James Kelly at the Tribeca Games Festival

By Senior Editor and Special Correspondent James Kelly

The Tribeca Games Festival will host panel discussions April 29 featuring the writers and creators of some of the most influential games in the industry.

Besides a discussion with the legendary creator of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, representatives from the developers of Overwatch, Max Payne, Bioshock, Firewatch, and Halo will also be taking the stage to speak about their experiences and legacies.

Of the six games mentioned, I grew up with four. Metal Gear Solid was one of the earliest. I received it as a Christmas gift when I was 9. I had asked for another game, but my parents, bless their souls, couldn’t tell the difference back then between one game or another. The game was rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, AKA ESRB, for mature audiences. I was far too young for it, but it soon became one of my favorites, including the additions made to the series in the years after.

Max Payne and Halo were big titles when my friends and I were in our early teens. THE MATRIX film had come out around the same time, and had deeply inflamed our desires for action. Max Payne was one of the first games to enable players to dive and move in slow motion, just as Keanu Reeves’ character, Neo, did in THE MATRIX. MAX PAYNE the movie featured Mark Walberg as the lead star. Halo, on the other hand, and especially its sequel, Halo 2, provided us with countless hours of entertainment as we competed with each other.

Years later, Bioshock, came out. Its story and style were all around different to any other game before, though it had clear influences from many other games, like Halo and Max Payne. The story of Bioshock was some sort of spinoff of the world created by Ayn Rand in her novel, Atlas Shrugged. It maintained a haunting surreal 1950s environment in an underwater city. The point of the game was to escape, and the methods a gamer chose affected the storyline.


Samaya, a real-time VR character played by Ritu Varma, in the royal courtyard of Mahishmati from THE SWORD OF BAAHUBALI. Courtesy Tribeca Fillm Festival.


Throughout my life I embraced these games with the same admiration as I did my favorite novels. The only difference was that while I always had a hard time finding others my age who enjoyed reading Ernest Hemginway or Leo Tolstoy, I could always find contemporaries to share enthusiasm for the same games. It was a shared enthusiasm for video games that allowed me to develop relationships with others of various backgrounds and interests.

In my life, video games have consistently proved to be a unifier.

One of the more recent games that has exposed me to other perspectives, and will also be discussed at the Game’s Festival, is Overwatch. It allows its players to form teams of heroes with various powers and abilities. The two teams compete against each other in games like capture the flag or king of the hill. Free downloadable content, which updates now and then, allows players to customize their favorite characters’ appearances and personalities.

Overwatch is immensely popular and has a significant following. In addition, it is popular among all different age groups. The colorful cartoonish quality appeals to younger players, while the challenging aspects and creativity of the game draws in older gamers. The lead writer for Overwatch, Michael Chu, will speak at the Game’s Festival.

In a time of conflict over race, age, religion, gender, and class around the world it is hard to find a medium that everybody can agree on. In the world of video games, however, you meet people of different political standings, ethnic backgrounds, and social classes communicating with one another. Sometimes these gamers from different backgrounds are competing with each other. Sometimes they are working together as a team. In any case they can all agree that they love to play.


Neuron Forest. Project still from UNREST. Credit: Sylvain Sarrailh. Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Concept art for bedroom world. Project still from UNREST. Credit: Sylvain Sarrailh. Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival


James Kelly, Senior Editor, Special Correspondent, TFF, can be reached at James.Kelly41@myhunter.cuny.edu