Tribeca Games Festival 2017 – Video Games Get Center Stage

Written By: Erika Haase

The Tribeca Film Festival is a big deal. Begun in 2002, the festival now attracts upwards of three million people annually and is known for fostering discussion about narrative, documentary work, and up and coming influencers in the film world. Receiving an award is a prestigious honor. However, 2017 marked the arrival of a new set of story tellers. Video games have finally attained a seat at the table with a day full of panels with game developers that ranged from indie to AAA legends. Janet Rosenthal herself, one of the founding members of the festival, came out to address attendees with her pride in being able to host these speakers, and remarked on the powerful ability gaming has proven it can have in the mediums of storytelling and artistic design.

Arriving for the second half of speakers at an otherwise full-day event, I entered a gratefully mature and well-polished ambiance that spoke to the respect for the medium. This wasn’t a scene for game demos, flashy advertisement, and cosplayer competitions. While far from a suit and tie occasion, it was clear that the Tribeca Games Festival would be taken as seriously as its film counterpart. Since I reached the event during its lunch hour, I mingled in the lounge, full of Nutella crepes and Nespresso coffee beverages. We were soon shown into the Main Stage which was lit with the mood lighting of an expensive club in swanky blue and purple with the Tribeca Games Festival logo proudly projected on the far wall. This was no shoddy side-car attraction for the Tribeca Films Festival. The crowd is mature, talk was abuzz with creators chatting about their current stages of development on personal projects, what genres they’re looking forward to working on, and which speakers they’re most excited to see. The stage has all the presence of an Inside The Actor’s Studio Q &A session, with an austere, yet luxurious, set of chairs and beverages at the ready.


To kick off the second half of the day’s roster was Sean Vanaman, Campo Santo’s co-founder who wrote and co-directed the award winning Firewatch. His focus was on the narrative building of the game and how the team at Campo Santo went about creating an immersive experience. He also, however, talked a little about himself which described many creative minds and was refreshing to hear be discussed as a positive instead of negative bash against “those damn entitled millennials.” Vanaman, who had been working in the Disney gaming division, and was the first to admit that’s as big as it gets, talked about not feeling comfortable or at home in such a big business mentality. He talked about writing constantly for himself when he’d get home. The scripts he wrote led to his eventual hiring at Telltale Games where he worked on Season One of The Walking Dead Telltale iteration. That was where he began to realize what he liked about video games, and what hadn’t been clicking for him at his previous job. He looked at the audience without entirely making a joke and blatantly stated “I’m a bad employee.” He followed that laughable statement up by explaining that his work style didn’t fit into a big business structure, but that his passions and desire to create the stories he’d been dreaming up did fit somewhere. That “somewhere” landed up being Campo Santo, the creation of which he admits to being the scariest thing he’s ever done. Inspired by Jonathan Blow’s The Witness, he knew he should be making games in this vein. A first person puzzle game was something he knew he had to take on. He laughed again and admitted “I’m a bad puzzle designer.” Cue the laughter, however, he stresses that he knew he wanted to make Firewatch more than anything else, and for him, that is the best reason behind making a game and establishing a game studio. Wanting it more than anything else. He described the difficulty and admittedly terrible pitch sessions for Firewatch to secure funding with his partner Jake Rodkin and trying to explain Firewatch as “It’s going to be in Wyoming because Sean is from Wyoming.”

Sean Vanaman, Co-Founder of Campo Santo. Writer & Co-Director of Firewatch

Finally, he shrugs and admits that determination won the day, as well as name dropping his credentials as having worked on the now award winning Telltale Games The Walking Dead. This perseverance and dedication to creating a passion project or establishing a company is a sentiment that was echoed throughout the night by nearly every speaker. It was refreshing to begin the second half of the panel speakers with someone on the small studio side of the spectrum because Vanaman’s enthusiasm and hard work shone through his words. Love or hate Firewatch, mock it as a walking simulator, all of that is irrelevant. The dedication behind creating it is inspirational to hear verbalized because that kind of drive is infectious. In a much different mannerism, later in the evening, Ken Levine will land up giving this same kind of advice about drive and being determined.

