Throughout the 2021 Call of Duty League season, the Minnesota Rokkr hasn't got a lot of respect. The team got off to a slower start and wasn't competing at a level that was acceptable to the organization and its fans. But then something happened. Head coach Brian "Saintt" Baroska and V1 director of esports strategy Jake "Reppin" Trobaugh put their faith in a 19-year-old kid to try and bring a spark to the Rokkr roster. The results were instant and exciting.
Deathloop is the upcoming action-adventure game that has graced our cover for the last month, and as part of our exclusive coverage, we sat down with the game's narrative designer to chat about Deathloop's story. Following their critical success with the Dishonored series, Arkane Studios has crafted a brand new world to explore. Set on the island of Blackreef, Deathloop is a story that follows Colt Vahn, a man who is stuck in a never-ending loop with a secret society that's led by antagonist Julianna.
In this exclusive interview, we chat with Bennett Smith about the backstory of Blackreef and why the island's time loop was originally set up by the AEON Program. We also asked about the relationship between Colt and Julianna, and more specifically, why the latter wants the former dead. Separate from the main narrative thrust, we learn more from Bennett about how the game encourages players to become comfortable with death in an effort to gain more knowledge about their surroundings.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to subscribe to the Game Informer YouTube channel so that you don't miss any of our exclusive Deathloop video coverage.
Fortnite has been embracing crossover character skins for ages now, and two big names are about to join the cast! More information is dropping tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time via official Epic channels, but for now we've got a spiffy new reveal trailer showcasing Ryu and Chun-Li from the Street Fighter franchise. After Master Chief, Kratos, and many others have entered the Fortnite universe as skins, this is hardly surprising, but it's always great to see additional faces from other games come into the universe! Check out their debut trailer above!
Ryu's penchant for Hadoukens and Chun-Li's furious flurry of kicks have been staples of the fighting game scene from when we would gather around the one arcade unit in the Walmart mini-arcades and stack quarters on the side of the machine, eager to dragon punch and kick our enemies into oblivion while the crane game chirped noisily in the background. While those days can never return, we can now play as some of our favorite Street Fighters in Fortnite. At this point, I don't think any crossover could surprise me, with myriad names and faces joining Epic's free-to-play foray on a regular basis.
Game Informer reviewed Fortnite back in 2018, and while many things have changed, the core battle royale experience stands strong. "The sheer replayability of Fortnite Battle Royale is one of its greatest strengths. Despite there only being one map, nothing ever plays out the same from game to game. Your learned experience about chest spawns, terrain, and weapon functionality carries over, but how these aspects intersect is fresh every time," I said in my review. "Maybe you land with 10 other players in the middle of a house, forcing you to decide whether to book it to the next area or go Rambo, hoping to reap the rewards as the lone survivor of a grim melee. Maybe you get a great weapon right away, but wander into the middle of a skirmish between two snipers. Like Dota 2 or League of Legends, despite the single primary playspace, the rest of the variables mean that one map is more than enough."
Are you planning to pick up the Ryu or Chun-Li skins? What do you think about the deluge of crossover skins? Let us know in the comments!
Microsoft has announced that it is reversing its decision and will not change Xbox Live Gold pricing. Furthermore, free-to-play games will no longer require an Xbox Live Gold membership to play on Xbox consoles.
As a black man with a lifelong obsession with games, I’ve either heard or been asked this question many times in my life: What games let you play as black characters? My answer is usually pretty short. Anyone paid attention knows that games have predominantly featured white protagonists for decades. There are plenty of great-looking games on the horizon, but finding titles starring heroes that resemble the people in marginalized communities can be like finding a needle in a haystack. That's unfortunate because no matter the shape or size of a game, it's always a powerful feeling to see a character that looks like you.
So, I’d like to prepare an answer for people who are regularly asked the same question and for those who ask it themselves. I’ve compiled this list of upcoming games featuring protagonists who are black, brown, or just non-white in general. To that end, this list excludes games with user-created protagonists. Character creators are great and all, but they also put the responsibility of diversity onto the players, rather than developers taking the initiative themselves. Now, let’s take a look at the coolest-looking games starring protagonists of color.
