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Checkpoints

Author: Declan Dineen

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Each week, a guest on the show talks about the games that have shaped their life in one way or another. Games that have inspired them, games that forged connections with others and games that have soothed wounds. Checkpoints!

Cover design: Craig Stevenson - http://onedinosaurandhisballoon.blogspot.co.uk

Music: Samuel Baker - http://soundcloud.com/furoshiki
197 Episodes
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My guest today is Ian Bogost, an award winning game designer and author of several books including Persuasive Games and Play Anything. He's also a contributing editor to the Atlantic magazine, the professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech and an incredibly engaging and articulate podcast guest. We talk about how geek culture has become canonised, the importance of external influences in the early history of video games, how aspects of the grimy arcade experience of the 80s are being replicated online today, how the mediums of the 20th century have suffocated the potential for games ability to communicate ideas, that time he made a video game for a presidential candidate. and why slippers are a universal interest. "Play isn’t doing what we want, but doing what we can with the materials we find along the way."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guests today are Ben Myres and Cukia ‘Sugar' Kimani, co-founders of South African based game studio Nyamakop, creators of the inventive 'Clay Doh' platformer Semblance. They are also excellent, inspiring company with an infectious passion for video games.We talk about their diverse paths to game development, from childhood where Ben assumed videogames had been around forever and was taught gamemaker in primary school (!) and Sugar's knock off Dreamcast bought from a roadside stall in Nairobi, and playing  co-op Doom in school (one person aiming, one person moving)We hit on how Age of Empires and Prince of Persia Sands of Time blew their respective minds. Why Ben played the intro of Final Fantasy X over and over again, why GTA was the only game Sugar needed and ultimately to  how they came to form Nyamakop in a rom-com worthy meet cute.There is a clear pride they both take in the burgeoning African video game scene, and they talk about how that came to be, how one of the companies founding principles is YOLO, how they keep themselves inspired when the work becomes a struggle, and how they won’t stop until they get that gold hot tub. This episode is a good time"Diplomatic immunity!"PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is one of my favourite streamers of one of my favourite games, Dane McCappin AKA Dane Hearthstone. I first noticed Dane when his incredibly inventive and creative Hearthstone decks became a regular on highlight reels like Trolden. and I've become a big fan of his videos. His laconic and relaxed style of streaming has gained him a dedicated fanbase, not the least of which is Blizzard who recently invited him to LA to cast for the Hearthstone Wild Open 2018. We talk about the unique life of a professional streamer and how it never really meant to happen, we hit on the latest Hearthstone expansion and deck building, his early love for Sega and his heartbreak at the demise of the  Dreamcast.We also hit on his early taste of professional gaming as a Guild Wars player, why Quake is his chicken soup game (that rail gun feels so good) how grueling streaming was while he  worked a full time job, and why bad British broadband was the main reason he first decided to stream Hearthstone. "I think you should wash it, yeah. Then shave it off, nail it to a frisbee, and fling it over a rainbow."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Iranian video game developer Mahdi Bahrami. Annoyingly young, Mahdi already has an incredible game under his belt with the release of Engare in 2017. A unique puzzle game inspired by Islamic art which also comes with a creation mode that reminds me of soothing afternoons of my youth spent making endless patterns with a spirograph.We talk about the video game scene in Iran, how his puzzle game enthusiast mother is still a tough critic, his dad teaching him to program, moving to Holland to study game design and programming, how vastly different his cultural touchstones are to most people who work in games (he's never seen Star Wars and is fine with that), the ridiculous number of hoops he had to jump through to get to GDC, how bittersweet his first taste of video game success was, the huge popularity of FIFA in Iran, and the universal language of video games."To be international, you have to first be local."