Updated: Oct 4, 2018
By Derek May:
Please meet the multi-talented Daniel Shaw, a down-home boy from the Lone Star state who brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to Flapper Press as our go-to Game Reviewer! I’ve had the privilege of knowing Daniel for close to a decade, and in that time his talents as a writer, voice-over actor, presenter, filmmaker, and martial artist have continued to impress me at every turn. So now it’s your turn to get to know Mr. Shaw a little better.
DM: Daniel, thank you so much again for joining the Flapper Press family! We’ve loved the articles you’ve posted thus far. Your insights and industry knowledge have been especially impressive. How long have you been part of the gaming world and what got you started?
DS: Well first: thank you very much for inviting me to join; it’s been a real privilege to work with this group and I look forward to getting to better know my fellow contributors.
You know, you ask me that question and my inner voice immediately shifts to Ray Liota replying, ‘as far back as I can remember I’ve been a gamer.’ I was born in ’85, and my earliest memories of gaming go back to the early ‘90s. This was during the caveman times of VHS, cassette tapes, and floppy disks; so named because they were—well—“floppy.” One day my I.T. guru of a father brought home an IBM so he could work from home, and one of the floppy disks that came with the computer was the game that started it all. Unfortunately, it’s been so long that I can’t recall the name of the game, and my attempts of research for this question have all but failed; the game has sadly been lost to time. However, what I remember was an immersive network of puzzles, riddles, and exploration through a rudimentary set of corridors, all while avoiding a monster. The player collected four keys and a series of gears and cogs. The end reward was releasing an imprisoned knight who would kill the monster. I’ll never forget how satisfying it felt to go through all of that challenge and guess work and then have my patience rewarded with such an epic conclusion. I was hooked.
DM: The video game industry has grown so fast, from the cheesy 8-bit classics I grew up with to the complete, photorealistic worlds of today. What are your thoughts about the evolution of the industry and where do you think it’ll go in the future?
DS: Necessity really is the mother of all invention and, in this case, innovation. When Pong was first released, it took the world by storm because here was something one could interact with on their television set. The TV, a device that had previously only given the viewer information, could now receive direct feedback from the player; to put it bluntly, it blew their minds. So this new concept of a simulated world that could be played around in without real-world consequence began to take shape. What else could be recreated? What are the boundaries? What might the people fall in love with? In systems as early as the Atari 2600 (Sep 1977), we began to see our favorite action movies and sports adapted to game form. In less than twenty years we went from barely recognizable pixel models to Mario himself jumping, punching, and flying in vastly detailed three-dimensional worlds. The evolution of gaming is directly proportional to the evolution of technology itself, and in that it’s like an exponentially increasing number; its gets bigger and bigger at increasingly faster rates. That founding idea of a simulated world has been pushed even further with augmented realty, and films such as the recent Ready Player One are perfect examples of where people (as well as myself) see this industry going. This leads us to an ever-prevailing question: are we steadily replacing reality with a made-up world? Only time (and maybe holodecks) will tell.
DM: I never had the patience for playing games hours on end, so I tended to gravitate toward fighting games with furious movements and quick resolutions such as Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter. What sort of games do you find most appealing, and what do you look for in a “great” game?
DS: This is actually one of the greatest things the gaming industry has had to offer, especially today: variety. Back in the aforementioned caveman times, you really only had one flavor of game available. However as innovation and experimentation took over, a plethora of options opened up. I was never a fan of sports games, I always wondered why one would want to simulate football or basketball when a field or a court was just a bike ride away. But I had a strong upbringing in sci-fi, fantasy, action, all that kind of thing, so it’s been a wide variety for me. I would say my favorite games have involved some elements of mystery and puzzle solving. For me, a great game has several things going for it: first and foremost is gameplay; is it fun to play? If it’s clunky and requires what feels like homework, then we’re not off to a good start. Then, if it’s a game that involves an overarching story, is the story engaging and are the characters well developed? And a great story can be told through voice-acted still frames or full motion capture, the point is, does it make you care? Art design is also a chief element to look for. The amount of time and effort artists go through just coming up with concept art is staggering. Their walls are almost entirely covered with character and stage concepts, so it’s fantastic to see their imagination and hard work fully realized for our entertainment. Today a major concern is gameplay run time as it relates to cost. On average, a game that is set at a retail price of $59.99 should be, at minimum, 15–20 hours in length. This will obviously vary depending on the genre of game. For instance, the story mode for Mortal Kombat is not likely to last more than ten hours. However, if the game in question is Mass Effect or Skyrim, you can expect gameplay to stretch into the hundreds of hours. At the end of the day though, when I finish a game, the question I ask myself is: do I want to play this again?