Developer: Scavengers Studio
Release Date: TBA
Season is a gorgeous-looking adventure game about a woman who leaves her remote village to explore the world on her bike. Along the way, she documents her discoveries through the lens of her camera, capturing the final moments of various fictional cultures before an impending cataclysm befalls the world. The game showcases a diverse cast of characters who occupy a strange version of Earth; in it, modern human progress has remained stagnant despite thousands of years passing. Season comes from Scavengers Studios and is fascinating departure from its previous game, the survival battle royale The Darwin Project.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: May 21
With quality games like Dishonored and Prey in Arkane Studios’ history, excitement for Death Loop is sky-high. The games pits two legendary assassins, Colt and Julianna, against each other on the island of Blackreef. Players control Colt, who not only must survive being hunted by Julianna and the island’s inhabitants, but also find a way to break a mysterious time loop engulfing the island. The goal is to assassinate eight targets in the span of a single night, otherwise the cycle begins anew. I pray Deathloop sticks to its May release date because I can’t wait to get my hands on one of 2021’s most inventive-looking titles.
ValiDate: Struggling Singles in Your Area
Developer: Veritable Joy Studios
Release Date: Spring
This quirky visual novel stars 12 struggling singles living in Jercy City (yes, Jercy). They are looking for love while also trying to, according to the game’s website, “overcome the harsh realities of capitalism" while also dealing with the everyday grind. ValiDate boasts over 30 story routes for these flawed 20-somethings who range from a professional cosplayer, a wedding counselor, a food scientist, and a manager at “Bopeyes”. Dating is the name of the game, of course, as you make a series of choices to (hopefully) romance the single of your choice. Veritable Joy Studios says ValiDate’s writing is handled with “empathy and self-indulgence” and comes from an all-POC writing team. Look for ValiDate when it launches this spring, or you can try a free demo on itch.io now.
Release Date: TBA
Tchia recently premiered during the pre-show of The Game Awards, and draws inspiration for its world and cast from New Caledonia, a Pacific Island east of Australia. Players control the titular Tchia, a girl with special abilities who sets sail on her makeshift raft in a physics-driven sandbox. Tchia has the power to take control of any animal or object, which includes a bird and even a coconut, as seen in the debut trailer. Exploration combines climbing, gliding, and sailing, drawing on elements of Zelda games like Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. With a vibrant color palette and heartwarming vibe, Tchia is a gem to keep an eye on.
Far Cry 6
Release Date: 2021
The Far Cry series isn’t always stellar about handling its cultural themes beyond simple stereotypes, but here’s hoping that changes with Far Cry 6. Set in the Cuba-inspired island of Yara, players control Dani Rojos (who can be male or female), a local that gets swept up in a revolution against the country’s brutal dictator, Antón Castillo (played by Giancarlo Esposito of The Mandalorian and Breaking Bad fame). We don’t know much about the plot, but the debut trailer revealed a fascinating relationship between Castillo and his young son, Diego, who he wants to mold in his image. How Dani fits into this father/son story isn’t clear, but it’s safe to expect the high-octane gameplay Far Cry is known for.
Aerial_Knight's Never Yield
Release Date: Early 2021
Coming to you from a single developer, Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is a stylish auto-runner set in a Tokyo-flavored, futuristic Detroit. Wally is a cool kid with a robotic leg seeking to uncover the truth about his past. However, he discovers darker evidence that could affect the future of his entire city. Players must run, jump, and slide past enemies and obstacles in an experience that caters speedrunners and casual players alike. This game bleeds Detroit, including a soundtrack composed by local artist Danime-Sama, as well as contributions from black artists across the globe. Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is slated to be released in early 2021, so, like Wally himself, it looks like the game is coming in hot.
She Dreams Elsewhere
Developer: Studio Zevere
Release Date: 2021
She Dreams Elsewhere is a surreal RPG about a comatose woman struggling with anxiety who must discover the cause of her condition by literally confronting the demons within her. The game’s old-school aesthetic and turn-based combat evokes RPGs of old, but is layered with an ethereal, lo-fi vibe from the soundtrack to the trippy effects. A connection system lets players bond with their party members who have their own narrative threads, or customize their playstyles using the charm system. She Dreams Elsewhere is coming to PC sometime this year, and you can download a demo on Steam right now.
As Dusk Falls
Release Date: 2021
As Dusk Falls is an interactive drama with a fascinating hook. In 1999, two families were caught up in a hostage situation gone wrong. Over the course of the next 30 years, players see how it's affected the lives of all who were involved. We don’t know much about the game other than it stars a mixed-race protagonist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you controlled other characters, such as the boy turned young adult shown in the debut trailer. As Dusk Falls is the first game from newly formed studio Interior/Night, led by Quantic Dream alum Caroline Marcha. The game currently has no release window, but since it’s being published by Xbox Game Studios, you can expect it to hit Game Pass on console and PC on launch day.
