My Perfect Console with Simon Parkin
Ronan Farrow, investigative journalist, New Yorker.
My guest today is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American investigative journalist. Born in New York City he earned his degree in philosophy at just fifteen. While a teenager he served as a UNICEF Spokesperson for Youth, advocating for children and women caught up in the Darfur crisis in Sudan. In 2009, at 22 years old, he became a special advisor to the Obama administration, then a Rhodes Scholar, earning his PhD in political science at Magdalen College, Oxford.
It was his work detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, published in the New Yorker, that situated my guest in the centre of the global spotlight, however. His reporting has had profound effects, both within the film industry, and further afield.
Through all of this, video games have been a constant. “I love video games,” he told the New York Times in 2021. “Big nerd here." Welcome, Ronan Farrow.
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39. Annabel Ashalley-Anthony, founder Melanin Gamers.01:10:41My guest today is a British-Ghanaian writer and advocate for inclusion and diversity in the video game industry. Having graduated from the University of Westminster with a degree in creative writing with English literature, she founded Melanin Gamers, a support community for people of colour who play video games, or who want to join the game industry but feel unsure that there is a place for them within it. The initiative, which has more than four thousand members worldwide, has hosted tournaments, worked alongside Microsoft and The Prince’s Trust, and in 2020 won Barnet's Big Idea Entrepreneurial Prize. That same year my guest’s novel, ‘A Thousand Natural Shocks’ was long listed for the Lucy Cavendish Prize, Cambridge University’s literary award for unpublished women authors. She is currently writing a graphic novel about a young boy with sickle-cell anaemia, as well as representing the Ghanaian Esports Federation in International Relations. Welcome, Annabel Ashalley-Anthony.
38. Clint Hocking, creative director (Splinter Cell, Far Cry 4, Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin's Creed Infinity)01:21:18My guest today is a Canadian video game designer and director. After graduating from the University of British Columbia with an MFA in creative writing, he joined Ubisoft Montreal where he co-wrote the script for Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. In 2005 he directed a sequel to that game, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and three years later released the oppressive and acclaimed sandbox shooter, Far Cry 2. In 2010 he left Ubisoft and joined LucasArts, then Valve, then Amazon Game Studios, before finally returning to Canada to work as creative director on the Ubisoft game Watch Dogs: Legion. A keen thinker on video games, my guest coined the term ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ to describe when a game’s story and mechanics sit at odds with one another. Today, he serves as creative lead at Ubisoft Montreal, the studio he first joined as a graduate, where is he working on Assassin’s Creed Infinity.
37. Peter Molyneux O.B.E., video game designer (Populous, Theme Park, Fable).01:14:41My guest today is an English video game designer and programmer. In 1984 he designed The Entrepreneur, a simulation game about running a start-up company. When it sold just two copies, however, my guest left the world of video games and began exporting cans of baked beans to the Middle East. When the computer manufacturer Commodore mistook this venture for a software company with a similar name, my guest signed a deal to design a database system for the Amiga. This benign deception eventually led to the founding of Bullfrog Productions, where my guest designed Populous, the first so-called god game, which went on to sell more than four million copies. Many more successes followed: 1994’s Theme Park, 1997’s Dungeon Keeper then, after he founded Lionhead Studios, the multi-million selling Fable series. My guest is no stranger to controversy either; his more recent, experimental work at 22Cans, the company he founded in 2012, has sometimes been accused of overpromising and underdelivering. He remains, nonetheless, a legendary – if elusive – figure in the UK games industry.
36. Frank Lantz, founding chair, NYU Game Center.01:16:06My guest today is a game designer and Founding Chair of New York University’s Game Center. An influential writer, speaker, and thinker on video games he has taught generations of emerging young designers. The New York Times once described him as the “reigning genius of the mysteries of games.”My guest’s experience is not merely academic, however: in 2005 he co-founded area/code, the studio which subsequently released one of the best regarded puzzle games yet made: Drop7. Most recently, he joined forces with his son, who is also a game designer, and together released Babble Royale, a free-to-play battle royale influenced by the boardgame Scrabble. “Making games combines everything that’s hard about building a bridge with everything that’s hard about composing an opera,” he once said. “Games are operas made out of bridges.” Welcome, Frank Lantz.
