Alex Pham

Sept. 19, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.

‘Medal of Honor Warfighter’ enters dangerous territory

"Medal of Honor" warfighter. (Electronic Arts)
The former Navy SEAL who wrote an unauthorized account of the Osama bin Laden raid also participated in the development of an upcoming video game that features real-world U.S. anti-terrorist tactics, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Matt Bissonnette, who wrote the bestselling book “No Easy Day” under the pen name of Mark Owen, was among two dozen other active and retired special forces members who consulted with Electronic Arts Inc. to help make “Medal of Honor Warfighter” as authentic as possible, these people said. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Military personnel are required to receive authorization to work on such projects to prevent classified information on military tactics, strategies and protocols being made public, officials said. No such requests were made for the “Warfighter” game, according to Defense Department […]
Aug. 23, 2012 | 5:12 p.m.

Bin Laden raider is ‘Medal of Honor: Warfighter’ consultant

modern-warfare copy
There’s a reason why shooting games are becoming so realistic. The Tier One U.S. Navy SEAL who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year and identified by name Thursday by Fox News is a consultant for an upcoming game published by Electronic Arts titled “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” according to a person close to the matter. The person declined to be identified because of a confidentiality agreement. Matt Bissonnette retired from the Navy last summer and wrote a book under the pseudonym Mark Owen describing the raid that led to Bin Laden’s death. The book, “No Easy Day,” is set to be released Sept. 11 by its publisher, Penguin Group. Bissonnette’s name had been a closely guarded secret, both for national security reasons as well as his own personal safety. Besides writing “No Easy Day,” Bissonnette […]
July 26, 2012 | 12:32 p.m.

Aiming higher? A video-game designer ponders history of violence

Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision)
“Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter read the headlines from Colorado on Friday and tweeted from the gut: “woke up to the news about shooting. this kinda thing always makes me question my liberal use of violence in storytelling.” Violence has been part of storytelling since humans began telling stories. Grotesque violence fills our video game screens — but it’s also hanging in frames at the world’s greatest museums and antiquity collections. Does the depiction of violence inspire aggressive behavior — or does it just give us something to do with Twitter and talk shows? We put the question to Chris Hecker, a game developer who has worked for Electronic Arts Inc. and is now working independently on his own game, called “SpyParty.” HC: What role does violence play in entertainment? How powerful a tool is it in the telling of the story or the game mechanics? CH: Violence […]
July 19, 2012 | 5:09 a.m.

Ellen Page is ‘Beyond’ real in ‘emotional and subversive’ game

Ellen Page Beyond eyes
Ellen Page is no stranger to the role of an outsider soul flirting with the desperate edges of life — she’s been there before in “Whip It,” “Mouth to Mouth” and “Super” — but now she’s skirting the emotional ledge for a video game. In “Beyond: Two Souls,” Page plays Jodie Holmes, a young girl with an eerie–  and deadly — imaginary friend. For players, meanwhile, the creepiness is only deepened by some truly unsettling graphics. Developed by Quantic Dream, “Beyond” features the sort of photo-realistic facial animation that leads to a lot of double-take glances. Quantic unveiled a demo of the animation engine in February to a rapt audience at the Game Developer Conference. Rather than the plasticky pseudo-humans found in so many games, the demo showed the face of Kara, a robot with translucent skin and expressive gray eyes. Kara is designed to trick viewers into thinking she has a soul. Likewise, “Beyond” pushes […]
June 29, 2012 | 8:24 a.m.

‘Amazing Spider-Man’ game: The heroic art of quip-slinging

"The Amazing Spider-Man": Spider-Man vs. the SR-1 (Activision)
Spider-Man does whatever a spider can — wall-crawling, for instance, and web-slinging — but the character is just as famous for making bad jokes while saving the city. For the just-released “The Amazing Spider-Man” video game, the task of creating Spidey’s quip-slinging fell to the game’s lead writer, Kevin Seamus Fahey, a 36-year-old television screenwriter whose credits include “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Forgotten,” and “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.” We spoke with Fahey about the challenges of keeping up with Peter Parker’s quick wit. HC: How does writing for a game differ from a TV show or a comic book? KSF: When you’re writing a comic, there’s more solitude. TV is by committee. You’re in a room with half a dozen people, staring at each other for eight or 10 hours a day. With games, you’re also working in groups. But instead of a […]
June 08, 2012 | 8:58 p.m.