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Dr Mark Johnson. Mark is a man of many talents, he's currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta where he mainly focuses on the intersection of money and games, particularly in relation to eSports and pro streamers. He's also the co-host of Roguelike Radio, creator of the game Ultima Ratio Regum, a former bullet hell world champion and a former professional poker player.As that breif intro suggests, Mark is not someone who does things by halves, and we delve deep into all of his various interests and areas of expertise, from the similarities between poker and rogue likes, why Command & Conquer changed everything, why speed running never appealed to him despite his clear skills, why professional streaming is more of a job than you think it is, and the big loss that led him to leave poker behind."Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
I'm very excited to welcome Richard Garriott to the show. Sometimes known as Lord British, Richard is a video game trailblazer. As the creator of Ultima he helped forge a new genre in games, and with Ultima Online invented a whole new one. His latest, Shroud of the Avatar, was released just a few weeks ago and continues this storied tradition. As one of the only second generation astronauts in the world, he's also travelled into space.We talk about luck and timing,  how his interests and passions coalesced with the rise of technology, and how he has been able to ride the crest of that wave. We talk about magic tricks and his collection of automatons.  We hit on how he plays more games now than he ever has, the importance of Command & Conquer, how he had to learn to program before he could learn to play, how important the crest of a hill is in a video game world. We also talk about his life long journey to travel into space, what it felt like to finally achieve it, and whether or not a game can ever recreate that sensation."Don't tell me what I can't do."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig StevensonGames discussed: Hunt the Wumpus, Pong, Ultima, Escape, Dungeons & Dragons, Myst, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, Medal of Honor, Monument Valley, World of Warcraft, The Creeps, King's Quest, Wing Commander,
Last month I recorded a special episode of Checkpoints live from the All Your Base festival in Nottingham. One of my guests was Paul Kilduff-Taylor who I ended up hanging about with a bunch over the weekend and we had a lovely time so I asked him back for a full episode. Wholesome af.Paul is one of the co-founders of mode7 games - creators of Frozen Synapse and the upcoming Forzen Synapse 2 - and while music is his specialty, he has a hand in all aspects of design. In a wonderfully meandering chat we hit on some timely networking tips in the run up to GDC, how mash ups are the internet's first musical genre, sword fighting games for the Novint Falcon, the satisfaction of games that linger in your brain when you're not playing them, how much of a gamer his mum was growing up, the excellent music of Nintendo World Cup, why Half Life 2 maybe isn't as good as you think it is and Noel, the mysterious employee at a Canadian Electronics Boutique. "March the 12th be with you."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig StevensonGames discussed: Contraption, Chuckie Egg, Tetris, Nintendo World Cup, Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage 2, Into the Breach, Monster Hunter World, Day of the Tentacle, Prison Architect, Tap Titans, Rocket League, Wing Commander Privateer, Hitman Blood Money, Hotline Miami, X-Com, Half Life 2, SWAT,
One of my favourite parts of doing this show is discovering the ways people played games in countries all around the world, In this special episode of the show I speak with a listener and linguistics lecturer Andrej Bjelaković about growing up with games in Belgrade, Serbia.  Part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia has had a tumultuos half century. During Milosevic's reign in the 1990s, the country was sanctioned by the UN meaning imports like video games would not be allowed through by any legal means.The ways in which games did find their way into the country, and how people like Andrej were first exposed to them and grew to love them is a unique and fascinating story and one that I had never heard before.We talk about Sega Clubs, a nationwide solution to the problem of having no access to games,  pop up PC stores ran by grandparents from their flats, discovering a love of English through blackmarket imports of PC Zone and PC Gamer, playing games while your city is bombed, and how the first legitimate video game he was able to buy was World of Warcraft in 2005.Andrej is a passionate and engaging guide through all of this and so much more. A unique and fascinating take on the games that shaped many of our lives. A genuine treat, and something I’m thruked to share."We've got a wave in the air, radar love."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by