DM: I haven’t bought a system since my Super Nintendo, but I admit that seeing some of the games like the Arkham series and the upcoming Ghost of Tsushima has been tempting me to reconsider. What advice would you give a novice gamer for entering this new world? What are some of the most important basics to know about gaming today?
DS: It really pains me to say this, but unfortunately stepping into the world of gaming today (especially for a novice) is like tiptoeing through a room where the floor really is hot lava. Certain business practices among the more prominent companies, such as EA and Acitivsion, have shifted the objective from ‘make a profit BY PROVIDING a quality and satisfying product’ to ‘Make a profit at all costs.’ What that translates to are games that get pushed out for release long before they’re finished, games that have had half or more of their story and/or gameplay removed and then offered as a separately sold add-on, or top-tier games laden with real-currency micro-transactions. So for anyone looking to start into gaming, first let me say fear not. Gaming is still as fun as ever, but it’s just like entering any other hobby. We’ve gone over the current state of the industry, so work your way from there. First look into what platform fits into your budget. A refurbished console purchased from an outlet like GameStop is a perfectly viable alternative to buying new. Additionally, one can also look to eBay and Amazon for more-economical options; however, beware of lack of photos or information pertaining to the state of the console itself. When dealing with a private seller, ask as many questions as possible. If they don’t want to answer, then move on. Today there are actually many ways to game, but the two prominent platforms are either consoles or PC. The three console giants are the longstanding Nintendo, Sony Playstation, and Microsoft Xbox. There are textural differences between games developed for consoles versus PC; with PC games normally possessing sharper graphics. Games for PC also tend to be a little more affordable than console ports; however, the industry has found ways to even it out with ‘Collector’s Edition’ and ‘Ultimate Edition.’ No judgment from me though, I’ve bought both. A great way to sample consoles would be to visit friends who own different platforms and try them out; some consoles even have exclusive franchises, such as Uncharted for Playstation and Halo for Xbox. Also, never underestimate good old fashioned reviews. Negating the obvious ‘trolls,’ the people will always speak honestly about their experiences and how they were treated as customers. Listen to your fellow gamers, they want you to have fun as well.
DM: Now for the questions that must be asked: what would you say are your all-time favorite games, and what upcoming games are you most looking forward to?
