Polygon Feature – Kentucky Route Zero

Around this time in 2013, Kentucky Route Zero debuted with its first act. As of this week, its fifth and final act is here.

Regardless of the time over which Acts II, III, IV and V were released, the game has managed to hold its audience’s attention. It’s also been continually refueled by the creativity and personal touches of the team behind it, Cardboard Computer. I’m proud to help share their story in my latest feature for Polygon.

Right around the 7-year anniversary of Act I, I spent an evening chatting with Jake Elliott (writer & programmer), Tamas Kemenczy (artist & programmer), and Ben Babbitt (musician and sound designer) about their history together on the project and their unique approach to making it. They shared with me a plethora of personal anecdotes, technical challenges, creative successes, and insights into wrapping up production on a game like Kentucky Route Zero.

The team’s approach to experimentation – affording themselves a chance to make better decisions when they felt most relevant – is something I found rather inspiring. Any independent artist knows what it’s like to struggle with limited resources, whether that be time, money, collaborators, or some mix of all of the above. Cardboard Computer struck a healthy balance to keeping themselves in-check along the way, and I hope any artist out there – gamer, fan, or neither – can discover something useful from their experience.

In the wake of Kentucky Route Zero‘s grand finale, it has earned immense critical praise – already considered a mixed-media masterpiece by many. Although the presence of a new console generation is looming large over 2020, I think it’s safe to say we’ll continue to hearing about this soulful gem until further notice.


Special thanks to Matt Leone at Polygon for his support & assistance with editing & laying out this feature. Read the full story here.

Kentucky Route Zero is now available as both a “PC Edition” and a “TV Edition” (for consoles). Visit the game’s website to learn more.

Engadget Feature – Guacamelee! 2

There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.

Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its recent sequel, and luckily I got to hear & write all about it.

For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.

As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.

With a Guacamelee! themed episode of Screen Looking in the works, I now have a great excuse to replay the sequel, too. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading about it.

Engadget Feature – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy

If we were to chat about video games, it wouldn’t take long to deduce that the original three Crash Bandicoot games were essential to my childhood.

With that in mind, I am proud to share my latest piece of professional video game writing: a full-length feature on the process behind remastering the Crash Bandicoot trilogy. The feature was published and laid out by Engadget in early July, featuring in-depth interviews with art & design leads on the team at Vicarious Visions (VV), in addition to exclusive process-artwork that outlines their creative workflow.

Continue reading Engadget Feature – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy

Polygon Opinion Piece – The Last Guardian

Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?

The full article can be found here, and I invite you to share your own story and/or takeaway from The Last Guardian.

Tiny Apocalypses: An Interview with Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director of ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’

Everybody may have vanished from the slumbering town of Yaughton, but not without a trace.

Across a blindingly bright English countryside, with radios left on, research abandoned, doors unshut and phone booths ringing, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture explores what life there was like as you piece together a hauntingly calm apocalypse in a most unfamiliar setting: home sweet home.

Previously known for their surreal Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the latest game from studio The Chinese Room. In my curiosity to learn more about what fueled Rapture’s story, its big questions and the creative drive behind them, I discovered what inspires and compels the team that created it. Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director at The Chinese Room, graciously took me through their process, the artistic decisions they made, his thoughts on science fiction and the potential for storytelling within video games today.

Read an excerpt from our discussion after the jump, and/or read the full interview here.

Continue reading Tiny Apocalypses: An Interview with Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director of ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’