E3 download: Six gaming trends to expect over next six months

Gamers play Alien's Colonial Marines from Sega on the third day of the E3 videogame extravaganza in Los Angeles.
It’s game over for this year’s E3 but what’s the final score? We put the question to Yves Guillemot, the chief executive of Ubisoft Entertainment, a French company he co-founded in 1986 and guided to its current ranking as the world’s third-largest game publisher (after Activision-Blizzard and Electronic Arts) with franchises such as “Assassin’s Creed,” “Rayman Raving Rabbids,” and “Splinter Cell.” From his perch in Montreuil-sous-Bois, an eastern suburb of Paris, Guillemot has built a reputation as an astute trend-spotter who was nimble in capitalizing on the Wii and DS craze then heard a hit in the dance-game craze and delivered “Just Dance,” a franchise that has sold more than 28 million copies. Here are six major trends that will affect the games players will see in the coming months. 1) THE SECOND SCREEN: “Video games played on home television sets will increasingly incorporate another mobile screen,” Guillemot […]
June 05, 2012 | 9:40 a.m.

E3: J.K. Rowling conjures up ‘Book of Spells’

"The Book of Spells," published by Sony and Pottermore, is part magical reference manual, part game.
Muggles can now get a taste of Hogwarts. In partnership with J.K. Rowling, Sony on Monday announced an interactive title called “Book of Spells.” Part-game, part-book, the title lets readers learn about spells used in the “Harry Potter” film and book series — and then practice “casting” them via Sony’s PlayStation 3 Move motion controller. The book – or is it a game? — will feature some original writing by Rowling, though it remained unclear to what degree. “Book of Spells” was conjured up by Rowling’s new Pottermore division, which sells electronic versions of the author’s Harry Potter titles. The title, priced at $39.99 for both the physical book and a game disc, will use a new book-shaped peripheral called Wonderbook, which does some conjuring of its own by creating augmented reality to enhance stories and educational titles through the PS3. […]
June 03, 2012 | 6:03 p.m.

E3: Nintendo Miiverse Social Network unveiled

wii-controller4
Nintendo Co. has taken the wraps off Miiverse, a social network designed for players of its upcoming Wii U video game console. In a 30-minute video released Sunday afternoon on the company’s website, Nintendo’s Chief Executive Satoru Iwata demonstrated Miiverse as a way for players to post game-related updates and questions to one another, send handwritten messages using the console’s touch-screen tablet controller and even set up a video chat with other players. The announcement came two days before the Japanese game company’s formal news conference at E3, the industry’s annual gathering in downtown Los Angeles. Standing in Nintendo’s Kyoto headquarters below the company’s motto written in Japanese calligraphy that translates to “creating something unique,” Iwata in the video insisted that the Wii U, and Miiverse, will be a game-changer for the console business, which has been in steady decline over the last […]
March 28, 2012 | 6:05 p.m.

Patrick Rothfuss: Fantasy needs to move past dragons and dwarves

Patrick Rothfuss (featured image)
Patrick Rothfuss was 20 when he started writing his first book, “The Name of the Wind.” It took him seven years to finish the fantasy tale and then an extra four to persuade a publisher it would sell. And he was right; in 2007 the book hit the New York Times and USA Today’s bestsellers lists and was named one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly and Amazon.com. Reviewers soon compared the first-time author to George R.R. Martin, who wouldn’t mind a bit, “He’s bloody good, this Rothfuss guy.” Rothfuss, now 38 and living in Stevens Point, Wis., just released his second novel, “Wise Man’s Fear,” in paperback and he’s working on his third novel. We sought him out for insights into the traps and teases that vex new writers. HC: What types of books did you grow up […]
March 28, 2012 | 7:47 a.m.

League of Legends, translated: Cheese, jungling and no-scope

Marcus Graham (featured image)
On Tuesday, Alex Pham wrote about the game-changing aspirations of the e-sports scene and companies such as Riot Games.  Today, she listens in on the language of e-sports.  Marcus Graham is the John Madden of e-sports, a genre of competitive online gaming where thousands of players compete, often for cash prizes. The matches, played online with computers, pit individuals, and in some cases teams of players, in contests of wit and skill as they plot to annihilate each other. One such game is League of Legends, developed by Riot Games in Santa Monica, and featured in this article. While not as big as, say, the NFL, e-sports is large enough that people like Graham can make a living from being a professional commentator. He won’t say exactly how much he makes, but it’s enough to pay a mortgage and support his family of three in […]
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