It feels like it was just yesterday that I walked across the stage at the Patriot Center to get my TJ diploma. Just yesterday that I stepped foot on the campus of the University of Southern California for the first time at freshman orientation. Just yesterday that I began what has been the most transformative period of my life.
So needless to say, it’s really weird knowing that just last week, I finished my third year at USC – I’m a senior now. Jesus. It’s been one helluva ride, and I’ve had the honor of meeting and befriending some of the most brilliant and talented people I will ever encounter. It’s extra-double weird knowing that somewhere along the line while I was on this incredible ride meeting incredible new people, something I never thought would happen happened.
I got old.** (more…)
I was super excited when I learned that the upcoming Tomb Raider film would be based on the new Tomb Raider game reboot. It makes sense – why spend all that money developing an entirely new universe and plot line when developed, fleshed out ones exist? Saves so much time.
On a related note, one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen when it comes to developing licensed games I saw in an Official Xbox Magazine feature waaaaay back when about the game based on Peter Jackson’s King Kong; it boasted about how similar the concept art for the game looked to the concept art for the movie. I was like, “… if they were gonna make the ‘new’ concept art look the exact same, why not just use the old concept art?..”
The thing is, if you’re gonna have a game based on a movie, vice versa, or simultaneously develop a game and a movie based on the same property, the earlier you can establish “convergence” between the two projects, the more you can optimize the asset creation pipeline, tighten the project budget, and perhaps even create a more polished, consistent, tightly integrated brand experience. Think about it. (more…)
I’ve posted this on Facebook as a note before… but as I was working on my “Notes on an Existential Crisis” piece, I figured it’s about time this essay got a proper unveiling to the world on my blog. Frankly, I think 17 year old Danny did a really good job with it. Definitely one of the more openly emotional pieces I’ve ever written. Sure, looking at it now, I could clean it up a bit, but here it is in its raw, original form – exactly the way college admissions officers read it.
For a while, my dad has said, “Danny, ‘Viva La Vida’ will be your Forrest Gump.” At first, that probably doesn’t make sense. How related could a 2008 song by a British band and an early 90s movie by an American film studio be? Well, in the context of my life… quite a bit. (more…)
I’ve noticed a lot of my friends love How I Met Your Mother. I came across it myself through one of my co-workers last year, and it quickly became an obsession. I spent all of Spring Break 2012 sick, wrapped in my comforter, running through the first 6 seasons of the show. As I did so, I laughed, I sighed, and I damn-near-cried like I’m sure many others have. For a comedy, How I Met Your Mother has a lot of heart and emotion; for each witty quip and ridiculous Stinson pick-up line, it has a heartstring-pulling moment to match. You know the kind I’m talking about – scenes that can’t help but extract a sigh out of you and make you reflect on… life, as you feel a wave of the subtlest goosebumps wash over your skin and you’re reminded why you love the show so much.
I’ve been meaning to write about this sigh-inducing, heartstring-plucking quality, about what exactly it is that keeps us coming back to HIMYM. I’ve been trying at it for a while, too, as evidenced by my countless draft articles with “HIMYM” in the title. But as difficult as this “X-factor” is to distill into words… I think I’ve finally nailed it: (more…)
When I tutor kids in writing over the summer, I make sure they make outlines for everything they write. It’s what I was taught to do in high school, and it’s not a bad way to go about most basic writing. I’m being a complete hypocrite when I do this, though – I haven’t made outlines for anything in a while. My gripe with outlines is that they emphasize structure and order instead of content. People always obsess over how to fit what they want to say into some sort of predetermined form – intro-body-conclusion, AABA, three-act structure – rather than focusing on creating the best content and letting the form naturally take shape. The question should never be, How can I fit what I want to say into this? but instead, What do I really want to say, and how do I connect all of my points together smoothly? (more…)
During my time at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – a selective STEM magnet school in northern Virginia and the #1 public high school in the US from 2006-2011, colloquially referred to as “TJ” -, one of the terms I frequently heard used to describe its student body was “elitist”. Just look at the comments attached to any of The Washington Post‘s articles on the school online; sometimes, it seems like the word is used to describe the institution just as much as “prestigious” or “rigorous”. And beyond the realm of TJ, the E-word seems to be used far too frequently in reference to the intelligent and educated, to those who possess knowledge that others do not.
