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INTERVIEW: Dr. Rachel Kowert

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Dr. Rachel Kowert

Since our re-vamp and re-launch of Gamactica Women our focus has branched out into other sectors of the content and gaming industries, spotlighting and boosting visibility for the women doing great work in within the space.

Doing so, in part, not only allows for expanded networking and connectivity pathways, but also brings more conversations to the shared space, and allows for more discussion on the topics that are important to the present, and future, of the industry as a whole.

One such conversation has been the importance of mental health and positive behaviors within the gaming space. These are areas that Dr. Rachel Kowert has spent much of her career, in fields such as psychology (PHD) and Counseling (MA), within.

Dr. Kowert is a world-renowned researcher, and author, on the uses and effects of digital games, including their impact on physical, social, and psychological well-being, important conversations that need to take place more loudly, and frequently, as the industry grows.

“I have always been an advocate for mental health. As soon as I started University, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in psychology to help others better understand themselves as well as to better advocate for themselves” Dr. Kowert told me, in an exclusive interview. “Flash forward through many years of graduate school, and I had a MA in counseling and a PhD in psychology, where my thesis focused on the social impact of online games. Take This perfectly marries my interests and education with their mission of mental health advocacy among gaming communities and the gaming industry.”

This journey took Dr. Kowert to Take This, where she serves as a research psychologist and the Research Director.

“I ended up at Take This as their research director through a series of fortunate events” she said. “I was speaking on a Take This panel at PAX East, where I first met their clinical director, Dr. B. He had let me know they were expanding their scope into research and I took advantage of the opportunity by putting myself forward for the position. The rest is history.”

“This happened very organically, especially the emphasis on industry. Take This works extensively with organizations within the gaming industry. At Take This, we regularly conduct workshops for the games industry – about diversity and representation, how to cope with crisis, how to instill culture change, among others – and also work collaboratively on research and public outreach campaigns.”

After a year that included a public call for streaming platforms, such as Twitch, to address hate raids and toxicity more efficiently, Dr. Kowert has seen some positive movement as the 2022 year takes shape.

“These conversations are finally moving “up the chain” so to say to the decision makers” Dr. Kowert said. “These kinds of behaviors and cultures have always existed within gaming communities, game adjacent spaces, and the industry itself. I am optimistic that the industry is starting to make tangible change to make the industry, and gaming communities, safer places for everyone. This has already started with the release of the publication of the Disruption and Harm in Gaming Framework published by the Fair Play Alliance, which was developed with support from industry members.”

Dr. Kowert is a gamer and content creator as well, often participating in the Take This Twitch channel, and running her own YouTube channel as well. Dr. Kowert’s YouTube channel is the home of her Psychgeist series that explores the science of games, and is incredibly insightful.

“I would love to reach broader audiences in 2022” Dr. Kowert says of her goals for the New Year. “As a creator of content largely centered on science and research, it can sometimes get lost in the niche corners of the internet. I am developing some new programs for my YouTube channel to broaden the scope and (hopefully) entice more people to come along and learn about the science of games”

Being a content creator and gamer, Dr. Kowert knows how things such as burnout can impact gamers and content creators as they pour so many hours into their content.

“Burnout is a huge problem in games – from those working in the industry, to esports players, to content creators. I think one of the first steps to helping mitigate burnout is creating solid boundaries around work and leisure. It is very easy for the boundaries to blur when you are working and playing in the same spaces… mentally and physically. When COVID quarantine began, the first thing I did was move my computer workspace to an area separate and dedicated to work so I know that when I am in that space, I am there for work.

Then, I purchased a secondary keyboard and mouse so when I want to use my computer for leisure (I’ve been playing Unpacking recently), I swap out the keyboard and mouse to change the space for “leisure” to further reiterate those boundaries.

Lastly, I scheduled work and leisure time in my calender. It is really easy to think you need to be ‘on’ on the time when you (theoretically) have all of the tools you need at your disposal… all the time. Having clear spaces and setting schedules for work and leisure are a good first step to challenging that idea.”

Dr. Kowert also hopes that women in the industry, such as gamers, executives, creators, esports players, and female streamers can continue to make a bigger impact in the industry this year.

“Women have been leaving their mark on the industry for decades but amplifying our voices and efforts is seemingly an uphill battle” Dr. Kowert says.

“My hope is that we continue to see advocacy for fairness and equality in gaming spaces so these voices do get the attention they merit. Male allies can help this process by amplifying our voices as well as diminishing those who would seek to further marginalize and silence anyone who doesn’t fit the classic cis-gender, male heterosexual gamer stereotype.”

