[Interview] Five: Andre Segers

Five questions, five answers. Simple as that.
Author: Marc N. Kleinhenz
Published: October 1, 2010

TotalPlayStation's Five interview series takes the brightest minds from the journalistic and game development worlds and asks them to expound on their personal benchmarks of the videogame industry, exploring the crucial components of narrative, music, gameplay, graphics, and character.

Scanning Andre Segers’s resume is like paging through a Who’s Who of Companies in the Gaming Industry book: Nintendo’s call center in 2005, guides editor at IGN in ’06, GameSpot writer in ’08, GameXplain co-founder (along with fellow industry vet Micah Seff) in ’09, GameBuster in ’10.

Visit Andre at his website and his Facebook page.

[Plot Point/Character Beat/Story Twist]
I’ve been rather vocal of my disdain of most games’ stories; they’re amateurish and near incapable of eliciting emotion from me. With that said, I found the “microwave hallway” sequence near the end of Metal Gear Solid 4 to be one of the most moving moments I’ve experienced in any medium.

It was obvious Snake was in deep shit as soon as he began his trek through the tunnel... a tunnel where his body would be bombarded by microwave beams. However, beyond being a mere cinematic, it incorporated the player in a way I had never seen before, one which actually allowed the player to partially experience the pain and suffering Snake felt.

The only thing keeping Snake moving, the only thing keeping him alive, was my thrashing of the action button. If I relented for even a few moments, Snake would give up and (presumably) die – a fate I couldn’t let befall him, dammit! Just as my thumb began to ache and grow tired, so too did Snake’s body begin to fail. I nearly lost it when he slumped to the ground, grimaced expression on his face, and slowly pulled himself forward by the little energy he had left. By the end, I actually felt like I understood what Snake went through – the pain and anguish he felt was actually conveyed in a way no other medium could. It gave me a newfound appreciation for what games may be capable of from an emotional standpoint.

[Song and/or Soundtrack]
Soundtracks are such an important part of gaming for me, there’s no way I could choose just one (and as an aside, I’ll never understand those who can mute their games and throw on a soundtrack of their choice – it’s kind of like talking through a serious movie). Of course, I’ve always found the Mario series to contain some of my most cherished tracks, though I think Super Mario Galaxy may have eclipsed them all. Just as Mario freed himself of gravity’s shackles and launched into space, so too did the music break its Midi confines and reveal a world of rich, beautiful orchestrations.

Beyond Good & Evil also has one of the better soundtracks I’ve listened to, with its most memorable song kick-starting the game, providing a fantastic backing track to the game’s first enemy encounter. It suggested this encounter was much more profound than most games’ first few enemies, and that this was no typical adventure.

[Gameplay Mechanic]
I know many consider them to be “out-dated,” but I love myself a good, old-fashioned time limit, as long as it’s implemented well and contextually appropriate. I feel they add a sense of urgency and realism to what might otherwise be a rather meandering experience. If I’m saving the world, there damn well should be a sense of urgency! For example, the escape sequences in Metroid Prime are enhanced dramatically by the running clock, adding an extra layer of danger that is all too often missing.

However, my two favorite examples are actually both games almost entirely based around the concept of time: Majora’s Mask and Pikmin. In the case of Majora’s Mask, the three-day time limit actually lent significant weight to every action and event in the game. Sure, you can dick around and play the target-shooting game all day, but it’s going to come at the expense of the entire world, and you wouldn’t want that now, would you? In addition, the time mechanic was brilliantly illustrated by the ever-looming moon in the sky, growing ever bigger as the planet’s destruction drew near. It both provided a constant reminder of your ultimate goal as well as a running tally of how much time you had left.

Pikmin, a decidedly more light-hearted affair, used a similar time limit to also add a sense of dread (as well as teaching proper time-management skills!) to Olimar’s plight: escape the planet before his air supply runs out. It really forced me to plan out how I went about each day in an effort to collect as many spaceship parts while balancing my time growing additional resources (aka Pikmin). It added a more strategic layer to a game that could otherwise have been a very simple affair.

[Graphical Effect]
Does the bouncing of the girls’ bosoms in Dead or Alive count? No? Well, then...

Donkey Kong Country is one of my favorite platformers ever made, and this is owed to it being equal parts beautiful, great sounding, and fun. However, the graphical effect that most stood out to me was the one that added both a sense of density and depth to Donkey Kong’s forests, and this is all thanks to Parallax Scrolling. This simple effect, which provided the illusion that background elements were further away by having them scroll past the screen slower than those in the foreground, made the forests feel vast and alive. Sure, plenty of 16-bit games used this same effect, but none as well as Donkey Kong Country.

Oh, and as an example of something just a little more current: I loved the bloom lighting effects in Halo, particularly when you could see the light filtering through the trees... beautiful.

No question about it, Mario is my favorite game character. Sure, he may not be as badass as Kratos, nor as strong as Master Chief, but Mario is the only character that’s been with me since the very beginning. I’ve been playing his games as long as I’ve been alive, and he’s one of the few that I actually look forward to playing as. He may not have much depth (a plumber from New York is about as deep as it gets), or even an interesting background, but his charm resides in his simplicity. And watching him grow, from his humble 2D roots to full 3D adventures, as I’ve entered different phases in my own life has been an unforgettable journey.

As the magnet on my fridge attests, Mario is my homeboy!

[The Five Archive]

Chris Roper

Dave Zdyrko

Micah Seff

Sam Bishop

Crispin Boyer

Rus McLaughlin

Chris Dahlen