Brandii Grace is a game designer, writer, producer, programmer, educator and general pioneer of the gaming industry. She was also the Chair of the LA chapter of the International Game Developers Association which, among its many endeavors, fights for change in the industry by identifying and speaking out on key issues.
She joined the hosts of NYFA Games on Twitch to discuss inclusivity in video games. The discussion began by discussing a core concept: what is inclusivity?
“Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”– Verna Meyers
Brandii expertly navigated the distinctions between various forms of diversity and inclusion explaining:
Exclusion: Diversity is neither valued nor accepted
Tokenism: Diversity is valued but not accepted
Assimilation: Diversity is accepted but not valued
Inclusion: Diversity is valued and accepted
She went on to point out that when a video game features a diverse cast of characters it will tend to be more profitable. The reason is fairly simple: if a player feels represented, identifies with one of the characters they will tend to play and spend more, and recommend it to their friends – see Bioware’s “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect” series, or Blizzard’s “Overwatch.”
This concept of inclusivity is applied to the workplace as well. A more diverse team of developers tend to generate games that are:
“70% more likely to capture a new market
45% more likely to improve market share
70% more likely to implement a marketable idea”
If you’d like more information about inclusivity in the entertainment industry, be sure to check out our post on gender inequality in film.
You can see the entire episode on Inclusiveness in Video Games here:
NYFA instructor, Aaron Pulkka is a pioneer in the virtual reality and augmented reality having created groundbreaking projects going back to his days creating Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride as a Disney Imagineer in the 1990s. He has been leading cutting edge projects in the space ever since. He is now leading creative development for the much anticipated series of VR/AR amusement parks for Two Bit Circus funded by Intel Capital among other investors.
Like all of the NYFA Games’ instructors, Aaron is a working game developer in industry and chooses to teach at the school on top of his professional practice.
Aaron appeared on the NYFA Games’ Twitch Channel to create three awesome videos in which he explains
the history of VR and AR
the current state of VR and AR including a hands on explanation of the hardware platforms
NYFA Games promises students hands-on learning from industry masters. To that end, NYFA Instructor and Niantic Labs creative director, John Zuur-Platten, brought his students to get hands on with the innerworking of a AAA studio and provide design feedback on a new module of their alternate reality game Ingress.
If you’re not familiar, Ingress is the pioneering augmented reality game in which you move through the real world with your mobile phone battling and claiming territory for your faction within the game.
The game uses the Google Maps API and challenges factions to capture real world “portals” that are typically places of cultural significance such as public art, landmarks, and monuments. An ongoing mystery story plays out via videos and blog posts posted by Niantic.
Ideas that work in Ingress can sometimes see their way into Niantic Labs more mainstream AR game, Pokemon Go. We caught up with NYFA Games’ MFA student, Fabio Ribak, to get his take on the experience:
“Ingress engages players from around the world in a rich interactive story. Game events attract thousands of players to meet up and collaborate in the real world. There is really nothing else like it. It was amazing to see the process of how the conceive new kinds of game play on the cutting edge of storytelling.”
When asked what he learned that could be applied to his projects:
“I have never done a playtest that long (2 hours) before, and I enjoyed how much detail there was on every quest. I will try to achieve a balance on these aspects that capture the attention of the players throughout the entire playtest.”
Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.
The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.
A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.
“There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”
The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.
This week, Disney held its bi-annual fan expo, D23, in Anaheim, CA. Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation, Disney Interactive Studios, and Walt Disney Productions rolled out major announcements this weekend, while fans and industry insiders were treated to sneak-peek teasers, celebrity appearances, exclusive merchandise, incredible cosplay, and more. Here are some highlights.
A New “Star Wars” Park?
Disney took the opportunity at D23 to reveal new details about its plans for a new themed-land called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” The project is shaping up to be one the company’s most immersive fan experiences.
The Verge quotedWalt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek as explaining: “We are working on our most experiential concept ever … It combines a luxury resort with immersion in an authentic environment.” Basically, the goal will be for guests to live out their own “Star Wars” adventure throughout the course of their stay, complete with windows that look into outer space and a hotel designed like a spaceship.
This year’s D23 Expo saw two jam-packed presentations, for animated and live-action films, respectively. Trailers, teasers, and A-list stars were in attendance to promote upcoming Disney live-action films.