Dr. Kowert is doing incredible, and important work in the industry, especially through Take This. It is important that we support efforts such as Dr. Kowert’s to better understand and address th existing issues within a constantly growing, and evolving, industry.

Check out Dr. Kowert’s profile on Gamactica Women, and connect with her on Gamactica

Follow Dr. Kowert on Twitter

Visit Dr. Kowert’s Official website

Dr. Kowert on Google Scholar

 

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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Antti Mannisto, Game Developer of Turbo Sliders Unlimited

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Turbo Sliders Unlimited

Gamactica formally announces our Partnership with Game Developer Turbo Sliders Unlimited.

Turbo Sliders Unlimted, early access releases today April 27th for $14.99 available on Steam. There will be different types of customization packs that will be available for $1.99 (or a bundle of 4 with the price of 3). Different for different regions as usual, possibly with some launch discount. There is a possibility that the game will be released on other consoles as well in the future.

Turbo Sliders Unlimited is “a game series that has been developed as a hobby/passion project since 2003. The original game Turbo Sliders was a 2D top-down racing game that had occasional updates all the way until 2016. Turbo Sliders Unlimited is its new incarnation, this time in 3D and with more modern online features. The main developer, Antti Mannisto, has almost 20 years of experience in the game industry and several other released games, too.”

I was able to have an interview with Antti Mannisto who has developed 10-20 games, about the development of Turbo Sliders Unlimited. I was interested in knowing the specific types of marketing that are going to be used for the development of their games. He plans on using Twitter, Facebook, and social media.

The inspiration for Turbo Sliders Unlimited, development started as a hobby while still working at RedLynx. He started to experiment with how the old Turbo Sliders gameplay would work in 3D with Unity. Turbo Sliders Unlimited YouTube channel has videos of those early experiments, too.

It was promising and fun enough that he kept making various other tech prototypes. Made prototypes about things like paint jobs, in-game editor road building, and in-game vehicle editor. At some point, he realized he had gone too far to stop anymore. The game deserved to exist and had to be finished.

Because of its open design and community-driven approach, the future of Turbo Sliders Unlimited will ultimately be decided by its players.

I was able to test Turbo Sliders Unlimited with Game Developer Antti Mannisto and with individuals from one of Gamactica’s Beta Test teams. We were able to determine that the Graphics are smooth, beautiful to look at, and amazing, loved the gameplay modes and the lighting. Gameplay could do with having a brake button that you can press whilst still accelerating. You are able to use a controller while playing or use the arrow keys on your keyboard. This game will be fun to play with friends, and there are endless possibilities for role-playing. You are able to watch our gameplay here.

The old Turbo Sliders development lasted for over 10 years and the new incarnation is built to last, too. The main motivation to develop the game is that it is both fun to make and play. As long as that holds true, it doesn’t matter how many players might buy the game – the development will continue as there is complete freedom with no financial obligations.

Right now, Antti Mannisto is eagerly waiting to see what the future brings. All we know is that there are going to be lots of exciting races, fierce battles, and mayhem – and the best mods are most probably still to be found!

Antti Mannisto has not developed any games that he has worked on that he decided it was something that he did not want to release. He will work on the games to help fix them and make them better once released. He wanted to build something slow with nostalgia, that other player would want to play together.

A favorite aspect of designing and developing games is doing it differently, with nobody else telling you what to do. “you get to focus on what you feel is more interesting and fun to do without arguing with anyone” He works on coding and designing himself without a real designer. The only downfall is that there are a lot of features in the game, and individuals learn their own options while playing.

The most challenging and difficult about the development of games was the fact they were different and had to learn to program. There are many projects and different issues in every game. “you find a solution yourself, and maintain someone else source code(s) that’s provided and fix it to work properly whenever it doesn’t” Communication and ideas, and keeping the game real and not develop things that are impossible. Creating the roads and your own levels with easy routes which nobody has used before, small themes, and hard to find others to build is challenging, technical, and rewarding.

The development engine software that he has been using is RedLynx and Remedy had their own inhouse engines, Ubisoft also had Snowdrop, and Unity Visual Studio. Steam online libraries. The different programming software he has used is DSL and Emacs.

Antti Mannisto is involved in developing other Bigger projects after the release of Turbo Sliders Unlimited. Also, will be working on new game modes for the currently released games.

 

Follow Turbo Sliders Unlimited on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/directory/game/Turbo%20Sliders%20Unlimited

Follow Turbo Sliders Unlimited on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/turbosliders/

Follow Turbo Sliders Unlimited on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TurboSliders

Follow Turbo Sliders Unlimited on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDEpRZwA4U11jK2SkktrqtA

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/search/?developer=Antti%20Mannisto

 

 

 

Make sure you go and check out Turbo Unlimited’s Profile and connect with them on Gamactica!