My guest today is Zach Barth, founder of Zachtronics and creator of some of the best video games ever made, including Spacechem, Infinifactory and their latest, Opus Magnum.We talk about the surprising amount of instinct and chance that goes into designing a Zachtronics game, his love of play sets and miniatures but oddly his hatred of board games, the influence of the TV series How it's Made?, why Solitaire is such a great chicken soup game, the unique struggles of making educational software and how his love of video games has slowly withered while his love of making them has flourished.“Bertha, lovely Bertha. You're such a lovely machine!”PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWGames discussed: Duke Nuken, Team Fortress 2, Heroes of the Storm, Construction Simulator, Megaman Battle Arena 3, Opus Magnum, SpaceChem, infiniminer, infinifactoryTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is James Ryan who - as part of his PhD at US Santa Cruz - has been working on some of the coolest and most exciting projects I’ve seen in years, and this chat made me incredibly excited about the future of games and could potentially change the future of writing. This is largely due to his Talk of the Town framework, which simulates 500 years of history in a small American town, and is the engine behind the award winning theatre piece / text adventure / procedural story telling of Bad News and the beautiful and poetic Juke Joint. For his final project he is using this framework to automate radio drama. Amongst several other exciting projects, one of my favourites is GameSpace, an explorable universe of tens of thousands of videogames grouped by genre. (I explored for an hour and only saw a handful of games I recognised). What a treat.As well as possibly my favourite rage quit story of the show so far, we talk about the inner monologue of a Goomba, the profound impression that Link to the Past continues to have on him (and how apt that title is), why he could only be doing what he’s doing at UC Santa Cruz, how he discovered a whole other universe in Madden 2000, the slapstick violence of GTA3, how learning to code completely changed his life, and why Façade is like the first Velvet Underground album.“From downtown!”PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWGames discussed: Pitfall, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, NFL Blitz, Madden 2000, NBA JAM TE, Façade, Grand Theft Auto 3, The Sims, Sim City, Dwarf Fortress, Tecmo Super Bowl, Football Manager, Little Computer People, DriverTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Sarah Elmahleh. Sarah is an actor and voice over artist and has worked on a whole bunch of videogames including Gone Home, For Honor, Call of Duty, Pyre, Galak-Z and Final Fantasy 15. She was also the lead in the recent - and excellent - BBC Radio play Game Over written by Emily Short. (This is only available until the 29th of January so click the link and listen now!)We talk about how games were a forbidden fruit for a chunk of her childhood, and how getting a PC changed everything. Her deep love for the Curse of Monkey Island and the subsequent radio play adaptation she made in college, how the Tango is a great example of emergent game play, the healing power of getting snowed in with Dragon Age: Inquisition, why The Mortician's Tale resonated with her so much,  and how she got into games when she didn't know anyone in games (pro tip: meet Rich Lemarchand)."I don't think my father would approve of me dating the undead, and you're probably too nice a zombie-pirate for me anyway. Let's just be friends instead. "PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWGames discussed: Everquest, The Sims, KOTOR, Curse of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Gone Home, Final Fantasy 8, Super Hexagon, The Last of Us, Uncharted, Super Meat Boy, Dragon Age: Inquisition, A Mortician's Tale, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, Night in the WoodsTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest on today's episode is Devine Lu Linvega. How to begin describing Devine. In videogame terms he has created some wonderful games like Hivesaires, Donsol or the Proteus remix Purgateus. He currently lives with his girlfriend on a sail boat, where they run their floating studio 100rabbits. This interview was conducted while they docked in New Zealand. He is also a musician and a photographer and a visual artist and a developer and he created a new language.In an incredibly broad and meandering chat we hit on how his parents desire for him to never have a computer back fired spectacularly, how he quickly learned to play games at arms length through tool assisted runs of Diablo, his intense love of role playing within Eve Online, his compulsion to play through games like Quake, X-Com and Civilsation 5 endlessly, how much fun an interactive gravestone would be, why everyone should make things and how sometimes how you approach a game can say a lot about how you approach life."If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything.."