Unknown 9: Awakening
Release Date: TBA
This mysterious sci-fi title centers on Haroona, a young girl from Kolkata, India who discovers she’s imbued with a mysterious power that allows her to access a secret dimension known as The Fold. Haroona eventually encounters a mentor who teaches her how to hone this power to uncover the secrets behind this dimension as well as her abilities. We still know little about the game other than it’s a third-person action/adventure title set in the Unknown 9 universe, which is a multimedia sci-fi franchise spanning multiple books, comics, and podcasts. Though I’m not familiar with the broader series, I am intrigued to see what lies ahead for Haroona in the game.
Developer: Red Thread Games
Release Date: TBA
Dustborn is a story-focused action/adventure game about a band of misfits on a dangerous road trip. Steering the narrative is Pax, a con artist and ex-convict who recruits a motley crew of allies to help her transport a mysterious package across the America Republic, a fractured version of the former USA. Your crew (or “Fam”) sport their own unique abilities as well as colorful personalities and backstories, which you learn more about through a deep dialogue system. The comic-inspired art direction gives the game a loud personality, especially the use of onomatopoeias. With both the government and fanatical puritans in hot pursuit of our not-heroes, Dustborn looks to be a wild and exciting road trip.
Developer: Thunderful/Image & Form Games
Release Date: 2021
The team behind the beloved SteamWorld franchise tackles something totally new in The Gunk. This Xbox exclusive stars two astronauts who happen upon a planet teeming with life and valuable resources. Only one problem: The world is being overtaken by a corruptive, parasitic goo. Exploration requires using the protagonist’s power glove to suck up the gunk to clear paths and uncover valuable artifacts. You also need it to combat slime-corrupted monsters. Ridding zones of the malevolent substance opens larger areas containing more clues of the planet’s past. What is the gunk? Where did it come from? We’ll have to wait until sometime later this year to find out.
Developer: Leap Game Studios
Release Date: 2021
I’m a sucker for a good beat ‘em up, and Tunche taps into the innate fun of punching bad guys in the face while its roguelite structure keeps players on their toes. The map and enemies change with each playthrough, meaning you and up to four friends never know what to expect with each go-around. A tight, fast-paced combat system allows players to decimate monster hordes with juggling air combos while evading with an air-dash, among other abilities. Tunche is also easy on the eyes thanks to its hand-drawn cartoon art that breathes life into the game’s Amazon rainforest setting. Don’t take my word for it, though. Download the game’s free demo on Steam and see for yourself.
We Are The Caretakers
Developer: Heart Shaped Games
Release Date: Q1 2021
Described as an “afrofuturist squad management RPG,” We Are the Caretakers is all about defending endangered alien animals from extinction. Using systems inspired by games such as Ogre Battle, Darkest Dungeon, and XCOM, players assemble an arcane team of anti-poaching protectors to engage in tactical battles in procedurally generated campaigns. The game sports a full job system as well as a reputation mechanic where your actions affect how the world views your team. That includes managing international relationships by meeting with world leaders and balancing their demands. We Are the Caretakers sounds like a fun and robust game with a good conversationalist message in the middle of it all.
Games at the end of a console generation are supposed to demonstrate the outgoing systems’ true power – the culmination of developers’ years of practice and technical expertise. But I guess sometimes that doesn’t work out, and studios just need to push whatever they have out the door so they can start working on better things. That was clearly the case in 2020, which gave us a truly disappointing barrage of mediocre titles. Of course, that doesn’t stop some people from wrongly saying they are great – which is why I’m here to correctly call out the worst so-called “best” games of the year.
We don’t see a lot of traditional 3D platformers anymore, and Astro’s Playroom shows us why. It uses a design template from the late ‘90s based solely on collecting doo-dads, but then adds a bunch of cheap gimmicks to show off what the DualSense controller can do (it vibrates). Did no one tell Sony that this game would come preinstalled on every PlayStation 5? Because it feels like Astro’s Playroom is trying really hard to sell me something I already bought.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Imagine that an evil wizard is holding you captive in a tower, and every day for many years, you are fed only bread and water. Then, one day, the evil wizard gives you bread and apple juice instead. After doing the same boring thing for so long, does this evil wizard deserve your praise and gratitude for finally changing things up a little bit? No, but gamers are too stupid to see that. Instead, they love Like a Dragon because it has a new hero, city, and battle system. In other words, it finally tries something slightly different after more than a decade of delivering the same old slop.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Oh, look, I obtained the secret pitch for Final Fantasy VII Remake. It says, “We need a remake doomed to exist in the shadow of its original form from 20 years ago. But here’s the twist: We’ll only retell the first four hours of that game, stretched and padded beyond recognition to justify full retail price. Then we can ruin the story at the very end after people have already played the whole game.” Okay, I lied. That is not the real pitch document. But things don’t need to be real to be true, you know?
