Friday I’m In Love

Red and Sword by Sleepyrun | Friday I'm In Love | Gamerwife
Red and Sword by Sleepyrun available at Redbubble

Not sure if I got food poisoning or a stomach bug, but the last few days of this week have not been fun. Good thing I’ll have Daredevil to marathon all weekend while eating bland foods.

Hurrah.

Link Time!

Did you know the video game cartridge was created by one dude?!

Have some bricked consoles lying around? Why not try one of these clever recycling hacks.

PC game suggestions for kids that don’t involve Barbie or penguins.

Why is there so much killing in video games? Short answer: designers are lazy.

And on a similar note, how game designers get guns wrong.

Do games have to be “fun.”? And how do we define “fun” anyways?

Really sweet essay about teaching decision making by playing RPGs with your kids.

Google made a computer that can finish Atari games. Those games are hard, man.

Yet another thing video games could treat: lazy eye!

And finally, 16 games are pretty as they are fun to play.

Dames Who Make Games: Keisha C.

Welcome to Dames Who Make Games, Gamerwife’s interview series with the lovely ladies who make our video games. Whether you’re a QA tester or a company VP, we want to hear what you have to say. And remember to click “Continue reading” for the whole story.

Dames Who Make Games: Keisha C. | Gamerwife.com

Yay! We’re finally back with another Dames Who Make Games profile and I couldn’t be more excited. This time around I got the chance to interview Keisha C., a level artist at Spearhead Games here in Montreal. Spearhead is a small studio, with fewer than 16 employees, but they still make big ambitious games like Tiny Brains & Arena: Cyber Evolution. Thanks so much to Keisha for taking the time to answer my infernal questions!

Gamerwife: Let’s start at the beginning, what was the first game you ever played?
Keisha: The first games I played were Duck Hunt and Mario with my cousins. We played a lot of games together (Final Fantasy, Shadow of the Colossus, to name a few others I remember), I always enjoyed watching the characters and the environments. We used to fight because they would skip the cutscenes, which I thought were the best part!

GW: What made you decide on a career in games?
Keisha: All I’ve ever really wanted was to be employed at a creative job. I had a 3D modeling class while I was at Dawson learning illustration and fell in love with the medium. It took me a couple more years to decide to make the leap and study it specifically for games. When I heard of the 3D modeling program, I pounced.

GW: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Keisha: I have an Illustration and Design degree from Dawson College, where I got a taste for 3D modeling. From there I went on to get a degree from Le campus A.D.N, in 3D modeling for video games.

Dames Who Make Games: Keisha C. | Tiny Brains Art | Gamerwife.com
Tiny Brains – Art by Keisha Chauvin

GW: What are the best/worst things about working in video games?
Keisha: The best thing about working in video games is the pace. I love the quick thinking and the adaptable nature of the medium. The projects are rarely the same, so as an artist, you get to work with multiple art styles, you get to try out different strategies and technologies. Also, working with designers to make levels both beautiful and understandable leads you to find compromises and novel ways to express your art.

The worst thing about working in video games is the pace. Different projects and new technologies unfortunately also means completely new development that needs to be completed on tight deadlines. All this can translate to long hours… Managing stress is very important.

GW: Have you ever had issues with harassment or discrimination as a women in video games?
Keisha: Fortunately, I can’t say that I have experienced either of these things.

GW: What advice do you have for other women who want to be involved in game development?
Keisha: Networking and working on personal projects are very important. Research companies, go to video game events, meet developers and show them what you’re working on. It might be scary, intimidating or hard to get through the door, but the outcome will totally be worth it!

GW: And finally, what games are you playing right now?
Keisha: Right now, I’m playing Tomb Raider and Fez.

About Keisha C.:

Keisha Chauvin is a level artist/ 3D artist for Spearhead Games. She studied 3D modeling for video games at A.D.N campus. During her last semester, she got the opportunity to do a 3 month internship with Warner Brothers, where she worked on Cartoon Universe. Once her program and internship were over, she got an opportunity to work for an up and coming studio named Spearhead Games. She has worked with them on Tiny Brains, Arena Cyber Evolution and is currently working on their 3rd project.

Friday I’m In Love

Princess Zelda Siames Escalante Press Start 3 Ltd Art Gallery
Princess Zelda by Siames Escalante available at Ltd Art Gallery

Hello my lovelies!

Did you notice my new logo? Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m so happy with it I still swoon every time I see it. It was made by the very talented (and patient) Chris Salazar. Check out his work, he’s great!

This week was another whirlwind in indie game development, but I do feel like things are (actually) starting to settle down. I even tried out a new yoga studio. Yay!

This weekend I have the honour of acting as a judge for the first ever Montreal Independent Games Festival and I’ll be recording an interview for my friend Cindy’s podcast Things. I’ll have lots more details on all of that as it happens.

Link time!
Some thoughts on my recent trips to GDC & PAX East.

Why video games scroll left to right. Guess what? It’s SCIENCE!

The secret Ketamine origins of Ecco the Dolphin.

Can we stop agonizing over “screen-time” for our kids?

Interview with the director of GTFO about women, games and harassment.