Vanaman was asked how he learned to play to his small team’s strengths when he was already an, admittedly, bad employee. He laughs and says it will sound cheesy, but that he learned it from playing sports. He compared it to going into a game with four of the shortest players, but knowing you still have to play and come up with a different strategy than you might use otherwise. He notes that developing a game in an industry full of big players with a team of only eleven or twelve people is essentially the same mentality. If you can’t hit the hardest, than you have to be the quickest and most agile. Vanaman was unassuming in every respect. He presented himself just as humbly as if he didn’t have award winning games under his belt already and despite sheepishly admitting he name dropped his work on The Walking Dead while trying to obtain funding, he’s very down to earth. He continuously stressed the difficulty in creating a game and a game studio and began explaining the reasons behind narrative decisions in Firewatch made out of functionality over luxury. The game is set in Wyoming, for example, since he grew up there and knew it wouldn’t require as much travel to research. However, as much as this might sound like the cop out of a lazy and “bad employee,” it’s actually the advice given to any author. “Write what you know” is an age-old adage and that’s exactly what Campo Santo did.

Vanaman talks about specific instances in Firewatch such as falling down a shale slide, explaining how that happened to him in real life and how terrifying it was at the time. You could see how excited he was to create a game out of memories and experiences from his twelve-year-old self. For Vanaman, human experience is a huge thing to portray. He talks about his issue with most mainstream games which is the disconnect of feeling the repercussions for an action. In many games, he points out, if you shoot someone it’s not all that big of a deal. In Firewatch, however, if main character Henry were to shoot someone, then it should resound as a very big deal because for the average human that would be a traumatic experience. While admitting that he had no desire to create a “message game,” he emphasized how he wanted to contain those feelings of the human experience.

Vanaman went on to talk about capturing the essence of the American west and working with a multicultural design team. When asked if he actually landed up having to do more or less research as he’d hoped, he gave a few examples of how what might be familiar to you exceeds the ability to describe and simply needs to be experienced to fully capture. Olly Moss from Southern England and environment and lighting artist Jane Ng from Hong Kong both had to actually see the vastness of scale and Vanaman explains that when they finally saw it for themselves, there was a moment of “oh…ok now I get it.”  Using those intimate first hand experiences and, in some cases, revelatory occasions of a newcomer fully comprehending the size of places like Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, they were able to create something in game that while not always being photo realistic and true to life felt right. In an interesting conversation that few developers get into in a world of hyper realism and jaw dropping graphics, he discussed that sometimes photo realism won’t capture a feeling correctly. Taking a picture of the Grand Canyon, for instance, is technically exactly what the Grand Canyon looks like. However, mimicking what it feels like to stand in the midst of its enormity is another thing entirely. By figuring out that balance they were able to settle on the right mixture of things that may not ever occur naturally on a regular basis in that specific location, but gave the player the correct sense of what it would be like to be walking, alone, through woods or taking in a view from the fire watch tower.

Having interviewed indie developers myself, I could see the same light in Vanaman’s eyes when discussing his project and the exhaustive amounts of effort put into creating something that matches the vision carried by your team. As I mentioned earlier, whether you enjoyed or even played Firewatch was irrelevant. Listening to him speak to the strengths a small team and learning to manage on the fly, enhancing their individual strengths and using each resource to its fullest with so many constraints, was inspirational. It was a great reminder that even for smaller game studios, the end results can almost accidentally come off more genuine than some AAA creations. One perfect example, I thought, was when he described how they managed the responsiveness of dialogue between main character Henry and the solitary point of external contact, Delilah. Voice actors Rich Sommer and Sissy Jones recorded their lines at the same time, however they did so remotely while each being in their own home offices. In the game, communication is done via a walkie talkie. Through this set up of conveying the dialogue to each other in real life, they landed up recreating the same in-game relationship and as a result achieved that perfect timing and cadence that now exists for your listening pleasure. All said, it was a great encapsulation of what makes indie gaming such a wellspring of great ideas and why I’ve enjoyed talking to every creator that I’ve interviewed here on /BCG.

Therefore, it was telling, and honestly jarring, to have such a lively discussion followed up by what can only be described as the stereotypical attitudes and presentations of AAA developers who are caught up in a the web of NDAs and “bigness” of the gaming industry. Michael Chu, Lead Writer for Blizzard’s Overwatch and the Senior Designer of lore and story was next. Overwatch needs no introduction as a gaming phenomenon and his arrival on stage was met with resounding applause.