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
After so many years of iteration, I can’t even tell the Assassin’s Creed games apart anymore. Each one is more like a greatest hits album from some old band, mixing and matching previous successes instead of creating something new. Let’s face it, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla may as well be called “The Essential Assassin’s Creed Compilation.” It takes some base-building from one entry, sailing from another, and then borrows light RPG systems to hold it all together. Sure, it has a new Viking setting, but that’s basically the video game equivalent of “lovingly remastered tracks” anyway.
Ghost of Tsushima
Many people complain that all open-world games feel the same now, just giving players a bunch of different icons to chase on a big map. Ghost of Tsushima proves them wrong, because this time, the map is in JAPAN. That obviously makes a huge difference, because running after dumb foxes and liberating countless indistinguishable farmsteads suddenly becomes awesome and fun when you are doing it with a katana … apparently.
I hate to be a stickler here (not really), but Among Us does not qualify to be one of the best games of 2020. I ask that you stop enjoying it immediately. I don’t care how fun it is to play. I don’t care how well the development team has supported it. The fact is this: Among Us came out in 2018, and therefore cannot be a good game that you played in 2020. Sorry, but that’s just pure mathematics.
Okay, full disclosure: I didn't even play Hades. I just know I won't like it, because the people who do like it are very annoying online. From what I can gather, Hades is a dating simulator about hooking up with hot gods, and maybe it has a combat system. Whatever it is, I’m comfortable saying that Hades is overrated garbage, because people use the word “roguelike” to describe it, so I automatically know everything I need to. I’ve basically already finished the game without playing a single second, and it left me disappointed.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
Ugh, can everyone just please stop talking about 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim already!? I don’t know what sort of conspiracy or media bias is at work here, but it seems like everywhere I look, this game is getting another award or being streamed by some big-time influencer or member of Congress. Granted, 13 Sentinels has a clever narrative with some cool sci-fi inspirations – but how many people are going to see through the hype and see it for what it is? This is a textbook case of mainstream overexposure creating too much noise and unrealistic expectations.
The Last of Us Part II
A thing happened in this story that I did NOT want to happen, making this one of the absolute worst games ever made.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Playing video games is supposed to be an escape – something people can do when they are tired of paying off loans, pulling weeds, and managing the escalating insecurities of their friends. Animal Crossing: New Horizons wants to steal that from you. This insidious ploy from Nintendo is designed to transmute your entertainment into work and replace your real-life anxieties with virtual analogs. Everyone blames the worldwide pandemic for how awful 2020 was, but I’m just saying: Things only got really bad about the same time Animal Crossing: New Horizons released.
During The Game Awards, a Mass Effect trailer was shown that seemed to say a lot and very little at the same time. A lot of keen-eyed fans have offered their own theories, so I wanted to contribute my own - including how Andromeda and the Trilogy could collide. As someone that has over 30 playthroughs of the original trilogy, 7 playthroughs of Andromeda (despite its flaws), and has read all of the comics and novels several times over, I wanted to put some of that experience to good use with a good 'ol fashioned deep dive. So here we go!
As a disclaimer, a disclaimer I put on any piece I write about Dragon Age or Mass Effect: I'm incredibly transparent with my love for this game. Does that mean I can't be critical of it or the studio culture around the BioWare name? Absolutely not, that's my job (and is evident by my previous critiques of Andromeda and Dragon Age 2 in the past, despite my personal enjoyment), but I like to be honest by letting readers know that I do have a personal connection to these stories for 100% transparency.
Moving on, let's break the trailer seen at the top of the article down.
In the opening sequence of the trailer (at which point we didn't even know this was tied to Mass Effect), we see the two galaxies that have dominated this franchise's lore: the Milky Way, which is seen in the front, and Andromeda, which is seen in the background. While many didn't seem to enjoy Andromeda due to its very different flavor and a wide variety of launch issues (faces were tired, you know the drill), others did relish in the younger and much dorkier Ryder tale. Much like the Geth weren't the true enemy in the first game of the trilogy, the Kett weren't the true enemy in Andromeda, a complexity that held so much potential for the expected sequel. Then launch happened and DLC plans were canceled, effectively killing any hope that the Quarians would make it safely and we'd get a resolution to the major epiphany revealed at Andromeda's end. That hope was killed until now, because the parallels seen in the beginning of the trailer paired with the implications of the ending scene could mean a crossover of epic proportions.