Slated for 2018 is “A Wrinkle in Time,” and director Ava DuVernay was there with stars Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling to screen the trailer. Audiences were also treated to a talks and teasers for upcoming mega projects, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
But that wasn’t all in the live-action arena. The expo also promoted upcoming live-action adaptations of Disney classics slated to be directed by industry giants: “The Lion King” (Jon Favreau), “Dumbo” (Tim Burton), and “Aladdin” (Guy Ritchie). You’ll be able to catch Disney’s n live action adventure, “Dumbo,” on March 29, 2019. “Aladdin” has been cast. Earlier this month rumors circulated online that Disney was having trouble casting the film. Will Smith has been tapped to play the Genie. “Power Rangers” break-out star Naomi Scott will play Jasmine, and jumping on the magic carpet as Aladdin is Mena Massoud.
In the animation category, Disney screened a short film called “The Speed Test,” and hosted panels and teasers for major upcoming releases including “Toy Story 4,” Pixar’s “Coco,” “The Incredibles 2,” “Frozen 2,” “Wreck it Ralph Breaks the Internet,” and an upcoming feature from Dan Scanlon, yet to be titled.
Perhaps the biggest news on the floor was the fact that all of the living Disney Princesses would make an appearance in “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2.” The cast includes Auli‘i Cravalho from “Moana,” Kristen Bell from “Frozen,” Kelly MacDonald as “Merida,” Mandy Moore from “Tangled,” Anika Noni Rose from “The Princess and the Frog,” Irene Bedard from “Pocahontas,” Linda Larkin from “Aladdin,” Paige O’Hara from “Beauty and the Beast,” and Jodi Benson from “The Little Mermaid.”
More details were also released for “The Incredibles 2.”Holly Hunter shared that her character, Mrs. Incredible, will be doing more of the heavy lifting this time around: “Bob’s actually home with the kids this time…”
“Tangled: The Animated Series”amassed the original cast in the same place for the first time. Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi shared their enthusiasm for the characters. “Disney said they didn’t want to do the show without us,” Levi said.
Video Games & VR
The long-awaited third installment of the Kingdom Hearts series revealed a new playable world. Andy’s room from “Toy Story” will be a playable space in “Kingdom Hearts 3,” coming out in 2018.
Marvel will be releasing a new VR game in 2018 titled “Powers United VR.” The gamewill allow the player to become their favorite hero, including Hulk, Rocket Raccoon, and Captain Marvel and will be exclusive to the Oculus Rift.
It wouldn’t be Disney if magic wasn’t present in every detail. At this year’s D23 Expo, the free swag was cold brew coffee with foam designs of iconic Disney characters — including Darth Vader. Shoppers were treated to exclusive merchandise launches not yet available anywhere else, from limited edition figurines to clothing lines.
To see NYFA’s behind-the-scenes coverage of live events, follow us on #Snapchat @NYFilmAcademy.
On Saturday, July 1, teens and tweens participating in the New York Film Academy Summer Camp in Los Angeles took a break from the hard work of filmmaking to see a summer blockbuster classic. “Top Gun” was screening in the field at the Autry Museum.
Usually, the students are hard at work developing their film projects. Most days, they are learning the difference between camera lens sizes, rehearsing a new acting technique, experimenting with the latest 3D technology, revising a script or shooting on a professional backlot. On this night, however, their hard work was rewarded with a special screening.
This screening was unique because it was surrounded by some of the top food trucks in Los Angeles. For many of the students, this was the first time they had seen a movie under the stars. The combination of live music and multicultural food trucks made the night an event.
The head of Summer Camps, Ale Salinas said, “This is a unique and fun experience.
We’re doing this for the students to bond and watch fun movies in a Hollywood way.”
The New York Film Academy is proud of the great strides out Summer Camp students are making and hope their night off was a fun one.
On Friday, June 27, the first New York Film Academy teen and kids summer camp programs came to an end. As students waited for their graduation ceremony to start, they took selfies while their parents banded together.
As the lights dimmed, the acting students presented their one to two minute monologues. Their head shots were projected before the video began. Filmed against a white background “audition style,” each actor chose a unique piece to perform.
Then, the student’s short films were screened. Their backdrop was the Universal backlot, the same place “Hairspray” was filmed. Students were given a challenge to make a movie without dialogue. They wrote, directed, filmed, and edited their own productions from start to finish.
Their instructors and councilors were in attendance and issued certificates of completion. In their farewells they offered words of encouragement. Camera Instructor Bart Mastronardi offered the wise words of Helen Keller: “Life is either an incredible journey or it’s nothing at all.”
“In five days you’ve done an amazing job. This is one of the best one-week programs. You’re all so ambitious. Parents and grandparents keep pushing these kids. They really appreciate it. Even if they don’t always show it,” said NYFA Instructor Martin Thompson.
After they collected their certificates each student was given a copy of their work to use for reels or to share with friends and family. The graduates and their families finished the night with cupcakes and dancing by the pool.