Michael Chu, Lead Writer, Senior Designer of Lore & Story of Blizzard’s Overwatch

The moderator promptly asked for a show of hands who played Overwatch and then asked all Hanzo mains to leave the room which resulted in a riotous good-natured mix of boos and claps. For that reason, it would have been nicer to have a deeper dive into some actual substantive discussion on characters that millions have real connections to. What we got, however, was nothing that can’t be found on the Overwatch Wiki, or through other already released press statements and interviews. I can understand Blizzard’s desire to play coy at future character reveals, however, it would have been nice for them to participate in such a venerated festival with something deeper than a standard press statement. Having deeper personal vignettes to share other than statements that blatantly stayed in the neutral lane on every topic point would have made it an interesting discussion. For example, the moderator congratulated Chu on having possibly the most diverse FPS game in existence. This statement was followed up by a question of how Chu and his team have approached this diversity in a responsible way. While there was nothing wrong with Chu’s response – a nod to having a diverse development team that can contribute accurate cultural comments to character creation – it could have been far more informative and teaching moment for all the up and coming game devs in the room. A conversation that  could have highlighted the strength of diversity in gaming and the future in story-telling it can represent by exploring the culture of others.

The moderator, for his part, definitely tried to get more of non-PR reactions out of Chu by asking him about the controversial topics of Overwatch character interpretation. This question garnered a lot of snickering from the audience as everyone collectively thought of the abundance of pornographic Overwatch fan art in existence on the Internet. Chu remained entirely professional and answered gracefully with a statement that working at Blizzard fosters a thick skin to unfiltered responses. He always leaned back towards the positive even when discussing oft-debated characters like Symmetra and in-game player balance.

The best anecdote of Chu’s panel was while discussing the voice recordings for Mei and her line of “sorry, sorry, sorry!” He admits that line was not actually written for her character. The voice actress had messed up a line and felt terrible, and while apologizing they realized the recording of her saying sorry repeatedly had been captured and was too adorable to cut. Chu clearly has a passion for all the characters he’s worked on, but talked in disappointingly vague terms. The moderator’s questions, and fan reactions, clearly indicated that they hoped to hear more details definitively or even more specific anecdotes about character creation which I felt was oddly glossed over by someone in such a senior position.

This detachment from excitement and real depth was only further echoed by what was sadly the most boring panel of the night from the person with the most exciting name (aside from my interview with Pete Skyking of Ballistic Interactive last week). Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer at 343 Industries, was next up to discuss the impact of Halo and the future of the franchise. Halo certainly doesn’t induce the response that it might once have, however with so much history and lore behind it, one might have expected a deeper discussion into the creative decisions both past and present. Wolfkill did make the salient point about an issue many AAA production studios deal with when it comes to evolving a franchise, which is introducing new concepts with conviction in the midst of a vocal fanbase. She spoke about keeping elements based on nostalgia versus the actual need to move forward. She also, thankfully, voiced the value in bringing in new talent while retaining the original minds so that one can breathe fresh life into your lore while experienced voices remind you “we did try that and it didn’t work for reasons A, B, and C.”

Kiki Wolfkill, Executive Producer at 343 Industries

Aside from this, however, nothing was said that hasn’t already been covered multiple times in press releases about the existing Halo titles. While interesting to hear both Michael and Kiki’s thoughts on such major franchises, I felt like they could have both been challenged a lot more for the forum they were in, as well as grace us with more committal answers or valuable wisdom. Especially in comparison to what we got from Sam Lake and particularly Ken Levine later in the evening, they were lackluster. The AAA developers unfortunately both came off as far too comfortable in their positions in the industry in comparison to the hungry ambition of Sean Vanaman which is a bad look for big business, especially when the indie gaming scene is exploding right now. It became clear why so many people (large developers included) are looking to that group for true creativity and innovation. If anyone doubts that the indie game scene is “the next big thing,” it should be noted that between each speaker were short trailers of upcoming indie titles. Not a single AAA game was shown off, despite the big screen and stellar sound system on hand to show off graphics.

At this point, the big guns were brought out. Sam Lake, Hideo Kojima, and Ken Levine were next on the schedule and you could tell that the entire audience was now at attention. Between these three names, so many historically important and exceedingly complex stories have been told. Their presence at the inaugural Tribeca Games Festival seemed a given. What wasn’t expected, however, was how the decision had been made to pair Sam Lake and Ken Levine with movie directors. In the case of Ken Levine this landed up working out beautifully, but for Sam Lake, Writer and Creative Director at Remedy Entertainment, he caught the short end of the stick.