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWFor more details about All Your Bass festival and the live Checkpoints episode, visit the NVAGames discussed: Ultima Online, Diablo, Quake 3, Eve Online, Civ 5, Nuclear Throne, Rainbow 6, Riven, Myst, What Remains of Edith Finch, Tokyo Extreme Racer, Mount Your Friends, X-Com, Age of EmpiresTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
My guest on today's episode is Jim Rossignol. Jim spent many years working at PC Gamer, founded Rock, Paper, Shotgun and has since set up his own video game studio, Big Robot, and made the games Sir, You Are Being Hunted and The Signal from Tölva. We talk his early memories of Amstrad CPC and Amiga gaming, why philosophy is important, how S.T.A.L.K.E.R represents the open world we were promised, the genesis and risks of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, whether or not he misses video game journalism, and why he's the best at Speedball 2. "This is my Boom Stick." PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW For more details about All Your Bass festival and the live Checkpoints episode, visit the NVA Games discussed: Chuckie Egg, Elite, Speedball 2, Lemmings, Stunt Car Racer, Quake, Goldeneye, Hidden & Dangerous, Eve Online, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Mad Max, Prey, Dishonoured, Teleglitch, Sunless Sea, The Long Dark, Diaries of a Space Port Janitor Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Lisy Kane. Lisy is a speaker, curator and videogame producer currently at League of Geeks. She's also the co founder of Girl Geek Academy and the only Austrailian on this year's Forbes 30 Under 30. We talk Commander Keen on paternal laptops, playing Driver by the rules, a fierce love of demo discs, finding friends in Age of Empires, why my quick fire questions remind her of a high school band and how deals get done in DOTA 2. "It was the last hero left and I never played it before." PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Mass Effect, Gone Home, Commander Keen, Dr. Mario, Super Mario Land, Catz, Age of Empires 2, Battle Toads, DOTA, Stardew Valley, Destiny 2, Jack Box Party Pack, Thumper, Rock Band, Home Alone, Driver Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Erica Lahaie, a designer, illustrator and concept artist based out of Montreal. I'm a particular fan of the incredible work on Shrouded Isle but all of her art is amazing. Also she has the best URLs. We go deep on our mutual love of the Tony Hawks Pro Skater series, talk about the mythical PS2 modem and her SOCOM 2 adventures, how she got her first break posting in the Giant Bomb forums and why we both think that rhythm action is probably the best video game genre. "Gleam the cube buddy, yeah!" PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Zillion, Crash Team Racing, Tony Hawks Pro Skater Series, SOCOM 2, Amplitude, Rez, Modern Warfare 2, Need for Speed Underground, World of Warcraft, DOTA2, Bloodborne, Mass Effect, Gone Home, Parasite Eve Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by
My guest today is Clint 'halfcoordinated' Lexa. Clint is a beloved and incredible speed runner and a common highlight of GamesDoneQuick. Despite being born with a condition known as hemiparesis which limits the use of one side of his body, Clint has become a beloved and incredible speedrunner, with his one handed runs of intense action games like Vanquish and Nier being among the highlights of GamesDoneQuick these past few years. His experience in overcoming accessibility issues has also led to him becoming an advocate for better accessibility in games. He is also just the best guy. We talk about how god modes in games meant he was never put off, how he got hooked on the frenzied brilliance of Gunstar Heroes, playing competitive Smash Bros, the thrill of mastering a video game, how he develops his speed run strategies, whether or not you write a script for a marathon, his Matrix like understanding of the AI in Castle Crashers, and why he'll never speed run Mario Odyssey. "I'm not going to say anyone can do anything, but i will say your limits are way further out than you think they are." PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Gunstar Heroes, Super Mario, Super Smash Brothers, RAGE, Duke Nukem, Commander Keen, Jackal, Ninja