The trailer then continues into the Milky Way that begins a journey through time itself with a voice from the Apollo 11 moon landing saying "Eagle, Houston. You're a go for landing, over." Being a journey, the trailer continues through time into an area where a cylindric structure can be seen. Some have speculated that it could be remnants of the Collector Base that was shot to hell in Mass Effect 2 (which I don't think so given the next sequence of events), while others think that this could be a structural graveyard seen in the wake of Reaper destruction from cycles past. It could also be the remnants of the battle with the Quarians on their way to Andromeda, which will be explored a little further down. Regardless, it is connected to the Omega Nebula, which has its own connection via a Mass Relay within the Mass Effect world.
The next sequence seen is what makes me think it's not the Collector Base because the next shot directly references the First Contact War when humanity stumbled upon the Mass Relays and joined the wider galaxy only to jump into a vicious war against Turians that begun in 2157. This connection was fairly clear-cut with the voice that says "Arcturus Station, unknown vessel approaching, we need first contact protocols." For those that may not know, Arcturus is the headquarters for humanity's System Alliance that was established in 2156, a military and political power structure that is heavily prevalent in the trilogy and associated printed media.
In Andromeda, fans were shocked to see that most races were represented in the move between galaxies, but some were missing. The Hanar, Elcor, Drell, and Quarians were the most notable, with the ending of the fourth Mass Effect game revealing that the Quarians' ark never made it safely, revealing an ominous distress call that was later explored through a spin-off novel (not DLC, as was reportedly planned). The trailer's sequence continues, saying "Ark 6 is away, godspeed," which is the Quarian ark Keelah Si'yah. The above broken cylindric structure could be related to the failed ark arrival, which could be the loophole needed with the time sequence given the passage of time that it takes to make it from the Milky Way to Andromeda (roughly 600 years). The reason that I think this could be related to the previous trailer sequence is that the ark launched from the Hephaestus Station, which is connected to the Omega Nebula within the Caleston Rift.
During this next sequence is where I got chills because this is the first time we hear the Reaper's war call once more, the haunting boom that plagued the trilogy's third entry. As the video progresses into an abundant amount of wreckage within a broken Mass Relay, a distress call can be heard - only to be cut off by the Reaper's telltale sound - saying "Got to take down the dreadnought. Going critical. Abandon ship!"
This wreckage was the reality for millions of lives. With every fleet desperately trying to beat back Reaper forces, a force so far advanced it seemed hopeless, countless lives were lost. Many battles were seemingly for nothing, and entire races were completely obliterated in previous cycles. We learned quite a bit about how other cycles worked with the "harvest" thanks to Mass Effect 3's inclusion of the last surviving Prothean: Javik.
This hopelessness carried into the next sequence where a voice can be heard saying "Is anyone receiving this? We've lost contact." This part could take place at any time during Mass Effect 3 because many stations were lost with Mass Relay manipulation and Reaper obstruction, but if all contact was lost it's possible that this could be a post-ME3 moment when all of the Mass Relays were destroyed after Shepard's sacrifice. While the Control and Synthesis endings did eventually repair that damage, all endings resulted in that initial destruction. After the initial blast and Mass Relays shut down, the entire Milky Way was thrust into its own Dark Age pre-technologically-driven travel.
The trailer isn't done yet, the next step takes us into territory that I think could be easily dismissed as nothing, but keen-eyed fans know that BioWare is the king of hiding some of its most important details in plain sight. "Humanity is all that we have left" can be heard with a hybrid mashup of voices. Broken communication continues but it sounds like "the reason" can be heard at the very end. What that portends to is anyone's guess, but when looking at what happens next, it could be a much bigger clue than we realize.
The video continues with the ship that we saw during N7 day with concept art make its landing on a planet rife with ice set with a tone of bleakness (it's not the earth, several moons can be seen). It's there that we see a shrouded figure make their way up an incline - a figure later revealed to be Liara (we're getting there, be patient). Many think this is a mountain, which definitely looks to be that way but to me? To me, I think this could be a derelict Reaper that she's scaling. A big reason for that is the previous frame directly references the Reaper's destruction and since this is a journey through time, the connection that the Reapers were once where this ship lands is definitely there. The fact that she bends down to pick up an N7 helmet, possibly Shepard's helmet, really lends to my thinking this is a fallen Reaper given the nature of the Commander's own fall (we're ignoring the breath of life seen at the end with the patched in the extended cut, you can @ me on Twitter if you want to know why, I have a very specific reason for doing so).