DS: Oh I’ve always loved the Legend of Zelda series. Mortal Kombat, Goldeneye, Super Smash Brothers, Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, the Batman Arkham series, just to name a few. Without a doubt though, one of my all-time favorites is the StarCraft series. My cousin got me absolutely addicted to this franchise years ago. StarCraft is a real-time strategy game that combines economy, troop movement, and world building into one of the most revered games of all time. The story centers on three factions: the human Terrans, the technologically superior Protoss, and the beastly Zerg. The three races are perfectly balanced with a series of strengths and weakness, and it’s up to the player to get to know these idiosyncrasies in order to take full advantage of them. A stage-building option offers players an extremely wide array of palettes and options in order to make completely customizable multiplayer games. To say the player community has shown creativity in this regard doesn’t begin to describe what some people have come up with. I even made some homebrews of my own based on famous Lord of The Rings battles. Superbowl-eque tournaments for this game are held yearly in South Korea, with the winners receiving many accolades, large paydays, and a bevy of beautiful women (no, . . . seriously). For anyone enticed by those three wonderful wishes that only a Genie could promise, I’m sorry to say that those players have sacrificed any aspect of life and/or human interaction in order to reach that level of gaming expertise. You will not beat them. Ever. SkyNet would break the keyboard in frustration. Still, despite my inability to reach StarCraft godhood, I have so many fond memories with my cousin and friends because of this game, and to this day I’ll load it up like the first day I bought it for myself. At the time of this interview, I’m currently playing through Crystal Dynamics’ Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as I’m a huge fan of the newly rebooted series. I’ll hopefully have a review of the game up soon, but the game I am probably most looking forward to is Ghost of Tsushima. Samurai games are a dime a dozen in this industry, I’ll admit it. But developer SuckerPunch Productions has continuously demonstrated its ability to deliver a high-quality product. On top of that, the demo reel for Ghost looks unbelievable. Gameplay appears effortless and the character models are very striking. Recently we also learned that SuckerPunch teamed up with the real-world kenjutsu school Tenshinryu Hyoho in order to capture accurate movements. I’ve already written a check, I just can’t wait!
DM: Before we start to wrap up, let’s talk outside the X-box for a moment. Tell us a little more about some of your other hobbies and what sort of other projects you might be working on at the moment.
DS: Well, as of a little over nine years now, I’ve been a very active martial artist. There’s a few that I’m keeping up with, and I’m always looking to expand my horizons. I’m most grateful for this practice because it’s not only helped me to get in good shape but it’s also taken me around the world and I’ve have had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people. You see some fantastical things in movies and wonder, ‘could it really be like that?’ Even after just nine years, I can safely say that the truth is even more incredible than fiction. I’m looking forward to Ghost of Tsushima so much because of my experience with kenjutsu and I’m really excited to see some real-world sword techniques in the game. While I’m currently training to be an HVAC technician, my real passion is in entertainment, and I would love to fully break into professional voice-over and maybe even on-camera acting. I love writing and brainstorming new ideas for my favorite characters. I’ve been working with Highlander: Veritas doing voice work, color correction, and some camera work, and having the privilege of being involved with that show has been the greatest. It really has inspired me to take my own stop-motion ambitions from contemplative to reality. I’ve been working on a Transformers series for well over twelve years, and I would love to see it brought to life. And most recently I have begun work on a crossover story for the Uncharted and Tomb Raider franchises. I’ve learned that it’s slow going and bitter work, but based on what we’ve seen with Veritas, it’s well worth it. Definitely.
DM: We’ve certainly loved having you contribute to Flapper Press and have learned so much from your in-depth articles. What would you most like readers on our site to take away from your work?
DS: One of my favorite things to do is watch horrible movies and play horrible games. I know how that sounds, it sounds so wrong. But for me, it’s so much fun to rip into something that has no idea how much it has fallen on its face. But I try to apply that level of self-awareness to myself. What I really want my readers to take from my stuff is that I don’t take myself too seriously. Sometimes I’m still guilty of it, particularly in my training. I’m always trying to push myself and be a perfectionist; even knowing that perfection is a lifelong (perhaps unattainable) goal. That said I like to make jokes and poke fun at things, even at myself. I want to talk to my readers and have a fun conversation about the things we really enjoy. Games aren’t just for kids and gamers aren’t just kids in adult bodies, there’s a wide spectrum to all of this and I really would like to be able to communicate across it. When gamers and developers are able to talk to each other as fans, that’s when true classics are born; that’s when we get greats like Super Mario, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, or Contra. Everything that I’ve learned about games and the gaming industry, I’ve learned because of other gamers. I learned by talking and listening to them and putting their advice into practice. So if there’s anything I’d like my readers today to take from my work, it’s that I’m very grateful for what I’ve learned from all of you and now I’m just returning the favor.
DM: Thank you once again for taking the time to talk with us, and for your continuing contributions! We’re as excited as we are proud to have you with us and know readers are sure to enjoy many more of your insights to come.
DS: Thank you very much. Can’t Wait!