We had the good fortune of connecting with Andy Ashcraft and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andy, what principle do you value most?
Ethics is perhaps the most important principal in my work these days, mostly because there has been such a steep learning curve for people like me (cis-gendered, white, manish) in regards to the invisible nature of our privileges. That is to say, growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, and I absolutely believed that. What I didn’t understand then was that not everyone was getting that same message. The very nature of games includes a ‘magic circle’ in which you step out of the rules and expectations of ‘real life’ and enter a new world where the rules and expectations are different. This affords us an enormous opportunity to shed light on our biases by asking us to think outside of them. My colleague, Shlomo Sher, and I have started a podcast called ‘Ethics & Video Games’ where we dive in to these (and other) issues.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The most interesting part about being a freelance game designer is the sheer variety of projects I’ve had the pleasure to work on – they range from children’s educational products, through big-name IP adaptations, to e-sport social systems. I really, really like a game design challenge I can sink my teeth into! One of my favorites was to create a cartoonishly life-like AI for the player’s ‘little brother’ in ‘The Floigan Bros’, a game for the Dreamcast. To this day, I don’t think I’ve seen an AI as seamlessly integrated into the fun of a game as that game had. The downside of freelance work is that I don’t get to pitch new product ideas, like I was once able to do working as an employee at a big publisher. (Mind you, none of my pitches ever made it to market, but I could still *pitch*.) In recent years, I’ve had time to return to my first love of gaming, table-top games – board games, card games, dice games and role-playing games. These games are quick to prototype, playtest and iterate on. This is where I get to work on my own ideas. It’s just a trusim that everyone in the industry has ideas for games, but very few of us get to work on our own ideas.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I like to bust up expectations of what Los Angeles is first, then dive in to the city’s more famous entertainment fare. I like to start with the ocean, Santa Monica and Malibu, but then go up through Topanga Canyon, out to Simi Valley and (when visible) the snow on the mountain to the northeast. With a week, there would be time to visit Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead as well as Hollywood and the Getty Museum. Food would be central to the experience, too: locally owned places like (in my neighborhood) El Mercado Buenos Aires, or Mi Ranchito Vera Cruz. Also street-food: a bacon-wrapped hotdog with onions and peppers cooked on a grill made from a baking sheet atop a baby stroller at midnight. A city isn’t a real place unless it has a particular street-food sausage tradition.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d be the first to tell you how LUCKY I have been to get where I am, but I can also say that most of my early opportunities came about due to the family of friends I have made through Enigma, UCLAs Science Fiction, Fantasy and Gaming club.
Other: Also, ‘Ethics & Video Games’ wherever you get your podcasts.