Edit to this: BioWare's own Mike Gamble confirmed that it was a fallen Reaper Liara was climbing. Two points to Griffindor!
Up until this point, we don't know who the shrouded figure is, but eventually, she looks up and towards the horizon and it's there that we can clearly see it is an Asari. The freckles, face shape, and that little smirk is obviously Liara (though some outlets reported that it was a Quarian in their initial coverage, I'm going to go ahead and chalk that up to them being rushed to get the news out during the Awards, which was a rapid-fire of new announcements that it was quite hard to keep up). That's Liara. Don't believe me? I confirmed it with two BioWare devs; that's Liara.
The trailer then ends with her looking off into the distance where the ship that landed can be seen with the shapes of three figures in the background (would you look at that, the same number of companions you can bring with you into battle during the games!). One is obviously a Krogan with the far left being a Salarian. The middle person looks like a human, but could also easily be a Drell. My gut says human and since this is an opinion piece, I'm going to be frank and say that's where I'm personally leaning.
But wait, does this mean Shepard is coming back?
Obviously, I can't eschew anything officially because we all saw the same trailer, but I'm going to say no for a few reasons. The first being that Shepard was always canonically meant to be a trilogy. They were meant to be the martyr. Unless Miranda was back with another go at the Lazarus Project, I think it's best to start re-saying those goodbyes once more if that's what you're hoping for.
The second reason is that it takes centuries to make it from the Milky Way to Andromeda. So how does that explain Liara? Easy! Asari have incredibly long lifespans. In the third game, Liara was just over 100 years old, which is basically considered a teenager in Asari culture. Asari can live to be over one thousand, so a 600-year jump wouldn't be an entire life cycle for her. The fact that her face can be seen with fine lines of a more mature Matriarch, the years lend themselves to my theory that we're going back to Andromeda but it will be more integrated with the trilogy than previously planned.
TLDR: Andromeda hasn't abandoned the trilogy and the trilogy still has long-standing consequences to future life that we have yet to experience. I think the next step in the Mass Effect franchise will obviously take place hundreds of years post-ME3. I also think that this will make the Destroy ending canon, the ending that was highly sought after and incentivized throughout the progression of the third game. Since there is no evidence that Liara has been synthesized with that ending and there aren't any living Reapers seen, it looks like the Destroy ending will be paramount for the future of the games. Could Mass Effect pull a Dragon Age Keep where you can input your own choices of games past to dictate how the premise is set up for the new adventure? Absolutely a possibility, but that's not something we'll learn about until we are much closer to launch.
At the end of the day, I'm excited. I touched on this with my previous piece talking about possible expansions of the Mass Effect universe, but there are so many unexplored stories left to tell. From the First Contact War to everything that happened in between the Trilogy and Andromeda, the narrative grounds are beyond fertile.
If you're interested in learning more about the lore beyond the games, I can't recommend the books and comics enough. Even the movie Paragon's Lost, which dives into what happened to Vega pre-Shepard, offers unique perspectives into the games. From the moments in between the first Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, to how Liara got ahold of Shepard's body to begin with; there is so much more to explore out there and every bit of it offers small pieces to a much larger puzzle that is the future of Mass Effect.
All Elite Wrestling’s Aubrey Edwards is one of the toughest and most popular referees in pro wrestling today. Her penchant for not taking any nonsense from stars like Chris Jericho has made her as beloved as the wrestlers themselves, but before she was laying down the law on AEW Dynamite every Wednesday on TNT, Aubrey Edwards (whose real name is Brittany Aubert) spent 10 years helping bring digital worlds to life in the game industry.
During her time in the industry, she worked in a variety of roles for several studios, most notably as a producer for the Scribblenauts franchise. With the recent announcement of AEW’s first foray into video games, Aubert finds herself back in the world of game-making, combining her two dream jobs into one. I sat down with Aubert to talk about all things games, including how she fell in love with the medium and what she accomplished during her tenure. She also clarifies what AEW Games is and what her involvement entails.
AEW fans who have paid attention may have heard Aubert express her love of gaming in interviews, but that side of her life is often a quick talking point in more wrestling-centric discussions. So what types of games does she enjoy?