 

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Interviews

Interview: Marvin Maddicks Jr.-Nightmistful Productions

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Nightmistful Productions

Gamactica has added a new addition to our Eclipse section, and we are proud to announce our partnership with Nightmistful Productions! Nightmistful Production was created by Marvin Maddicks Jr. Marvin, who is a freelance and independent art illustrator, horror music composer, and upcoming actor in indie horror movies.

Marvin Maddicks Jr. has credits for producing over 100 Indie films on IMDb, acting in 18 movies, Composer of 7 films, and has 30 thanks as credit for his work. He has 3 Best Feature award wins for the indie horror film Camp Murder, and 1 nomination for Best Film for indie horror movie A Sort Of Hunger. He is currently working on projects for indie films for the rest of 2022 going into 2023.

Creator of Nightmistful Productions, Marvin Maddicks Jr. was born on December 11, 1975, on the island of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Served in the U.S. Army/Reserves from 1997 to 2015. From childhood to an adult drawing comic books was his passion. Marvin also loves creating dark and scary soundtracks for horror movies and video games.

I was able to have an exclusive interview with Marvin Maddicks and discuss his journey to the creation of Nightmistful Productions, and it started when he was at the age of seven years old. His passion started with drawing cartoons, such as the ninja turtles and other TV Cartoons. He was an avid comic collector and had stopped collecting at the age of fourteen. He joined the U.S. Army, and in 2006 he started his interest in music. He first started working on instrumental, R&B, and Rap, he used the software, FL Studio to create music.

Marvin Maddicks Jr. started his Youtube channel in 2009 and began to post beats and the instrumental music that he worked on. One year later, Indie filmmaker Timothy Thomas, listened to his music on his youtube channel and asked if he could place one of his beats into one of his short movie films.

Whenever he decides whether to join a project for movie scripts, he reaches out to the filmmakers and asks them if they need a soundtrack for their Horror Slasher movies. If they are interested, and it fits the film they will tell him “yes” and use his beats. He networks through Timothy Thomas, who has passed his name around to other Indie Horror filmmakers. He will also look at the producer credits, and uses IndieGoGo for funding of films. Allows funding for additional perks, such as associate producer, and executive producer, and the prices vary.

While working on a project that may have special effects that were never attempted before, that has an expensive budget, he works with what he has to make sure he stays under his budget. He will edit the tracks that are placed in the films. He uses the software, Windows Movie Maker, and got used to adjusting. Whenever they asked him to sync a track, he would use windows movie maker, and edit, sync, and cut film.

Whenever he needs to stay on track for a specific deadline for a project that he is working on, he makes sure that he “asks what their deadline and date” they want it completed by. Filmmakers will give him a set date and will work around adjusting their deadlines based on the current projects he is working on.

The most difficult task that he has had to face while making a track, is mixing and mastering. He has to make sure that it is not too loud, and that the instruments are not drowning out each other. Currently, he has not faced any changes that he had to make to make sure that he meets a deadline. The equipment he uses for music production. 1. Komplete Kontrol A25 Mini Keys 2. Maschine Mikro Drum Pad 3. Komplete Audio 2 Interface 4. Fl Studio (Digital Audio Workstation).

The most important role of a music producer is to keep in touch with the director and get feedback. He will email it before the deadline, and if something does not sound right, he will adjust or even scrap it and create a new sound. He has not had any movies that were that difficult to work on. Tracks are dark and simple and makeup about 4-5 instruments that complete the tracks. Film producers love that and they aren’t that complicated.

There aren’t any challenges that he faced in his roles of acting and while managing to get his current film projects completed for films. He manages his time while he does small roles for one scene in films with a few lines. He has no lead roles or supporting roles, and also does voice cameos to help him manage his current project’s deadline.

Make sure you go and check out Nightmistful Productions Eclipse Profile and connect with them on Gamactica!

 

Follow Nightmistful Production on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nightmistful

Follow Nightmistful Production on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nightmistful/

Follow Nightmistful Production on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MMaddicks

Follow Nightmistful on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/nightmistful

Follow Nightmistful on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/m-maddicks

 

Please follow Gamactica Portals for more interviews!

 

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Esports

INTERVIEW: Ian Pierce of Air Force Gaming

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Air Force Gaming

Over 86% of Airmen between the ages of 18-34 identify as gamers, according to the official website of Air Force Gaming, and their mission states that they serve as “an initiative to help Airmen and Guardians of all ages, ranks, and backgrounds find common ground through video games, while also promoting mental acuity, fine motor coordination, and competitive excellence”.