Neil Burger (L) Director, Sam Lake (C) Writer, Creative Director at Remedy Entertainment

Lake was brought on stage, partnered with American film and television director Neil Burger whose biggest movie highlight is the film Limitless. He had also previously been tapped to write and direct the movie adaptation of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted, although he is no longer working on the project. After demonstrating his complete lack of understanding of video game story telling in this panel, however, I can only say that I’m glad Burger will have nothing to do with the Uncharted film if and when it’s made. For Lake’s part, he immediately expressed how humbled he was to be part of the Tribeca festival, paying homage to the influences of New York City and film noir on Max Payne. When asked about how he goes about the process of creating such layered characters and environments, Lake answers thoughtfully that he starts with the story and continues to follow the story in all new forms of technology. In his words, the story creation process of gaming is “…a conversation between the story and technology.” Lake elaborated on how these conversations can sometimes happen unintentionally with an anecdote about how a glitch in the physics engine for Alan Wake led to a key element of the game. Apparently, while testing object movement, things suddenly began to jump and shake about. While the initial impulse was to fix it, Lake insisted they keep it and add an element of poltergeist possession to furniture and objects. The idea stuck and you can blame that physics “glitch” for every time you were terrified by a bookshelf or a tractor getting hurled at you as poor Alan Wake. In another meta look at how interactive story telling is far from a new medium, Lake went on to discuss the intimacy of “the story.” When asked by the moderator what mediums he felt were combined to create a video game, Sam shook his head and insisted that games aren’t really combining new concepts, but drawing on things that have always existed. Lake talks about how even people sitting around campfires in ancient times told a story and would adjust telling based on reaction. Perhaps another person at that campfire would butt in with their own comment and alter the course of the story telling. He emphasizes that a story has always been, as previously stated, a conversation – even if it’s with yourself. Lake points out that even when watching a movie, the audience members are forming thoughts and opinions, a kind of silent interactivity that will be carried out into conversations later on.

In stark contrast, Neil Burger seemed intent on questioning the validity of storytelling in video-games and defining them more as “experiences” than “stories.” Burger also used some form of the word “replacement” so many times in conversation that I could only wonder if he had missed that the point of the panel was to discuss storytelling, not to have a pissing contest between the social importance of movies versus video games. When the moderator had begun the conversation, he’d made a comment saying that video games have movie envy, a comment which Burger latched onto by saying “What’s probably happening is that movies are having games envy.”  Despite Lake’s perfect way of detailing his opinions on the methods of video game story-telling, which was beautifully inclusive of movies as a medium, Burger responses tended to completely miss Sam’s bigger points. He insisted that movies aren’t interactive and are one-sided experiences, ignoring the concept that the audience is always having a reaction to cinematic experience. Burger talked about how a game is being controlled by the player who can walk away or pause the experience at any time, whereas a movie doesn’t give you that kind of choice and that due to these facts, movies essentially provide more streamlined and economically delivered stories without the exploration and “experience” that games are providing. It’s hard to take any of this as a compliment when Burger goes on to describe playing World of Warcraft and walking through the woods as a character. He makes no allusion that he’s played any of a Warcraft story, only that he thought it was cool to be in this virtual environment which for some reason didn’t translate as story-telling to him, simply “environment.” If any author would like to explain how world-building is storytelling, please direct your comments directly to Neil Burger’s offices, please.

When the moderator asks Sam Lake if there should be more instances of cutscenes to mimic how movies convey stories, or if it’s different because a video game gives you a choice of how much you can choose to find out about a character, Lake deflects the “either or” question by saying he doesn’t think there should be a hard rule of when to give or take control from the player. A moment may or may not lend itself to a cutscene, but it’s just as valid sometimes for a game to combine factors without taking control away. He cites moments such as “you remember the song playing on the radio when X thing was happening. In a sense, that is video game storytelling.” In real life we interact with multiple forms of storytelling at the same time, why should a video game be considered any “less” of a story simply because it includes the environment in its narrative? He illustrated this statement by pointing out how he takes the internal conflicts of his characters and projects them into the game world. Max Payne’s New York City isn’t really New York. It’s a reflection of the man’s journey of sadness and revenge after losing his wife and child, which taints everything he sees into shades of grey. Burger once again seems to miss the point by saying that these tools don’t “replace the role of story.” He’s clearly in another lane and I began wondering if he was listening at all while Lake was talking. Burger may be trying to sound progressive, but he clearly has no real experience with the gaming medium (or Lake’s work for that matter). Many of Burger’s view points ignored the realities of how movies and TV shows are marketed these days regardless of gaming (interactive conversations with the actors on Twitter, real-time viewing of TV episodes, hashtags to follow, QR codes on movie posters, extended director cuts, etc.). As if to counter the fact that games are out to somehow replace movies, Lake is asked about Quantum Break and how it chose to use TV episodes to convey portions of its story. Lake pointed out that each of Remedy’s games have chosen to use a different medium to convey portions of their story – Max Payne used a comic book, Alan Wake used pages out of a novel, Quantum Break live action episodes.