But why? Why are smart people so often referred to as elitist? Yeah, sure, there’s the occasional arrogant prick who legitimately deserves the title, but as for the rest of them… what did they do? What did they do to deserve to be called elitists besides 1) be born into existence, in the case of those society likes to refer to as “gifted”; or 2) work their asses off to increase their intellect? (more…)
This piece was written to be my final analytical paper for SLL330: Russian Thought and Civilization at the University of Southern California.
Every story needs a hero and a villain, and stories in video games are no different. For every good guy, there must be a bad guy; and for every evil-doer, there must be a do-gooder to save the day. This can be an issue for stories grounded in reality, as each character or faction must have a believable backstory, an important part of which is often nationality – while everyone loves a cool character of their nationality, problems pop up when writing in less favorable characters. A lot of it is unfortunately political – for example, although nobody has a problem with Nazis or zombies being depicted as the enemy in video games, depicting the Chinese, Cubans, North Koreans, or any Middle Easterners as the antagonists has proven to be a sensitive issue, with the respective nations crying foul about such portrayals or, in the case of Middle Eastern states, developers avoiding the issue altogether by omitting specific country references, á la 24.
Russia seems less sensitive about the way it is portrayed in video games than most countries, with little to no real feedback to be seen about either the positive depictions or the less favorable ones; and this callousness is wonderful given the wide variety of ways Russians are portrayed in games. Although every game provides a different take on Russia and its people, upon analysis, it becomes clear that of all these depictions can ultimately be broken down into some combination of the following basic types: (more…)
Think of any triple-A blockbuster title – say, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach, Starcraft II, for example – and chances are, music played a huge role in your perception of the game. From the bold opening fanfare in Starcraft II to the subtle, ominous, and nostalgic undertones of the Halo: Reach score, video game music has its way of being a significant part of our experience in major titles today. And this has really been the case with most major blockbuster titles in the past decade, from Michael Giacchino’s brass anthems in the Medal of Honor series and Garry Schyman’s Stravinsky-esque manipulation of strings in Bioshock to Martin O’Donnell’s iconic Gregorian chants in the Halo franchise and Harry Gregson-Williams’s bold mix of electronic and orchestral elements in Metal Gear Solid.
As Jack Wall, the composer for titles such as Myst III, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect and one of the co-founders of Video Games Live, says, “Music is an unseen character in video games… You don’t see it, but there is definitely an effect.” It sets a mood and feeling for the story to be told in a game, and “depending on the way the music for a game is written, what is felt by the audience can be dramatically different. They aren’t quite sure why they’re feeling what they’re feeling, but in actuality, it’s because of the music.” (Wall 2010) Music in video games can create anticipation and strike fear into a player; it can foretell upcoming events and recall past ones; it can create emotion where there would otherwise be none; and it can accentuate emotions portrayed onscreen or play against them and in general give a whole new dimension to what a player is experiencing at a given moment. (more…)
by Danny Kim
One Tuesday in the fall of 2011, I was sitting in CTPR242 (Fundamentals of Cinematic Sound). The date was November 15th, merely four days after 11-11-11, a momentous day when many a gamer’s social lives went kaput with the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d been playing quite a while over the weekend, and EVERYONE was talking about it – even CNN was raving about it! I saw ads for Skyrim quite often on TV and online as well. Suffice it to say it was a very well marketed game, and I assumed people would at least be familiar with it as a pop culture style, “Oh, I saw an ad about that on TV!” thing if nothing else when I brought it up, in the same way I’m familiar with the Geico Gecko even though I never actually use any of their services.
So that Tuesday in 242 when Preston began lecture like he did every time by asking us what we’d seen over the weekend, I asked, “Oh, can I talk about a video game I played?” and he was like, “Yeah, go for it!” So I mentioned that I’d been playing a ton of Skyrim and loved the atmosphere and music in it. But then when I looked around to see if anyone else knew what it was or had been doing the same, and all I saw were blank faces – the same kids who would be aghast if I told them I wasn’t familiar with Pulp Fiction or the Godfather series had never heard of Skyrim, let alone the Elder Scrolls franchise as a whole.
Right now, Interactive majors are required to take CTCS190 and CTPR241/290 like most SCA majors, and I presume the reason for this is to give all students in SCA a common fundamental curriculum in the cinematic arts to draw from. But then I have to ask, how is this fundamental curriculum complete in any way without an introduction to video games, the most recent development in cinematic arts? I believe that all SCA students be required to take an intro level CTIN course that teaches them the history, culture, and language of video games. But why? you might ask. Why should I care about video games? I’ll tell you why: (more…)