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A Behind The Scenes Look At Comic Con 2016’s Favorite Video Games

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Friday morning at Comic-Con 2016, the creatives behind some of the convention goers’ favorite video games revealed how they bring the games to life. These collaborators, including a game cinematic FX artist, a motion capture producer, composers, a production designer, and voice-over actors, discussed their extensive careers working in the field. The audience heard the hidden secrets and intense work that makes gaming an emerging platform for stories. The multi-talented panelists included Austin Wintory (composer for ABZU, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate), Neal Acree (composer for Revelation, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, StarCraft II), Eric Grimenstein (senior FX artist for Blizzard Animation, working on Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm), Pete Oswald (production designer for The Angry Birds Movie), Vince Argentine (CEO, Mocap Militia, working on ReCore, Metal Gear Solid V, Resident Evil V + VI, Saints Row III, IV, 4.2), and Jesse Harlin (composer for Mafia III, Star Wars: The Old Republic).

Moderating the panel were popular actors Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs, Once Upon A Time, Ugly Betty) and Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, Hart of Dixie, Scorpion). The pair led the panelists in a lively discussion about the collaboration efforts behind video games. Both Gorham and Porter are huge video game fans who also have also worked as voice actors for various games in the past.  Gorham excitedly commented, “I’m fascinated by the talent here today.” Porter added, “I’ve been a huge gamer all my life.”

The group first discussed the ways in which video games are a unique medium for storytelling. Jesse Harlin recognized the main distinction as interactivity, commenting, “There’s so much diversity to a person’s gaming experience. Games are an active experience.” Eric Grimenstein echoed Harlin’s statements, adding on, “games are really a medium that let you explore what type of story you want.” Austin Wintory also finds the interactivity of games as vital for his composing process. “Even the music is interactive,” Wintory said. “You are indirectly controlling the orchestra in games.”

Pete Oswald also spoke about the unique responsibility of translating a popular mobile game Angry Birds into The Angry Birds Movie as the film’s production designer. “We used elements from the game to create the film world…the biggest challenge was reinvigorating it for an exciting experience on the big screen, while maintaining the iconic nature of the original game.”  He also reflected on the many hours he played the game for inspiration of the film’s visuals.  As a result, he developed a growing affinity to the game, sharing that, through the repetition, “you become connected to the game and the characters.”

Gorham and Porter also asked the panelists about the difference between working on franchises and original games. Composer Neal Acree finds both incredibly rewarding for different reasons. “Getting to revisit and develop characters in franchises is a lot of fun because you feel like you know them,” Acree explained, “but getting to create a world from scratch is scary and exciting, because you get to shape it from the very beginning.” Eric Grimenstein has also worked on different franchises like Diablo, saying, “There’s something exciting about working on a game that I’ve grown up with.”

Tackling the distinction between mainstream and independent games, all of the panelists agreed that what all creative artists behind them share is their love of gaming. Neal Acree explained, “really successful game designers have a similar passion and love.” Austin Wintory, too, found the distinction ultimately meaningless due to the passion that these creative artists share. “I don’t care about the distinction between indie and mainstream,” Wintory said. “Games are games.”

At the conclusion of the panel, the panelists reflected on their start in the industry and why they chose to delve into the gaming industry. Vince Argentine loved games from a very young age, remembering, “I sold all my toys when I was 8 to buy a Nintendo.” Argentine continued, “If you find your passion, do it every single day.” Neal Acree also spoke about his love for creating music for games, explaining that “trying to create music that won’t drive you crazy when playing continuously is a part of the strategy.” Jesse Harlin has also worked on many games and franchises that he has loved, like Star Wars. For gaming, Harlin said, “It’s always about expanding the music in exciting and respectful ways–it’s challenging, but it’s always the fun part.”

Panelists and audience members alike left the panel with a fresh perspective on the passion and thought that goes into their favorite games, excited to continue Comic-Con 2016.

CW3 Public Relations is a company that specializes in representing creative artists and behind the camera talent.  They were the first company to bring a composer panel to Comic-Con and WonderCon, and this is their 8th year of programming panels in San Diego.  For more information on the company, as well as the talented composers and visual artists on this panel, visit CW3PR.com.

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