Gaiden, Castle Crashers, Super Mario Odyssey, Mad World, Momodora 4, Vanquish, Robotic Alchemic Drive, Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is Jennifer Scheurle, the game design lead at Opaque Space currently working in collaboration with NASA on the VR game Earthlight. The team recently won studio of the year and game of the year at the Austrailian Game Developer Awards. We talk about how cool it is to work with NASA, her childhood playing games in Germany and why PCs rule, how a particularly harrowing experience with a bear in the original Tomb Raider turned her off games for years, how she might need an intervention to save her from Love Nicky why she moved to Austrailia to make games, and her deep love for Shadow of the Colossus. "You think you're scared now? Wait till your parents get the bill for breaking Daedalus." PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Tomb Raider, The Clue, 7 Days to Die, Counter Strike, Shovel Knight, The Secret of Monkey Island, Love Nicky, World of Warcraft, To the Moon, The Beginners Guide, Shadow of the Colosuss, Portal Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is that rarest of unicorns, a video game designer who moonlights as a drag queen. Richard Franke first got into games through his comic book art, and after spending many years working on a variety of titles - most notably the Burnout series - he left to found Magic Notion and create Kitty Powers Matchmaker, whose titular character is based on Richard's own drag queen persona. We talk about his older brother passing on video game wisdom, his fear of 3D Monster Maze, recreating arcade games on the play ground, how he inadvertently created an Animal Crossing community, the design iteration that goes into making the perfect Burnout crash, and the wonderful sight of the designer of a game appearing on a youtube stream of their game as the main character of the game they created. “We all came into this world naked. The rest is all drag.” PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Kitty Powers Matchmaker, Pong, Donkey Kong, 3D Monster Maze, Worms, Jet Set Willy, Burnout, Animal Crossing, Zelda, Final Fantasy 11, World of Warcraft, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Witcher 3, Mario Kart, MUDs, The Sims, Splatoon, Fallout 3, Dungeons and Dragons Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
My guest today is the velvet owl Will Porter - Former PC Zone editor, freelancer, and the writer of Project Zomboid, Alien Isolation and No Man's Sky.We talk about how the PC Zone vs. PC Gamer rivalry is no joke, whether growing up on a farm puts you off farming sims for life, how it felt to be a Betamax kid in a VHS world, and how working in the bowels of Canary Wharf made him feel like he was living in Half Life.We also hit on Drop 7 addiction, the challenges of working on a game like No Man's Sky, the exotic allure of Flashback, how much we miss middle tier games and the carnal thrills of games like Max Payne, Duke Nukem and Bulletstorm."Damn, those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride."PATREON - patreon.com/checkpointsiTunes HERE -  SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEWGames discussed: Zool, Imogen, Repton, Championship Manager, Half Life, Doom, Duke Nukem, Bulletstorm, Flashback, Drop 7, Elite, Carmageddon, the Fallout series, Deus Ex, Powerstone, Ready to Rumble, Abzu, Goldeneye,  Far Cry, Uncharted 4, SWAT 4, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Timeshift, Psy Ops, Stanglehold, Alien Isolation, No Man's SkyTheme song by Samuel BakerArt work by Craig Stevenson
Hello! So good to be back. My guest on today's episode is the amazing Mike Cook Mike is an AI researcher, the founder of #procjam (this year's even has just started so you should check it out.) and the creator of ANGELINA an AI system that makes video games. As you can imagine, this is a mind blowing and fascinating talk. It honestly completely reshaped the way I think about and understand AI. There's also a ton of great video game stories like the surprise LAN party he had for his 10th birthday, how Command & Conquer cracked open his mind, his mum keeping the secrets of Monkey Island to herself, his 1000s of hours with DOTA 2 and how the AI he created to create games reflects the games he creates himself. "He's smart, nice, liked by all. Why is he targeted for destruction?" PATREON - patreon.com/checkpoints iTunes HERE - SUBSCRIBE / RATE / REVIEW Games discussed: Zool, Comman & Conquer: Red Alert, DOTA, N++, Final Fantasy 8, Broken Sword, Spelunky, Metal Gear Solid, Desert Golfing, PUBG, Fortnite, Black and White, Rogue Process, Invisible Inc. Secret of Monkey Island, Facade. Theme song by Samuel Baker Art work by Craig Stevenson
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