My Perfect Console with Simon Parkin
Josh Scherr, narrative director (co-writer Uncharted 4, The Last of Us Part II).
My guest today is an American writer and narrative designer for video games. After graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with an MFA in Animation, he worked as an animator in Hollywood, contributing to an early version of Shrek at DreamWorks, Dinosaur at Disney, and to the music video Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In 2001 my guest joined the video game studio Naughty Dog and worked as the cinematics animation lead on seven titles including Jak and Daxter and the first three Uncharted games, a series for which he also helped to develop the storylines. He then became a staff writer and narrative designer on Uncharted IV: A Thief’s End, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and the recent blockbuster The Last of Us: Part II.
In 2020 he left Naughty Dog after more than two decades and joined Crop Circle Games as narrative director on the studio’s first, as yet unannounced title.
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60. Yoshinori Kitase, director & producer (Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger).01:05:27My guest today is a Japanese video-game director, producer, and executive officer of Square-Enix. Born in 1966 in Fussa City in the suburbs of Tokyo, he studied filmmaking at Nihon University. After graduating, he was working at an animation studio when he first played Final Fantasy on the Famicom, and immediately saw the dramatic potential of the video game medium. Despite having no technical skills, he joined Square in 1990, to work as an “event planner”, involved in level design for Seiken Densetsu (Final Fantasy Adventure) for the Game Boy. Four years later he directed Final Fantasy VI, a game widely considered a classic. A protégée of the company’s founder, Hironobu Sakaguchi, my guest subsequently worked on many of the company’s best-loved titles, and now serves as Brand Manager for the Final Fantasy series. “My father would complain that he had no idea what was going on when I played RPGs at home after school,” he once told me. “This made me want to make games that those watching the screen beside the player might also find interesting.”
59. Rod Fergusson, SVP Blizzard Entertainment (Gears of War, Bioshock Infinite, Diablo IV).01:18:03My guest today is Senior Vice-President of Blizzard Entertainment and General Manager of the Diablo video game series. After attending the University of Ottawa for Computer Science, my guest joined Microsoft as a Microsoft Consultant, before he moved to the company’s games division to work titles including Microsoft Train Simulator, then the Xbox version of Counter-Strike.In 2005 he joined Epic Games where, as a producer, he helped steer the delayed Gears of War back on track. After working on the second and third games in that series, Bulletstorm and Infinity Blade, he soon gained a reputation as a “closer”, someone able to get a blockbuster out of the door.My guest then moved to Irrational Games to help finish the troubled BioShock Infinite. In 2020, he joined Blizzard to oversee development of the Diablo series, the fourth entry to which launched to widespread acclaim in 2023.
58. Helen Macdonald & Sin Blaché (Writers, H is for Hawk, Prophet).01:18:24My guests today are co-authors of the techno-thriller novel Prophet. Helen Macdonald is an English writer, naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the University of Cambridge. Their 2014 book “H is for Hawk” tells the true story of a year spent training a northern goshawk while grieving. The book won, among many other things, the Samuel Johnson Prize for literature. Sin Blaché is an American Irish musician and writer. The pair became friends on social media where they bonded over nerdish things. Then they arranged to meet in a remote Airbnb in rural Ireland, and began work on a collaborative novel. The result, Prophet, was released in late 2023 to widespread acclaim. A reviewer for The Guardian described it as “a work of exceptional storytelling skill and stylistic panache,” suggesting an alternative title might be ‘H Is for High-Octane Adventure.”
57. Iain Lee (broadcaster, comedian, counsellor).01:19:30My guest today is an English broadcaster, writer, television presenter and stand-up comedian. Born in Slough, he began working as a comic in the early nineties, soon landing a gig as co-host of Channel 4’s The 11 O’clock Show, the satirical comedy programme that launched the careers of Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais. A slew of high-profile TV and radio presenting gigs followed, including for Channel 4’s video game-related show Thumb Bandits. During that time my guest often used drugs to cope with the stress of his burgeoning career, before becoming sober in 2005. Since then he has openly talked about his ongoing struggles with substance abuse and mental health, including on the seventeenth series of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, in which he came third. As well as writing a regular column for Retro Gamer magazine, and hosting the Random Access Memories podcast, all about 8-bit computers, my guest recently became a trained counsellor, drawing upon his first-hand experiences to help others.
