In a new series of regular articles, we invite fellow gamers from the community to answer some candid questions about their role in the gaming industry, some of their personal favourites, and a few of their own “First Impressions”. These spotlight articles could be someone working in the gaming industry allowing us an inside look at what they’re currently working on or we could have a chance to meet another fellow gamer.
So without further adieu, in this first spotlight, we look at the player profile of Justin Amirkhani, freelance journalist, Xbox.ca’s Community Blogger, and @Keadin on Twitter.
Most people know me as Keadin online, but my name is Justin Amirkhani. I’m a freelance writer for several game magazines including PC Gamer, Official Xbox Magazine, and others. I also run Xbox.ca’s Community Blog, and have a day job making games for Facebook.
Although my work is very easily found if you’re looking for it, I find that most folks know me through my non-writing antics. Whether it was my April Fool’s Day prank where I went blind from using the Nintendo 3DS, or my bizarre trivia code giveaways on Twitter.
When did you get your big break?
The story of my big break is a bit long and weird because it’s hard to pinpoint the exact events responsible for my career in games. My first really big article was a two-page spread doing reviews in the Toronto Sun while their regular writer was on vacation. I just happened to know him and ask the right questions at the right time, leading to someone taking a shot on me. From there, things just kind of kept rolling and I’ve been incredibly grateful for how everything turned out.
Tell us about the projects you’re currently working on and what is your role?
For my day job, I’m in the process of designing some new and interesting mechanics for existing genres of Facebook games. My role is to find new ways to engage players, making things fun and offering a lot of value to their play experience.
In terms of writing, I’ve recently finished a piece about game developers in China after a trip I took to Shanghai. Keep an eye on my Twitter and website, I’m sure I’ll make a big deal out of it when it’s published.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As a writer, I really like being able to dissect and analyze things in a creative way. Ironically, that’s the same sort of thing I like about making Facebook games as well. A lot of developers like to take a very clinical approach to design for these sorts of titles, but I like injecting a little creative problem solving in all of my projects.
What’s the first game you remember being completely enamoured with and convinced you that gaming was your passion?
When I was really young my parents got me my first computer for Christmas. My father, having enjoyed games through much of his College life, loaded up Doom and Quake and showed me the ropes. I’d sit for hours on a chair behind him, watching him play.
What is your favourite development studio and what do they do differently that sets them above the rest?
It’s cliché to say, but Valve has always stood out as the type of operation that could serve as the mould for every game studio. They’re respectful to their fans, offer incredible value, and run their own service and distribution platforms meaning they can control the quality of the experience from start to finish. It’s their passion and addiction to polish that helps make me feel like I need to play every game they release.
What is the one game that you think everyone should play, and why?
If controls were less prohibitive, I would love more people to play BioShock. I feel like that game in particular epitomizes the unique opportunities presented by interactive storytelling. The fact that it has this wonderful social commentary and an impressive art deco aesthetic running through it only adds more to how much I think the world could appreciate games.
First Impressions: What game did you not expect much from but found it being a really great game?
Most recently, the title that comes to mind is Driver: San Francisco. Considering the quality of the series in past years, I really didn’t care much to play it. Thankfully I got assigned to review it and was pleasantly surprised by the unique mechanic, 70’s buddy cop motif, and overall level of quality.
First Impressions: What game started out really great but ended up with your being disappointed with it?
I have never been more disappointed with a game than when I got Brutal Legend. What started out as an awesome Rock-inspired hack and slash adventure quickly devolved into a sloppy, uninteresting RTS that I really wasn’t expecting. The jarring transition between the clashing genres wasn’t helped by the fact that the narrative had begun to slip and I soon regretted ever playing it.
What genre of gaming do you feel doesn’t get enough love?
Personally, I’d like to see more developers try and tackle the space combat genre. I grew up with games like Rebel Assault and X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter and have always loved the freeform style of space combat. There just aren’t enough games these days that let you get behind the cockpit of an interstellar fighter and fire rockets and lasers at things.
What do you think the biggest gaming trend going forward will be?
I see the trend of free to play games supported by micro transactions increasing and slipping into what we consider traditional gaming experiences. A lot of people are worried about these models truncating the design process, but I’m very optimistic about a future where people get to try a lot more games before investing $60 in them, and also giving them the ability to support the ones they really love far beyond your usual retail price tag.
Fun question: What game or franchise are you ashamed to admit you enjoy playing?
My affinity for the Postal series has always got me a few raised eyebrows as people question how I can enjoy such buggy and broken games. However, they’re the only titles I know that provide a level of debauchery and absolute filth to match my own low-class tastes.
Any last comments or plugs you’d like to leave us with? What should we be on the lookout for?
People looking to read my work can usually find (most) of it on my personal website (http://www.justinamirkhani.com/work) and following me on Twitter (@Keadin) will ensure you’re always up to date with whatever the heck’s going on.
Justin can be found online in Xbox Live, PSN, and Steam under the identity of Keadin. Justin gets his online handle from the name of the first D&D character, a half-elf archer, he ever created. The name just stuck with him ever since and even followed him through EverQuest and Diablo until it became his online persona everywhere.
Thank you, Justin, for taking the time to share yourself with us for this premier issue of Player Profile. Be sure to follow Justin’s antics as one of the best Internet Trolls out there and check out his regular work over at the Xbox.ca Community blog.