AEW’s Aubrey Edwards On Her Journey Through Game Development, Pro Wrestling, And AEW Games

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. 

Game On

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.’”

Photo Credit: Luis Yepez

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. 

Photo Credit: Scott Lesh

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.” 

Photo Credit: James Musselwhite

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.”

Photo Credit: Steve Yu

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.

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Rick And Morty Want You To Buy A PS5

Rick and Morty are no strangers to video games. They play the life simulator Roy in an episode of the show on Adult Swim, and they have even starred in their own VR experience (though I didn't love it). But the dimension-hopping duo's latest contribution to the gaming industry is a new ad for the PlayStation 5.

Rick and Morty bring their signature brand of humor to the spot, making it clear multiple times that they are only saying what they've been paid to say. Even so, it's still an entertaining little bit for fans of the show to enjoy. Plus, the irreverent tone is a fun change from other PS5 commercials we've seen so far. See the ad in the tweet below: 

https://twitter.com/RickandMorty/status/1329855060302565376

Of course, the saddest part about seeing a commercial for PlayStation 5 is knowing that it will add more people to the growing throngs hoping to buy the system – which means that they could remain difficult to snag. With preorder scares combined with the PS5's online-only launch, obtaining Sony's next-gen console is not as simple as walking into a store or ordering it from any retailer.

PlayStation 5 isn't alone on that front, either; Microsoft's Xbox Series X/S systems have also been hard to secure. This console launch has been the biggest in Xbox history, with many would-be Xbox owners putting their hopes in various giveaways to get their hands on the systems.

But if the persuasive powers of Rick and Morty have swayed you to the PS5 side of the fence (or if you already own one), we have plenty of ways to help you get the most out of your new system. You can read our exhaustive PlayStation 5 review, our impressions of the new DualSense controller, and our review of Astro's Playroom – the cute little platformer that comes pre-installed on every PS5.

Still unsure if PS5 is right for you? We can also help you decide which next-gen console you should get – assuming you have some sort of multi-dimensional portal gun that can take you to an alternate universe in which PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S are always in stock.

NBA 2K21 Review – New Polish On The Court

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release: (Xbox Series X/S), (PlayStation 5)
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X/S
Also on: PlayStation 5

Any athlete will attest that you can do all the right things in the off-season and still come up short. Visual Concepts clearly worked to up its game with NBA 2K21 and deliver better results. However, this wasn’t a typical off-season for Visual Concepts; the team wasn’t just trying to take NBA 2K to the next level, it was trying to take it to the next generation, being the first sports game to go all-in on the new console power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The result is a valiant effort, full of great new features and impressive visual leaps, but it’s clear there’s still some seasoning and adjustments to the playbook that need to be done. 

Visual Concepts released a version of NBA 2K21 back in early September (for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia), but this next-gen edition was built from the ground up to harness the power of the new hardware. Some things from the earlier release carry over, like the bulk of Junior’s MyCareer story, but it also has new modes, as well as important tweaks such as smoother movement and more realistic contact. Most importantly, the long load times that have plagued the series are a thing of the past. Games load in seconds, getting you right into the action. The only hiccups I noticed were when my player went to the bench for a substitution and between periods; sometimes your player just stands stoically for a few moments during this transition. It breaks the immersion since everything else functions just like you’re at an actual arena, including a lively crowd and staff performing various tasks.

Minor issues aside, Visual Concepts continues to deliver stellar gameplay that looks and feels straight out of the NBA. The new-gen tech has only added more authenticity and variety to the on-court action. Being able to change up the speed of your dribble and size-up moves makes ball-handling feel great and gives you tons of options. I loved being able to use hesitations, escapes, stepbacks, and crosses to throw off defenders, and this new dribbling quickly became my favorite upgrade. Passes also look more realistic, especially alley-oops off the glass to teammates. A new lead-pass mechanic, alongside the addition of bounce-touch passes, makes it so you always have varied ways situations can play out. 

As with past entries, certain players have signature moves, and Visual Concepts has only added to the realism with new skills like LeBron James’ suspended dribble. It’s cool that players move or play differently depending on who they are, their position, and how they’re built. I was constantly wowed by the level of detail in every player model, from their likeness to their real-world counterparts right down to their facial expressions and dripping sweat in intense moments. NBA 2K21 is easily one of the best-looking games on the new consoles. 