56. Gary Whitta, screenwriter (The Book of Eli, Star Wars: Rogue One).01:20:44My guest today is a British author and screenwriter for film and video games. Born in London, he began his career as a writer for the games magazine Commodore User, then joined the team that founded PC Gamer, of which he later became editor-in-chief. In 2010, my guest found success in Hollywood as the writer of The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic neo-Western film starring Denzel Washington. In 2013 he co-wrote After Earth with the director M. Night Shyamalan, then co-wrote the story for Star Wars: Rogue One. He has also contributed writing to blockbuster video games, including Duke Nukem: Forever, Prey, Gears of War and The Walking Dead, for which he won a BAFTA. Since becoming a US citizen, he now resides in California with his family.
55. Best of 2023 (Part 2).01:11:32Another selection of some of our favourite clips from My Perfect Console's amazing line-up of guests from 2023.Cast in Order of AppearanceHenk RogersDylan CuthbertCharles CecilJörg TittelEllie GibsonDanny PudiJoseph MackertichJosh WardleDan VecchittoTarn AdamsKelsey LewinStella WisdomTetsuya MizuguchiNolan BushnellThanks for listening. Back soon with Year Two.
54. Best of 2023 (Part 1).58:29It's been a thrilling first year for My Perfect Console. Here are some of our favourite clips from 2023.Cast in Order of AppearanceDara Ó BriainHeather Ann CampbellPierre NovelliAshly BurchJennifer HaleDominic ArmatoPhil WangJason SchreierLucas PopeMeghan JayanthPeter MolyneuxRonan FarrowNaomi AldermanMike RoseSusan CalmanJosh ScherrMarie Le ConteTom Bissell
53. Console of the Year Award (2023)29:12A special episode announcing the winner of the My Perfect Console of the Year (2023) Tournament.It's time. Fifty-two consoles have now been whittled down to two final machines. It's an all-North American final, as the U.S.A.'s Heather Anne-Campbell takes on Canada's Phil Fish. Both machines are spectacular, potential best-sellers:Heather Anne-Campbell's "The Only Play". Tetris. Street Fighter III. The Last of Us. Fortnite. Disco Elysium.Phil Fish's "Fez II". Ridge Racer Type IV. Rez. Dishonored. Hitman: World of Assassination. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.Listen to the result of the final face-off, as voted by you the listeners.
52. Nolan Bushnell, co-founder Atari.01:13:44My guest today is an American scientist, entrepreneur, and a founding father of the video game industry. Born in 1943, he grew up in Utah, in a Mormon family, before leaving to study engineering and business at Utah State University. While a student he played Spacewar!, one of the earliest digital games designed for the PDP-1 computer. After graduation he joined an electronics company, and there met Ted Dabney, with whom he founded a start-up company with the aim of creating a commercial version of Spacewar! for the arcades. In 1972 the pair changed the company name to Atari, a term taken from my guest’s favourite board game, Go. Together with another engineer, Al Alcorn, the trio produced Pong and, in 1976, the Atari 2600 console – which together birthed the modern games industry. Throughout the seventies my guest hired dozens of young engineers, including Steve Jobs who later co-founded Apple. Since then, he has founded more than twenty companies, received the BAFTA fellowship, and has been named one of Newsweek's “50 Men Who Changed America".Thank you for listening to My Perfect Console. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter; your small monthly subscription will help to make the podcast sustainable for the long term, and you'll receive bonus content, and access to the My Perfect Console community: https://www.patreon.com/myperfectconsole