“I've actually been playing video games much longer than I've been watching wrestling,” says Aubert. “I started playing video games as early as I can remember. My house was always very much a video game household. There's pictures of my mom playing Duck Hunt pregnant with me. I played Sonic the Hedgehog with her when she was pregnant with my sister. I played NBA Jam with my dad, so it's like gaming's always been a big part of just my life in general. So when I was growing up I played Ocarina of Time in 1998 and was like ‘Oh man, there's people in an office somewhere who made this thing! That's something that I could do for a living.’ So from that moment on, I'm like ‘I'm going to make video games, and that's gonna be what I do with my life!’”
In her youth, Aubert adored JRPGs such as Final Fantasy VII, X, and Kingdom Hearts (“The original one, before the story got really wacky,” says Aubert) but her taste shifted as life got busier. In college she fell in love with the shorter indie experiences. Aubert cites Braid, for example, as one of her all-time favorites. “My favorite game in the last year that I've played is Untitled Goose Game just because it's only four hours and you get to be an a--hole goose. It’s fantastic.”
Since the wrestling business requires constant travel, the Switch has been Aubert’s “savior” for satisfying her gaming fix. She considers herself a Nintendo kid and is a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda and Pikmin franchises in particular. It speaks to her general affinity for colorful games that emphasize lighthearted imagination over hardcore violence. “If it's cute, adorable, and has bright colors, I've probably played it,” she says.
Scribblenauts And Other Ventures
Aubert chased her game-development dreams by attending DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Upon graduation, she spent the next decade working in a variety of studios in both development and producer roles.
Her longest tenure at a studio came at 5th Cell, where she worked on the Scribblenauts franchise for more than six years. Given Aubert’s love of whimsical games, the studio seemed like a perfect fit.
“I guess that's part of the reason that drew me to the franchise in the first place,” she says. “I was a Nintendo kid growing up, so hearing that 5th Cell was continuing to make Nintendo games and they were making something that was cool and unique and had never been done before, I was like, ‘Well, yeah, I know I'm going to apply here.’”
Aubert served as a tool programmer for the first Scribblenauts, moved up to the role of producer for Super Scribblenauts, and, finally became a lead producer on Scribblenauts Unlimited, a launch title for the Wii U. Additionally, she oversaw development of the game’s iOS port. Helping bring Maxwell’s adventures to life for so long has penciled a permanent spot for the franchise in Aubert’s heart; she even has a Starite tattoo on her arm.
After leaving 5th Cell, Aubert moved on to WG Cells (a division of Wargaming) to work on a few mobile games, but Wargaming shut down her branch before any of those projects saw the light of day. She moved on to City State Entertainment, a studio made up of Mythic Entertainment alumni, to help launch its West Coast studio. Aubert then moved on to Vreal, a now-defunct VR game-streaming platform. Despite helping to develop a functioning alpha build, the studio eventually ran out of funding and Aubert was laid off.
Losing two jobs out of four began to sour Aubert on the industry, “I hadn't actually shipped a game since 2012 outside of a couple early alpha versions of things, so it kind of just wears on you a little bit.” says Aubert.
Thankfully, an unexpected opportunity appeared in the form of pro wrestling. Not only did it provide a welcome change of scenery, but eventually served as a roundabout way back into game-making.
Finding Pro Wrestling And AEW Games
Aubert became a fan of wrestling in 2011, kicking off an obsession that led to Aubert learning how to referee in 2017. Though she still worked in games full time, Aubert refereed on the indie wrestling circuit as a hobby on weekends. Thankfully, as her love for the sport grew, so did the opportunities; Aubert even had a brief stint in WWE as one of the referees for the 2018 Mae Young Classic, a women’s wrestling tournament (she officiated the infamous bout in which Tegan Nox blew out her knee against Rhea Ripley). When All Elite Wrestling formed in 2019, the fledgling organization approached her with a full-time gig.
“Eventually it ended up growing very large,” Aubert says. “It kind of just got to the point where I said, 'I can keep going with this games thing full-time, or I can chase this AEW thing.’ Because at that point it's early 2019, we've got Double or Nothing coming up, no one really knows what to expect. But they're talking about changing the world, and that always sounds like a really fun thing. So I took a risk, and I left games, and I joined AEW.”
