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The red carpet at the sixth annual Game Awards set the tone for a fast-paced and dynamic ceremony at the Microsoft Theater on Thursday night.
Actors Norman Reedus (Death Stranding) and Courtney Hope (Control), both of whom were nominated in the best performance category, joined game creators and execs filing into the downtown L.A. venue. Several spoke with THR about their nominated titles and “game-changing” moments of the year in video games.
Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé said his game-changer was advances in streaming. “As the technology evolves to be cloud, and as download speeds increase, what it means is you’re going to be able to play any game on any device at any time,” he said, adding that, of course, gamers shouldn’t expect that in the very near term. “It will happen over the next decade and be something that’s really meaningful for players.”
Asked about his early experiences with Nintendo, Fils-Aimé responded, “My first system was the Super Nintendo, so I played Super Mario World — and ended the game with 99 lives — and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I had over 80 games on that system, and I think that helped me with the fans and the company, because I knew the content so well. … For me it’s been a part of my growing up. I was with Nintendo of America for 15 years. Now, being able to be like a fan [again] and celebrate this industry is really special.”
Robert Conkey, producer of game of the year winner Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, identified the day that the reviews hit as his game-changing moment. “The game has a lot of new stuff in it that’s kind of risky, and we didn’t know if people would get it or not,” he said. “When the reviews came out, we realized they did get it and it was such an incredible feeling.” Conkey has been into games since he was 4 years old, playing 1987’s Final Fantasy on the Nintendo NES console.
“It’s my role to do something really new, and I always think it’s game-changing,” said Hideo Kojima, creator of Death Stranding. “And also I wanted to bridge between movies and games; that was one of my goals.”
Kojima said he came up with the idea for Death Stranding when he went to an exhibit 10 years ago and saw the mass stranding of whales. “When I saw that, it was the first time I thought about Death Stranding. All the living things come from the ocean and came to the land, and that’s how we became as humans. The beginning of life was the ocean, and the beach was the boundary.”
In 2020, he anticipates more of a move to streaming games and less focus on platforms. “For all the game creators in the world, and the filmmakers, the technology will become more one — and everyone will be united.”
Dominic Robilliard, creative director of PixelOpus, whose game Concrete Genie was nominated in the Games for Impact category, grew up playing games on his 48K ZX Spectrum computer and decided on a gaming career after experiencing Prince of Persia. When ask about why Concrete Genie‘s story resonates with him, he said: “The games that we make have to have a message, and of the things we wanted to tackle is the power of creativity and self-expression. We’ve been working for a number of years on trying to figure out a way for the player to feel like they could be an artist — you don’t have to have an artistic talent to play the game.”
The game’s art director, Jeff Sangalli, cited 1984 martial arts action game Karateka as the game that got him addicted. Looking ahead to the calendar of releases, Robilliard mentioned Cyberpunk 2077 as a game he’s waiting for, while Sangalli is looking forward to what Giant Squid (the developer behind Abzu) does next.
The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson also spoke to THR about his game-changer this year. “The [Xbox] Game Pass changed how we design from the ground up. We got a lot of recognition for making Gears 5 more accessible than we’ve ever been before, because millions of people who maybe didn’t want to pay the $60 can now get into it with game pass. It really changed how we thought about the game with new players in mind.”
Control game director Mikael Kasurinen said his biggest moment was “me and [Remedy studios creative director] Sam Lake sitting down in a hotel room talking about the game. We both decided we wanted to do something unique and honest and sincere, something that reflects who we are. To me, it was the realization of, ‘this is the thing’ and everything else that happened led back to that moment.”
Meanwhile, Tim Cain, co-game director of The Outer Worlds, noted that simply finishing his game — which came out in October — was the highlight. Fellow co-director Leonard Boyarsky said that it was a huge deal for the pair. “You’re never sure how people are going to react, and the fact that so many people have been fired up and have loved so much of our game has been nice.” The directors cited Bloodlines 2 and Breath of the Wild 2 as titles they are looking forward to. “I’ve kind of fallen back in love with my Switch,” said Cain.
Sky: Children of the Light game designer Atlas Chen said he’d been working on the title for seven years, so 2019 was significant just in that it marked the release of the game. “I think what our game tried to bring to light is the idea of humans connecting online — we’ve seen something similar with Death Stranding,” said narrative designer Jennie Kong. “In this day and age, with digital networks, everyone is trying to figure out and find more genuine connections.”
Devil May Cry 5 game designer Hideaki Itsuno said that in 2020 he is looking forward to seeing new hardware as well as witnessing how people react to the subscription-gaming model. He said that he fell in love with video games when during his later elementary school years and plans to continue working in the industry until he is “old and wrinkly.”
And although no one else repeated the sentiment in those words, the idea of longevity in gaming was very much felt throughout the carpet and into the awards show, where Green Day and a full orchestra added nostalgia and nuance to the evening.
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