The remainder of the conversation was oddly contentious and as I followed the hashtag of the event – yet another piece of evidence that all discussions are interactive, even ones with a quiet audience – I found a number of tweets asking what, exactly, was going on. One of my favorite tweets at the close of the session asked if they had just listened to Sam Lake defend video game story telling for the past 50 minutes. Another tweet snarked that it’s funny listening to old people try to talk about video games. As they wrapped up the session, Burger claimed that he was interested in making video games. The moderator followed that statement by asking if that desire was purely an “intellectual interest” which was a great jab at how clearly out of touch Berger is with the actual medium. When finally asked what games Berger enjoys playing, he has no definitive answer, talking about how his son plays Grand Theft Auto, and finally comparing Call of Duty to an action movie. Sam Lake stares into his cup of water and I can only imagine he’s wondering how coming on stage to discuss story telling instead became one industry member protesting it’s relevancy while sitting next to a man who has been writing brilliant stories for at least the past 15 years in another.

Next Hideo Kojima took center stage, introduced by Geoff Keighley who has been a long time and well-known advocate, friend, and fan of Kojima’s. As if a punchline to Burger insisting that movies and games are somehow entirely separate beasts, a shot of actor Norman Reedus is already on the screen behind them as a poster for Kojima’s upcoming title Death Stranding. If you ever needed more proof that cinematic concepts can be applied to interactive experiences, you only need to speak with Kojima. Twitter was alive with comments asking who was still here just to see Kojima, making it very clear where the interests were. For Kojima’s part, he could reveal nothing about Death Stranding itself, which came as no surprise. However, he did talk extensively about growing up in a home full of movies and studying the medium so thoroughly as a child that he’d actually watch the same movie over and over in theaters while simply switching where he sat in the theater to find out if he’d pick up on something different each time.

Hideo Kojima (L), Geoff Keighley (R)

Kojima echoed the sentiments that Sean Vanaman had made earlier in the evening about finding the human connection in movies and games, and the unique ability of gaming to recreate those things as interactive experiences. While Keighley jokes with Kojima about how people are dying to know more details about Death Stranding, Kojima coyly responds that he can confirm that the game “is moving” on the PS4 and “there is a plot.” He also added “I wanted people to at first see a naked Norman, and then him acquire more costumes, and that is all I should reveal today.” He then went on to ask the audience to understand where he is in the development process of Death Stranding by picturing the new Decima Engine being tested by Norman Reedus walking in New York City and entering a restaurant. Kojima took a hilarious pause to quickly tell his translator to let the audience know that no, Death Stranding does not take place in New York City to which we all laughed. However, he continued the metaphor to explain that they’re in a phase of working on details down to what would be on the table in this fictional restaurant – the table, the menu, the food. The devil seems to truly be in the details right now for Death Stranding’s production process. Kojima emphasized that he thinks about the game all the time, even when on family vacations, so in turn his family doesn’t really like the project very much.

Hideo Kojima Sits Underneath A “Naked Norman”

When asked about the role of VR in the future of gaming, Kojima said he finds the approach completely different than anything that’s been done, and that with a 360-degree space where even choosing where to look is interactive, it is interesting to think how it’ll be used to convey a story. How does the artist convey a thought or concept if it can be looked at and approached in so many ways? Kojima emphasizes that for documentaries this will be very beneficial, and since more than a few such works are present at the Tribeca Games Festival theater after the keynotes, he’s clearly onto something.

As a closing question, Kojima is asked if he has any interest in making movies to which he gives such a perfectly Kojima response of “One thing that concerns me is that I love movies so much, that if I start, I may never finish it. People tell me I’m too demanding of movies, and tend to agree with me.”

With a growing appetite for dinner, and feet that have already fallen asleep, the evening’s final speakers are announced. It’s another game developer/movie director combination, although these two land up being a fantastic pairing. Ken Levine (System Shock, Bioshock) and Doug Liman (Edge Of Tomorrow, Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) arrive to resounding applause. The conversation could not have been more of an antithesis of Sam Lake and Neil Burger. One moment I found particularly noteworthy when discussing character and story creation was when Ken Levine was speaking about working on the original Thief games and how there was an attitude of having to change the character because you played as a murderer. Liman talks about how this is also the case in film, citing how in Mr. & Mrs. Smith they ran into the same issue where you didn’t want to have your main characters be too “unlikable” since you’re supposed to be cheering for them. They also made extremely apt comparisons when talking about Edge Of Tomorrow in how Tom Cruise dies over and over and at one point even tries to “rage quit” the cycle when he figures out what’s going on. Liman relates this to a game player who will actually quit after dying over and over, and jokingly points out to Levine how he’s sure he’s familiar with hearing about players do that with his games.