Could video games lead to better stroke recovery stats?

How many of these awesome lady-centric comics are you reading? I’m only on 4, but they all look great!

Clickhole made a noir-themed text adventure. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. (That is to say, it’s AMAZING!)

I haven’t seen Jupiter Rising, but this article kind of makes me want to.

Even Lara Croft has trouble dying on mic.

Friday I’m In Love

Possessed Pixels | Friday I'm In Love | Gamerwife
Possessed Pixels available at Cherry Sauce
Hello lovelies!

How was your week?

I’m finally getting into the groove of this whole “independent game development” thing.

I think.

At least, I managed to get some VERY IMPORTANT but VERY BORING things done. Also, I managed to nail down accommodations in San Francisco for when I attend the Game Developers Conference in March, which is good because I don’t think Rick was that into the idea of me sleeping at the bus station…

This weekend I am looking forward to cooking a romantic meal for two with my hubby and then stocking up on discounted Valentine’s Day candy. What are you up to?

Link time!

Totally forgot to post this IGDA demo night roundup two weeks ago when it was relevant, but you guys don’t need to know that. I’d also give shout-outs to Black the Fall, Curses ‘N Chaos, Close Castles & KWAAN.

Heartbreaking piece about The Sims and divorce.

Yes, Gamergate is still happening. And it’s still scary.

Now that I am actually living the life on indie dev, I can tell you, number 5 is so real it hurts.

Speaking of indie games, I really liked this article about how indie isn’t a path to AAA. For most devs, it’s actually the opposite.

Do games have to be a power fantasy? What if you aren’t the hero?

Animals sneezing!

Honestly, part of the reason I’m so proud to be in game dev is to prove to other women that we can!

Need to add Cardboard Utopia to this list of 21 small game studios to watch in 2015.

And finally, I am soooo excited for the new game experience from my friends at KO-OP Mode.

Life Is Strange – Unreview

I know that earlier this year I said that I wasn’t going to do game reviews anymore. I was concerned about the time involved and possible conflicts of interest, but I just played a game that I really want to talk to you about. So I came up with the idea of the “unreview.”

I’m not going to be doing a traditional review of the game where I weigh the pros and cons and decide whether or not to recommend it. Games that are “unreviewed” are already 100% endorsed by yours truly. Instead, I needed a space to talk about games I enjoyed and feel important enough to share with all of you. A sort of explanation of why you should play them that takes the flaws into account, but isn’t trying to produce a score based on pros vs. cons.

Life Is Strange | Life Is Strange Unreview | Gamerwife

The first game to get the Unreview treatment is Life Is Strange, an episodic game by French developers DONTNOD. The game is narrative focused, there isn’t a lot of “gameplay” as we usually define it, but it’s still more involved than most of what I’d consider “interactive fiction.” It’s more like a playable TV show, inspired by classic high school dramas like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Friday Night Lights.

Life Is Strange also distinguishes itself in the video game sphere by focusing on two female characters and their relationship. You play as Max Caulfield, a typically awkward, but talented teen recently enrolled at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. Blackwell Academy also happens to be located in her former hometown, where she left her best friend Chloe 5 years ago when her family moved to Seattle. Max is nervous about how to reconnect with Chloe, given that they’ve barely spoken since she left, but she keeps getting sidetracked by mean girls and pushy teachers. When they are finally reunited, Max discovers an incredible power. But what is it for, and will she be able to find out in time?

The power in question is the ability to reverse time, a mechanic that perfectly complements the narrative gameplay so that you really feel like you have power over the outcome of the story. Didn’t like the way a conversation went? No sweat, just reverse time and give the answer you should have. Made a hasty decision and someone got hurt? Rewind that sucker and see if you can change the way it plays out. There are the occasional puzzle that involves rewinding time in the right sequence in order to collect needed items, etc. but that’s as difficult as the gameplay gets.

If you can operate a keyboard and a mouse, you can play Life Is Strange.

Others have criticized the game for sounding like a bunch of French dudes trying to write like teenager girls, but I found a lot of the time the cringe worthiness of some of the name dropping dialogue was due to its resemblance to how I spoke as an uber-pretentious 19 year old. That said, there is still a lot of awkwardly treehorned-in slang, but there was enough sincerity to even the most eye-roll worthy lines to give them a pass. I especially like how vulnerable Max is as a protagonist. Her earnest, yet snarky inner dialogue really reminded me of Rainbow Rowell’s heroines, brave but unaware.

Finally, if gameplay and story weren’t enough for you, the game is beautiful to look at. Yes, some of the animations are a little wonky here and there, but the painterly style of the art (ironic given that photography is a major part of the plot) is really stunning. It really gives a warm, sunny, nostalgic cast to the Pacific Northwest setting and reinforces the sort of hyper-real atmosphere Max finds herself in. If you don’t take my word for it, just check out some of the amazing screenshots from the game’s Steam page.

The first episode is available on PC and consoles for $5 and if you like YA novels, you will like this game. If you like comic books about real girls with crazy powers, you will like this game. If you like high school shows with kickass girls, you will like this game. And if you like games that involve more than just shooting things, you will like this game.

Seriously. Play this game.