Head of programs Ale Salinas described the programs objectively in her farewell, stating, “Some of you may have learned that this isn’t what you want to do at all, that’s valid, too. But I’m being honest when I say we’re going to miss you.”
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all of the students in finishing their first film. We look forward to the seeing second film real soon.
Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members.
Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members, assisting veterans and spouses with finding employment.
The first half of the eight-hour workshop was a practicum related to resume theory, networking techniques, and how to affectively prepare for an interview. Representatives from Hire Heroes USA, Jamie Rimphanli and Walter Serrano, coached veteran students on how to properly format their resumes and discussed, in-depth, the importance of networking and how to prepare for a job interview.
Highlights from the day included an exercise that had all of the participants do a speed networking session. Also, HHUSA brought a photographer who took professional head shots for the veteran students’ LinkedIn pages.
“We felt that this training and these types of vet student-centric activities are increasingly important because they help prepare our students to meet with HR/Talent Acquisition teams from the major studios,” explained NYFA Director of Veterans Services Department John Powers.
Retired Army veteran and MFA cinematography student Bryan Hudson stated, “The Hire Heroes USA workshop was a fantastic forum to introduce veterans with industry insiders and provide the opportunity to learn from them. The event was beneficial to everyone involved about learning the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the interview process and how to break into the entertainment industry. One thing that I learned from the workshop is to establish relationships that will be beneficial to both parties. Thank you to the NYFA Veterans Department for putting on this marvelous event, and I hope that this will be the first of many events with Hire Heroes USA.”
The NYFA Veteran Services Department is extremely grateful to Hire Heroes USA for partnering with us to bring this wonderful opportunity to NYFA veteran students.
NYFA’s Game Design Department had another great showcase for graduating MFA and BFA students this June. This year, highlights from the students’ academic careers were on display, and they did not disappoint.
Highlights of this year’s showcase include Blake Shao’s “Enlightenment,” an epic third-person fantasy adventure game that allowed players to embark on a grand quest through an Elven realm. Breathtaking art coupled with original play mechanics lead to a NYFA game experience that will be remembered for years to come.
The game is displayed proudly in the school and is a magnet for curious students and visitors alike. A gallery of images from games featured at the student showcase is viewable below.
Another highlight came from BFA student Scott Zhang, who took a widely different approach to his games; he included examples of his game art.
Scott’s concept art runs the gamut from dangerous industrial labyrinths to sci-fi rovers that are indistinguishable from the best art AAA games have to offer. It is no wonder he has already been picked up as an environment artist for 3BlackDot studios. For those interested (and everyone should be), his art is available here.
We wish all graduates continued success as they embark on new adventures.
The New York Film Academy Game Design Department is celebrating the success of our faculty member, Scott Rogers’, latest table top game: “Rayguns & Rocket Ships.” It just completed a successful run on Kickstarter and will be in stores in the Fall.
Like all NYFA Games faculty Scott is a working developer in the game industry. He was game designer and creative director on more than fifty AAA games for Disney, Sony, Capcom, Namco and THQ. His games have sold over 50 million copies worldwide. Over his career, Scott has partnered with major licensors including Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, MGA and DC Entertainment.
For the last four years, Scott was an Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering’s R&D department where he helped create interactive experiences installed in Disney’s parks including: “Mickey’s Fun Wheel Challenge,” “Legends of Frontierland” and several app-based interactive games. Scott has authored two books on game design: “Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design” and “Swipe This! The Guide to Touchscreen Game Design.” Both books are top sellers and “Level Up!” is the #1 best seller on Amazon.com.
Here are a few of Scott’s videogame projects:
God of War (PS2) Saint’s Row Drive-by (PSN, XBLA) Maximo: Ghost to Glory (PS2) Warhammer 40K Kill Team (PSN, XBLA) Drawn to Life (DS) World of Zoo (Wii, PC, DS) Up (Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, PC) SpongeBob SquarePants: Lights, Camera, Pants (PC, GBA) Battle of the Bands (Wii) Pac-Man World (PS) Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (PS) Soul Blade (Soul Edge) (PS) Xevious 3D (PS) World Stadium Baseball EX (PS) Rage Racer (PS) Demoliton Man (SNES, Genesis, Sega CD) ESPN Baseball Tonight (Sega CD) ESPN National Hockey Night (SNES, Genesis, Sega CD) ESPN 2 on 2 Basketball (SNES)
Scott’s latest game, “Rayguns & Rocketships” combines the polish and craftsmanship expected of an Imagineer with the tongue-and-cheek sci-fi aesthetic of the original Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The game is an inventive miniatures-based board game where players control of a rocketship on one board and its crew on another as they battle friends and avoid a cold death in the vacuum of space. Check it out here.