35. Stella Wisdom, digital curator, British Library.01:05:56My guest today is Digital Curator for Contemporary Collections at The British Library. After graduating from Aberystwyth University with a degree in Library Studies and Art History, my guest was awarded an MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.Then, having worked as curator of maps at the National Library of Scotland, my guest joined the British library, and began to devise creative reuses of digital collections, including via video games. This work has led to collaborations with The National Videogame Museum, AdventureX, International Games Month in Libraries and on research projects with UCL’s Institute of Education, and Lancaster University’s Litcraft initiative, which builds literary worlds in Minecraft.Exhibition: Digital Storytelling - The British Library (bl.uk)Events Series: Digital Storytelling events - The British Library (bl.uk)
34. Sam Barlow, game director (Silent Hill, Her Story, Immortality).01:12:20My guest today is a game director who has pioneered new forms of nonlinear storytelling that blend film and games. After twelve-year stint at the British development studio Climax, where he directed Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, he began work on an independent project, Her Story. In the game, partly inspired by Sharon Stone’s audition tapes for the film Basic Instinct, you sift through a trove of police interview footage to uncover a mystery. Her Story’s style of disconnected, live action sleuthing has become characteristic of his work, which includes the games Telling Lies and, most recently, the Netflix-published Immortality, described by Prospect Magazine as a“culture-spanning, psycho-visual experiment.” “All my games have been about identity,” he says. “It’s scary that the people we’ve known for decades are unknowable to us.” Welcome, Sam Barlow.[All voiceover performances courtesy of Ed Hawkins: http://edwardhawkinsbass.com]
33. Joseph Mackertich, editor, Time Out.01:12:29My guest today is editor-in-chief of Time Out London. After graduating from SOAS University with a degree in religion and the history of art, he moved to China for a few years, then struck out as a freelance writer contributing to, among other publications, The Times, the Observer, Heat magazine and the New Statesman. In 2012 he assumed the role of features editor at the men’s magazine FHM, of which he later became deputy editor. From there, he edited the pioneering newsletter Mr Hyde, and then became editor of the gravely missed ShortList magazine. In 2019, he took the top job at Time Out. Throughout his career, my guest has often run video game-themed special editions, building on his personal passion for the medium.
32. Paul Chowdhry, actor, comedian.01:09:20My guest today is multi-award-winning stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. Born in Edgware London, to a Punjabi Sikh family, he was in his mid-twenties when he first tried stand-up. Five years later he became the first British act to perform at the Caribbean Comedy Festival in Trinidad. Since then he has been a guest panellist on 8 out of 10 Cats, performed twice at Live at the Apollo, and is one of the most memorable contestants on the hit show Taskmaster, having appeared in season 3. In 2017 he became the first British Asian stand-up comic to sell out Wembley Arena and two years later this record-breaking show was made into an Amazon Prime special, and released worldwide.Since 2021, he has been the host of the hit podcast Paul Chowdhry's PudCast, in which he interviews comedians, and my guest is about to start a month-long run at the Edinburgh festival. Welcome Paul Chowdhry.
31. Dominic Armato, food critic & voice actor (The Curse of Monkey Island, Sea of Thieves)01:17:01My guest today is an American food critic and voice actor. Born in Chicago in the late seventies, he began performing in public as a young child after he joined the chorus for a production of the opera Carmen, appearing alongside the tenor Plácido Domingo. He began voicing commercials at the age of seven, before moving to California hoping to take on character roles. There he joked with a friend that his ideal role would be to voice the pirate Guybrush Threepwood in the Monkey Island series of video games. Two months later he was cast as the character in The Curse of Monkey Island. He has since reprised the role for each of the Monkey Island sequels, as well as providing cameos in Rare’s beloved pirate game, Sea of Thieves, six Star Wars games and two Metal Gear Solids. Alongside this work, my guest has worked as the restaurant critic for the Arizona Republic. Welcome Dominic Armato. Twitter: https://twitter.com/SkilletDoux