dismissed almost entirely now due to this shift in landscape: Packaging.
Rewind twenty years and I would find myself standing in a department store, usually in the TV/Entertainment section, staring at a wall of cardboard boxes; each one a different video game. It was like a supermarket with each title advertising what the game was about. I would pick up each box and admire the art work, flip it over and read the synopsis, see the screen shots, read about the features and make my decision whether or not to make the purchase and when I did, I would take home that very same box. That box was mine to keep, to admire and fondle, to display on a shelf or to throw on the carpet next to the bed. When I took that box home there was another experience to be had before the game even started – I would carefully slip my finger between the box edge and the lip as to prevent that awful indentation in the cardboard, and slowly edge the fold out lip away to reveal all the goodies inside. Nintendo in particular used to do a remarkable job of their packaging – the instruction booklets were each a work of art on their own; little manuals pertaining to the game, chock-full of gorgeous artwork, game history, notes from the development team, fun facts and trivia. Each one was a stand-alone experience that added so much depth to the game and its lore. Sometimes a poster was tucked inside as well which I would slap up on my wall almost immediately and then there was the cartridge itself, wrapped in a tiny plastic pocket and wedged into the cardboard insert. When I took it out I would admire its unblemished finish, I could still smell the packaging on it when I would bring it close to my face. Slowly I would insert the cartridge into the console - you could feel the firm ‘click’ when it was depressed fully and that tactile feedback meant that it was time to press ‘Power-On.’
This is an experience I sorely miss – Even today hard-copy versions are still mass-produced, but the experience has been dulled considerably. The publishers pay no real thought to the packaging and you’re typically left with a plastic DVD case, a cover insert and disc. The old-adage is that “it’s the little things that make the experience” and such is the case for me and my games.
There is a caveat to this however and that is something called a “Collector’s Edition”. However, I’m told these blogs must be 500 word +/- 10% so unfortunately I’ll have to end it here.
Somebody that inspired you in your chosen field.
“Players are artists who create their own reality within the game”
Shigeru Miyamoto is largely recognised for his multiple contributions to the long-standing Nintendo franchise but to me he has been the living proof that from humble beginnings, the spark that we each have is enough catalyst to breathe life into the wonderful creations we dream of realising. Over the past three decades he created and brought to the world some of the most iconic and beloved video game characters as well as the worlds within the games they live in and I’ve been lucky enough to have grown alongside much of this timeline, experiencing each milestone along the way and hopelessly falling in love time and time again.
The internet is littered with pages that do a much better job than I at chronicling Miyamoto’s journey as a boy who explored the fields surrounding his small town of Sonobe, a rural town northwest of Kyoto, Japan, through to his early beginnings as an aspiring Manga artist, his tremendous achievements as a Game Designer and his deserved position as the General Manager of Nintendo’s European branch and so I won’t go into detail here, but his journey is of great importance because in many ways I find myself walking his path, following the same dream.
As boy I was never very popular, I wasn’t athletic and I didn’t have any siblings. I lived with my grandparents who provided for me in every way that they could and so from an early age they identified and encouraged my creative side. To this end they bought me countless books, pencils, building blocks and my very first video game console: An Atari 2600. Cartoons, Anime, Fiction Books, Gaming – these became staples of my youth. I would sink hours into the worlds that these outlets provided me. Heroes and villains, kings and queens, love and betrayal, all the archetypes and even the obscure – I had found all the happiness I longed for in the pictures, the words, the sounds they created. To say ‘all’ the happiness is hyperbole as I acquired specific tastes in genre as I matured, nevertheless these mediums fanned the flames of my creativity, they fuelled my ideas and they shaped my creations.
I would draw a lot in primary school – I excelled in Art and crafts and made a declaration at about 9 years of age, for a homework assignment, that I would grow up and have my own Video Game company – I even named it and created a logo: Ryan’s Game Design, or RGD for short.
Although my twenties have seen a great shift in my personality and taken me down some roads I wish I had avoided, I grew to realise that all those decisions, the good and the bad, played an integral part in my own video game. They shaped me in exactly the way that I needed in order to guide me along my path. I can’t follow Miyamoto’s path; that was his alone. But I can follow his legacy on my own one, he is the legendary hero in my game, I am Link chasing Dampe through the graveyard. The tales of his journey and victories are some of my favourite non-fiction and I aim to have a story of my own worth telling.
To this day one my favourite memories was of Christmas morning, 1998. I tore the wrapping paper from a golden cardboard box and ran my fingers over the embossed sword and shield emblazoned on the front cover. I can still remember the first time I heard Navi say, “Hey! Listen!” and I can still see Link standing on the open field of Hyrule as we stared across the lush, green fields together…