Dec 8th 2016 by TheCalcutec • 36 Questions • 749 Points
EDIT: Hey everyone! Wow, thanks so much for all of the incredible questions. I really loved answering them, and I'm now pretty determined to turning this sort of Q&A into a larger feature over at Waypoint. (But also, we'll def do some proper AMAs again in the future!) Thank you so much for your support. If you want the question you didn't get answered here to potentially show up in an episode of Waypoint Radio, make sure to email [email protected] with the subject "Question"!
Thanks again y'all. Hope you have a good night. See you for the podcast tomorrow morning. Peace!
My name is Austin Walker, and I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Waypoint, VICE’s new gaming website. (And hey! Shoutouts to the Waypoint subreddit!)
At Waypoint, we do everything from long form feature articles (like this piece on inmates who play Dungeons and Dragons) to documentaries (like this look into the creation of Hyper Light Drifter, one of my favorite games this year!), and I’m lucky enough to get to put a creative hand on just about everything that we do. Thankfully, every now and then I still find the time to do a little writing of my own. We also do a lot of streaming at Waypoint—check out this clip of me and Senior Reporter Patrick Klepek suffering through Superman 64 in the late hours of the night.
You can also catch me on your favorite podcast player, hosting Waypoint Radio (our twice a week podcast about games and culture) and Friends at the Table (a tabletop RPG podcast focused on critical world building, smart characterization, and fun interaction between good friends.
Before I got here, I was a member of the Giant Bomb family, and just a year before that, I was a broke freelance writer and a grad school student. Time moves fast, huh?
In any case, I’m super excited to be here and can’t wait to answer some questions. So hey, ask me anything!
Look for when the sky is clear, And the sun is back. Patrick and I will share some beer, And play some Knack.
What sort of planning went into you and Dan sneaking food into the e3 panel and whose idea was it? I was dying
Here's the bit in question.
Dan was really, honestly, asking me if I wanted a twinkie the first few times. Then during one of the downtimes, we just both sort of excitedly talked about how much we loved it and wanted to escalate. One thing led to another... and then another thing led to a coffee machine.
Jeff was... an enabler.
Has there been a difference in the management style from Giantbomb to VICE? Giantbomb always seen pretty laid back in how they go about things.
What do you hope see out of the Nintendo Switch?
Thanks so much Austin!
The major difference is that I'm in a different role! At GB I was responsible for writing news & some reviews, being on videos and podcasts, and managing the freelancer program. Here, I'm hands on with all of that, but also have to take to much broader perspective on things. I was in a meeting today planning out things as far away as June. I just didn't need to be in that sort of meeting at GB, you know?
The other big difference is that we're a new site, which means that everything needs to be managed a little bit tighter. While overall cadence is important (as I said in another answer), this close to launch means that every post, every stream, every podcast ep... everything we do will have that much more attention on it, and it will be that much more precedent setting. So I'm definitely being a little less relaxed than I would be otherwise.
Re: The Switch, I really want to be able to play for an entire flight from the NYC to SF or LA! Other than that, I'd really love if third parties are given a good reason to support it. Would love to have a Nintendo console that isn't just my "Nintendo Game Machine*.
What do you think is the line between story and gameplay in terms of game quality? For years we have seen games with masterful gameplay and subpar stories (MGSV comes to mind) get extremely high scores, while games with great story and subpar gameplay (Mafia III) have reviewed more poorly. Do you think this is right? Should game journalists give more emphasis to story, or do we already have a good balance? Thanks for taking the time to do this!
There isn't a single answer to this. If anything, I'd like to blow up the dichotomy between "story and gameplay."
Thsoe categories are super useful for us as shorthand: "Yeah, the story was good," is easier to say than "The game has really solid characterization and the plot is exciting and the setting is really evocative!" But when you push yourself to be a little more specific, suddenly you see how "the gameplay" and "the story" are overlapping categories.
Many of my favorite games weave their storytelling through the game's moment-to-moment mechanics. Even something like Doom (2016)'s story about a demon-killing super-marine is emphasized by the player's own empowerment. That story just doesn't have punch without the combat being so mobile, the player such a devastating force.
I have my own tastes, obvs, but, I don't think game reviewers should give more emphasis to this or that at all. I think they should be radically honest about their own experiences and try to understand why they like and don't like the things they play. I'm not out to tell someone who skips through cutscenes that they should pay more attention, and I'm not here to tell the player who lives for Lore that they should care more about gameplay balance. That way lies boring dogmatism.
Hey Austin! What's your favorite anime that's not a mech anime or set somewhere in space?
Oh, good question.
While I'm a big mecha and sci-fi fan, my actual favorite anime director is Satoshi Kon. So in terms of series, Paranoia Agent, probably. Once we're talking films, people will probably tell you (and they're not wrong) that Paprika, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, and Millennium Actress are dope, and they're not wrong. BUT DO NOT SLEEP ON MAGNETIC ROSE, Kon's short film in the Memories anthology. It's so good. (Also, it has space in it, so I guess apologies.)
Beyond that, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is like my favorite "smart junk food" tv. Blend of easily digestible, crime-of-the-week procedural stuff with some heady ideas tossed in for fun. Also: robots. Whoops. I guess the Tachikomas count as mechs.
If Patrick is Scoops, what would your nickname be in the morning zoo radio format?
Austin what do you think makes a good GM (as a good GM yourself)?