A number of branches of the Military, within the United States and from around the world, have ventured into the realm of esports, and AFG has already made an impact, showing that military streamers, gamers, and military esports teams are a force within the esports industry.

“The Air Force Gaming (AFG) mission was founded on the idea of bringing service members together via video games. Established under the Air Force Services Center, AFG strives to bolster morale, strengthen mental health, and create an all inclusive space on our unified platform” Ian Pierce, Competitive Esports Advisor to the Air Force Services Center, said in an exclusive interview with Gamactica.

“Strengthening digital literacy among our Gen Z/Gen A servicemembers, AFG is deemed important in the force because it opens an opportunity for current leaders to better understand the people they lead. This allows leaders to tap in at a deeper than surface level and better prepare our future leaders for tomorrow’s fight.”

“I am the esports advisor to the Air Force Services Center” Pierce says of his role. “I advise our team on competition opportunities, and formatting for our own Dept. of the Air Force Gaming League. I assist our tournament admins on creating the rules, brackets, and moderating play as the league goes on. Outside of our league, I look to the future and see the opportunity games have. I help push our competitive teams into those arenas and assist players getting comfortable in the realm of esports. I also coach for teams that may be stepping into the realm of competitive gameplay, and I love casting games live for an audience.”

Pierce has seen the success of the AFG sector first hand, and has been along for the journey towards a number of milestones.

“Our success with AFG can be seen not in monetary value or trophy count, but in time, growth and acceptance” Pierce said. “Since our inception in late 2019, AFG has become a rapidly expanding population. What started as a small Discord of Airmen and Guardians has grown into the official HUB for gaming and esports for the Dept. of the Air Force. We have expanded outreach to all regions, and have garnered over 23.6K members across all social medias.”

“Our efforts to host tournaments in various games has developed into the program attending conferences such as the inter-service/industry training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) or the Logistics Officers Association (LOA) to teach leaders about digital literacy and shed light on the world of gamification.”

Pierce notes some of the impressive benchmarks.

“Some of our other benchmarks for us that are notable are our 2020 international championship from the Call of Duty Endowment charity event. (USSF Champs) We have established our own Armed Forces Esports event and league with over 500 teams to date participating”

Pierce also notices the profound impact they have had, hearing first hand from service members, and the benefits that have blossomed..

“We have multiple service members coming forward and saying “AFG has changed my life”. “AFG was there when I was mentally in a dark place”.

“Mental health 100%” says Pierce. “We have seen so many friendships begin and build through our platform. Another benefit of opening our discord up is that it brings to light just how big the gaming world is. What once started as a simple hobby for some, has now become the primary stress reliever for many. Gaming has brought people together and allowed them to connect and collaborate no matter where they are in the world. Our platform transcends the traditional chain of engagement, removes barriers, and empowers our Airmen to develop sooner.

Bringing esports to active duty and veteran service members has not only given them an open space to be themselves, but it has really shown our current leaders how strong and quick to adapt to the gaming world can be.

Training and development, as a way to use a platform Airmen and Guardians are comfortable with and expanding the capabilities beyond entertainment. I think any google search will show you all of the programs that benefit AD Military and veterans. (C.O.D.E for example) from providing jobs, to application procedures, to financial assistance.”

AFG has amassed over 10,000 members on Discord, and is something that Pierce says is an important part of their community, and their process.

“Discord has been a staple of the global gaming community since its launch” said Pierce. “Similarly its popularity with this generation of up and coming Airmen and Guardians makes it the obvious choice for communication. We have categories and channels for resources and reading material. We are able to cater to our community almost instantly with the platform and attract more users this way as well.”

“The only cons I can see with Discord are that some military personnel don’t know we operate out of Discord. If they did, it would only bring more innovation and ingenuity to the program. The other con is that Discord is not accessible on gov’t computers. The only way to access our community is at home, or on mobile if someone is at work. Our website is accessible from the work center, so that is a step in the right direction.”

AFG has big plans for the remainder of 2022, and Pierce outlined those goals in detail.

“Growing internal international competitive leagues to three seasons each with international championships” Pierce explains. “Establish a new league system that is inclusive to a wider scope of populations that are affiliated to the DAF.

“Exploring new partnership and sponsorship opportunities with traditional esports industry giants and names known to the defense industry who may not have branched out into the esports realm yet.  Continue to support and empower our Airmen and Guardians globally. We know there are innovators, maintainers, defenders, and a diverse community of gamers out there. Our mission will always remain bringing them together for a shared ideology of gaming, but the byproduct of that can be beneficial.”

It’s an exciting time for Air Force Gaming, and other communities of military content creators and gamers, and AFG is just scratching the surface on a very promising and impactful future.

 

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