Another high point is the addition of The W, which allows you to can create your own WNBA MyPlayer for the first time and build your own path to stardom by playing for one of the league’s 12 teams. The level of detail in this mode is great, as I loved learning more about the league and its players from the announcers and games feel different from the NBA with a more technical and team-centric style. The W doesn’t have a cinematic experience like the main MyPlayer mode, but you do get to build up your popularity, wealth, team chemistry, and progression by choosing between different things to do on your day off, like volunteering for a youth program or streaming NBA 2K21. 

You have to fill in the blanks to your own story through these small choices, interacting with other players via text messages, and your social-media feed, but the crux is focused on being a visible role model and bringing other young girls into the sport, which I think is fantastic. I just wish it had its own self-contained storyline, and I’m disappointed that your female MyPlayer cannot be brought into the main multiplayer space: The City. You can play with other players in The W Online, but playing in a small gym isn’t the same experience as having tons of shops and courts at your disposal. 

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

The City is an evolution from The Neighborhood, where players come together in a multiplayer space with their created MyPlayers to play pick-up games and shop. The City is a big attraction, and exclusive for this next-gen version of the game. It’s clear Visual Concepts has some big ideas for it, as you get assigned an alliance and help build up its reputation by participating in events. I enjoy walking through this massive metropolis, stumbling upon special vendors selling unique apparel, and unlocking special challenges like teaming up with cover star Damian Lillard to take on legends Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. You even get to spin a wheel for a daily log-in bonus that gives you cool freebies. Most recently, I scored a free tattoo, which made me happy because spending VC (which you can earn in-game or spend real money to acquire) isn’t my thing, especially for cosmetic items. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’re most likely going to be grinding to get anything cool or hoping your luck serves you well when you spin the wheel – though I have yet to get a high-tier item that way. Good items are very expensive, and grinding for them requires an unreasonable amount of patience; it feels like a blatant effort to drive players toward microtransactions, which feels gross. 

The City is a cool idea, but it is also where the biggest problems surface. To enter The City, you must first get your rank up by grinding out wins in Rookieville. This is miserable, as you’re in a sequestered area where you can’t access any part of The City and must just wait for games and play with others. Losses don’t do much for your rank, so every game feels like you’re fighting for entry to the show. I encountered many players who had clearly bought VC to boost their character’s stats and put themselves at the best advantage – which makes it even harder to win if you don’t pay real money yourself. 

As I walked around Rookieville, I rarely came across a player who wasn’t rated 86 or higher. Badges only further complicate this, because badges can let you make unrealistic shots or avoid easy steals. This has made me hate online play, because the games don’t unfold fairly or realistically. They’re just not fun. Visual Concepts needs to figure out a better way to reward teamwork, because players don’t want to pass the ball and just shoot all day long with these modifiers. It’s becoming more of a problem, especially as online play continues to be a focus. 

Outside of these frustrations, you can still expect the other basic modes and some tweaks. My NBA is now an all-encompassing franchise mode, combining MyGM, MyLeague, and MyLeague Online. It gives you more customization options than ever before, from toggling certain league rules to bypassing some of the annoying role-playing elements. MyGM is still in need of a complete overhaul, even if I do appreciate the revamped boom/bust system and more variation in player potentials. I also enjoyed that there are some little variations from the old-gen version, such as a new path in Junior’s MyPlayer story, where you can join the G-League and brush shoulders with some familiar players from the series’ fiction. 

NBA 2K21’s full-team on-court action plays the best it ever has, and the graphical leap is impressive to boot, but it still comes up short in some key areas. Visual Concepts still hasn’t figured out a great way to elevate its online play, and microtransactions continue to destroy what should be a fun part of the experience. I love creating spectacular plays and the thrill of sinking a buzzer-beating three, but the moment I walk into the online space, that feeling evaporates. It becomes about the money, not about the love of the game. 

Score: 8

Summary: The full-team on-court action plays the best it ever has, and the graphical leap is impressive to boot, but it still comes up short in some key areas.

Concept: Built from the ground up to leverage the new consoles’ power, this edition brings faster load times, better physics, and new features alongside gameplay improvements

Graphics: This is the best the series has ever looked, from the ultra-realistic player models and their on-court moves to the expanded crowd and their reactions to plays. Even with occasional graphical hiccups, the overall tech is at a new, impressive level

Sound: Excellent commentary not only responds appropriately to the play at hand but also educates you on the league and its history. New songs join the already-stellar soundtrack to give you great background beats

Playability: The mechanics are easy to learn, but putting it all together on the court takes time, patience, and high basketball IQ. Online features, like The City, are not newcomer-friendly

Entertainment: NBA 2K21 takes some great steps to bring the series into a new generation and impress on the court, but some parts of its game still need work

Replay: Moderately High

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