Being open minded and invested in figuring out what the group wants, and knowing where their own strengths lie. Frankly, if my group wanted to do an old-school dungeon crawl, I'd probably not be the GM to give it to them—though I totally think that type of campaign has its merits.
Hey Austin, big fan! If you could take 3 games with you to a deserted island you're stranded on (power but no internet, for some reason) what would they be?
This is a very difficult question.
- Dwarf Fortress
- Invisible, Inc. for all the reasons I outline here. Please don't push the Austin button.
- The Witcher 3, with DLC, because then I'd finally have the time to actually play through that whole thing.
If you could choose Patrick's desert island game what would it be? Keep in mind Patrick would choose Knack for you.
Wait. No. No. ALSO KNACK
I ran my first game of Dungeon World the other weekend. It was very fun, but I had some trouble coming up with interesting results for when the players missed or got 7-9 on Defy Danger. You have any favorite go-to moves for those results?
Always keep your player's inventories in front of you. They have something they like? Let them decide if they want to succeed at the cost of that thing being taken from them (at least temporarily).
I don't really "get" Invisible, Inc. As it just came out as part of Playstation Plus, I'm interested in giving it another shot. Do you have any valuable tips for understanding how it plays? What am I missing?
Constantly ask yourself, out loud, "Okay, why am I doing the move I'm about to do?" and when things go wrong, take a page from Alex Navarro and ask "What did we learn?" Invisible, Inc. (née Incognita), is very much the sort of game that rewards care and attention, and punishes bad habits.
To do well at Invisible, Inc., you need to get information. But to get great at Invisible, Inc., you need to know exactly when take risks instead of wasting time gaining more information. Learning that balance takes time (and is why it's one of my favorite games ever.)
I'm actually a grad school student right now, and I'm hoping to be an editor one day. Any tips for getting into the gaming journalism scene?
I've answered this a bunch of the years, but my best answer is probably still this post on my Giant Bomb blog.
Number three there is my biggest "tip:" Write. Write a lot. Write long form and short form. Do interviews, reviews, essays, reported pieces, retrospectives, archival digs, news repots. Stretch your writing muscles and find out what you're good at and what you want to be better at. Find someone to give you honest feedback.
Beyond that, though, and this is maybe not the most sunny answer, is that everyone who wants to be in games journalism should really think through their desire to be in games journalism. I love my job to death (and loved my time at GB too!), but I've been incredibly lucky.
My time as a freelancer—and almost anyone who wants to break into traditional games journalism will spend time as a freelancer—was incredibly stressful, exhausting, and trying. I was dead broke (and that was when I had an additional income as a teacher, too), and I spent as much time trying to find outlets for my writing, chasing down paychecks, and filing paperwork as I did writing (maybe more!)
Then, if you manage to find a full time gig, well, it's full time. And there really is something about turning your hobby into your job that can dull some of the polish. I've said it before, but I think I can count the days I've spent "at work" playing games in the last two years on my fingers. Mostly it's meetings and planning, drafting and editing, fighting with recording equipment and coordinating with other departments.
My experience isn't everyone's, for sure, but I do think that it's instructive, a reminder that being a games journalist is a job, not an escape from the stresses of work. I think about this Lester Freeman speech a lot. "The job will not save you." (And if you're looking to pay the rent, and who isn't, there are better careers to follow.)
That said: If you still wanna be a games journalist? Fucking do it. There is nothing that gets me more pumped than finally understanding the thing I want to say about a game, or being able to really dig into the design and background of a game with one of its makers, or being able to elevate the ideas of amazing writers who are looking for a platform. This is very "do as I say, not as I do," I know, but really, it's an important step to take.
Do you feel liberated working at (and running, of course) a site more focused on writing?
Not "liberated," really. It scratches a different itch for sure, and I love being able to give a platform to great written articles (both long and short). But I wasn't chaffing under the yoke of Quick Looks or anything.
What was the last anime you watched all the way through? Do you still have any time at all, now that your running your own space?
I honestly don't even have the answer off the top of my head and that is very sad. I think probably... the first season of Aldnoah.Zero? There's SO MUCH that I've started and dropped off of because I haven't had time. Watching anime is tough because it's mostly subbed, and that means that I actually need to give it full attention (which I rarely have these days).
Like everyone else at GB, work his fucking ass off. The business of working in games journalism—especially at a site with only a handful of people at it—means getting a lot of stuff done that is totally invisible from the outside. Endless meetings, tons of paperwork, editing podcasts, prepping features, writing. There's a always a ton to do.
I have always been team bat. Reach is important.
first off, I know you're planning to do a Marielda postmortem at the end of FatT Season 3, so apologies if you don't want to answer this one here, but.
Marielda felt much tighter to me on its conception of the nature of divinity than the first Hieron season did. What changed about that direction between the season 1 finale and today? Or was it always intended to be like that (more or less) and Marielda offered the chance to explore it?
The thing that changed was that I got to run COUNTER/Weight, which generally made me a more invested and careful storyteller!
That said, Marielda also meant taking more control over the story from my players. So, think about the Samot & the Wolf story in Season 1: I had no idea how that would go. I was sure the animal chasing Samot would be a dragon, not a wolf! In Marielda, I didn't let my players give those sorts of details, I laid them out in front of them and asked them to respond. Giving a very tight, prescripted sense of who Samot & Samothes were was important for future things in Hieron.