Doug Liman (L) Director/Producer, Ken Levine (C)

The most important take away from the thoroughly enjoyable repartee between Levine and Liman, however, was in talking about creating smart stories that don’t talk down to the player. To quote Ken Levine, “I’d rather confuse the audience a little bit than bore them.” Liman echoes the sentiment by saying that he’s willing to give up the “lower 10%” of the audience to give the ones who figure it out a feeling of accomplishment. They both agreed that it’s critical to understand the importance in asking consumers of a story, be it a film or a game “Did you understand it? Did not understanding this hurt your enjoyment?” This relates to Liman saying how movies that are layered lend themselves to a first or second viewing because of questions like this – people want the challenge of figuring something out, and finding the twist. Levine talks about Fight Club and the current TV show Legion and how he loves not knowing what’s going on the first time. His games clearly echo that sentiment, and I think it’s safe to say we’re all grateful for it. Levine admits knowing people would either think Bioshock Infinite was the best thing ever or totally not get it. He also admits you can, in his words, “go up your own butt taking that route,” but that it’s always worth it when you get it right. To prove his point, Levine went on to say that he’s not sure if he would have financed himself when first hearing the pitch for Bioshock. The concept was strange and there was no guaranteed way of knowing if it would be a success or not. However, Levine and Liman both stressed a strong belief in the audience’s ability to learn and that by trusting that ability, you can introduce more and more complicated levels of twists and turns in a plot, even down to things like an unreliable narrative where what you’re being told or experiencing for yourself (as the player or viewer) may not be the actual truth.

In a thoughtful departure from the established format of the night which had so far been guests on stage and audience in chairs, Levine addressed us all by saying that pursuing anything good is misery and suffering and you don’t know if it will work. In his words “…most of the time, anything good is heartbreaking.” He asked the audience how many people present were making games and he’s the first person of the night to have engaged this way. It immediately resonates as meaningful because I could tell he’s being genuine. Having started this evening with Vanaman who echoed these same sentiments but as a far younger and bright-eyed creator, Levine has been to AAA fame and back with very little he hasn’t seen in the middle. When he talked, you could see people listening. He talked about the loneliness, crushing feelings of defeat, long hours, and garbage that comes with the creation process with total frankness. He’s also the first guest of the night who dropped the F bomb, and he does so without blinking. Levine talked about how when creative people snap at others, it’s as a result of the total fear of not knowing what the hell you’re doing. However, when experiencing that anxiety of creativity, he says “you have to turn the fear into a motivating factor.” Levine also talked about how you can be thrust into situations where you’re expected to be a leader and how that changes so drastically from when you have teams of 10 people who you know intimately versus teams the size of Ubisoft’s in making a game like The Division with “a 5 A.M. meeting about the texture of car tire textures with the development team in Hong Kong.” Both he and Liman shared that they often feel like they have no idea what they’re doing, but this was who the studio had, and each had something to say that only they could relate. Finding the ability to work through those feelings of fear and insecurity is what makes a developer or director great at what they do. The experience and weight these words carried was a meaningful connection and great advice for many industries and all types of creatives.

A few more questions about narrative and the future of VR and the night was a wrap. Certainly, a stellar foot forward for the games industry as a presence at the Tribeca Festivals with legendary individuals representing the industry. I was proud as a life-long gamer to see the talent I’ve always known has existed, and have defended as art and craftsmanship, be officially recognized in such a mature way free of Doritos or Monster Energy Drink sponsorship, or the flashy showmanship that tends to be the core component in other games festivals. While none of those things are bad, it’s nice to know that away from all the flashing lights and smoke machines, the minds are still great, the creativity still runs hot, and the industry rings genuine.

If you care to watch the entire day’s events, they are presently available in near entirety on the Twitch channel for the Tribeca Games Festival event.


Disclaimer: Photos are my own. I purchased tickets to Tribeca Games Festival at my own expense and did not attend as “press”. I received no endorsements or promotional materials to discuss my opinions on speakers from any company present. All opinions are my own.  



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