When Aubert joined AEW, she quickly gained a following for not only being one of the few female referees in mainstream wrestling, but for her penchant for keeping the men in tights in line no matter how imposing they are. AEW has gained a passionate fanbase, and a video game was among the first things that diehards begged for once the company got rolling. Their wish came true and then some when the company unveiled AEW Games in November (via a satirical press conference) with three games in the works: a No Mercy-inspired console game and two mobile titles.
Of course, given Aubert’s background, it was a given that she would be involved with AEW Games.
“At some point or another, someone found out that I had a tech background,” Aubert explains. “And I sent my resume to various executives at our company and they're like, ‘Oh, you worked on games for a very long time.’ So when the conversation about AEW Games started to come about and [started] to actually develop games, it was kind of a no-brainer that I be involved with that.”
Aubert is primarily focused on overseeing AEW Elite General Manager, a mobile game that allows players to book shows and manage the roster. However, she has her hands full assisting production for all of AEW’s titles in a role that combines her experiences as a hands-on developer and producer.
“It's almost like a hybrid role.” Aubert says. “I'm doing development things in the way that I'm working with art and making sure that all of our characters are represented properly, that our brand is represented properly. I'm working with the team to work on different features and follow the game design that we're building with this game. I'm currently writing some narrative stuff for tutorials and whatnot. So I'm doing a lot of random day-to-day development stuff, but at the same time kind of acting as that publisher role as well, working with marketing and trying to figure out what our timelines are there and working with budgets and all these different things.”
We still don’t know much about AEW’s mysterious console game; right now, Aubert can only tell me she “can’t wait to talk about it.” Since Aubert became a wrestling fan much later in life, she didn’t grow up playing beloved classics such as WWF No Mercy. That’s why she’s made it a priority to dust off the N64 and study No Mercy to figure out what makes it click. “We really want to make sure that what we're making is what wrestling fans want. So as someone who makes games – and this has always been the case – if I'm building something and we're trying to hit a particular vibe or a particular market, it's my job to do the research to make sure we're achieving that.”
Wrestling and game development are two very large and often tumultuous animals. When I asked her to describe the differences, Aubert pointed to how adjusting to feedback is one of the biggest.
“With games you're building something for potentially years, and then the fans get to play it when you're done with it.” she explains. “You get to see this amazing reaction to what it is that you made. With wrestling I get that multiple times every Wednesday. That we have a group of people that are telling a story and, 15-20 minutes later, we know exactly how that story was perceived, and even in the moment we get the fan reaction to something. Are they liking it, are they not liking it? And that's something that is completely unique to any other performance media.”
By combining her passions into one, Brittany Aubert has proven that following your goals (especially if they involve interests you genuinely enjoy) can lead to dreams being realized in ways you often can’t predict.
“I always wanted to announce a video game in development on a stage,” she says. “That had been one of my goals in games forever. So I only needed to leave games and join a wrestling company in order to pull that off.”
You can watch Aubrey Edwards in action on AEW Dynamite every Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and listen to her talk wrestling as the co-host of the AEW Unrestricted Podcast.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ roster isn't done growing quite yet and a recent V-Jump scan that leaked early confirms which arrival is coming next. The next FighterZ DLC fighter to arrive in the game soon is Super Baby 2, a character from Dragon Ball GT, and the recent scans give us a little clue as to what this means for the game.
V-Jump is a Japanese publication and Twitter user @Dbshype just uploaded a few scans showing off the latest arrival:
While not the full reveal (and no gameplay, due to this being a magazine), the scans do show off a little bit about what the latest addition brings to the table, including the following sets:
- Full Power Energy Wave
- Great Ape
- Darkness Spring Shot
- Z-Assist Revival
The Darkness Spring Shot is perfect for super dedicated fans because this Ki blast is pretty epic in its own right. Not only is it powerful, it also returns back to the fighter if an enemy hit isn't landed. The meteor strike with the Revenge Death Ball is also an exciting move and should proof to be an interesting tool when going up against enemy characters.
FighterZ: Super Baby 2 Moves’ Initial Translations.— Dragon Ball Hype. (@DbsHype) December 17, 2020
DB FighterZ has sold over 6 million copies worldwide! More details in pic.
(Source: V Jump / Ryokutya)
(Translations: @Inumaru08) pic.twitter.com/fLMubhctv7
What's really interesting, however, is the Z-Assist Revival because there aren't any other characters on the current roster with the ability to bring back someone who has fallen in a match. This addition could be totally epic, or completely OP, but without gameplay it's a little too soon to judge.
What do you think about the arrival of Super Baby 2 to Dragon Ball FighterZ? What other characters do you think deserve some time in the spotlight? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!