Blanket Fort Chats: Game Making With Laurene Desoutter

Image courtesy of Laurene Desoutter
Image courtesy of Laurene Desoutter

Blanket Fort Chats” is a weekly column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft of making games. In this week’s post, we feature Laurene Desoutter, a Paris-based 3D animator most recently known for animating for DONTNOD Entertainment’s Life Is Strange

Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Laurene: My name is Laurene Desoutter. I’m 24 years old and I just finished my studies in a 3D animation school in Paris, France. Before that, I went to a high school specialized in Fine Arts. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been passionate about drawing, playing video games, and reading history and fantasy books. I kind of always knew I wanted something related to that when I grew up. 

Miss N: How did you get involved as an animator working in games?

Laurene: Well, since I was in a 3D animation school, part of our assignment was to find an internship in an animation-related studio (movies, advertisements, games) for at least six months. Although [at school] we learned all the steps of producing an animated movie—like designing concepts, modeling/texturing characters, and environments, etc.—my thing was definitely the concept and animation parts. So when I heard that DONTNOD Entertainment was searching for a 3D Animator Intern, I applied for the position right away! That’s how I got started.

Miss N: What’s your earliest memory of playing games?

Laurene: Hmm. I think my earliest memories of playing games was when I was about five, maybe? My father and uncle would always play Soulcalibur at home on the weekend. I remember the first time my dad allowed me to use the controller and play a round with him. I just started pushing all the buttons in order to beat him! It was so funny, I think it was literally the first time I ever played a video game.

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Zero­-Sum Endgame: Why “Polarized” Is as Dividing as Its Title

Life Is Strange

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

-ANAÏS NIN

If you’re at all a sociable fan of L​ife Is Strange—​or even if you’ve just existed in proxy to gaming fandom spaces in the past few weeks—you know the series ending wasn’t exactly hailed with tearful applause. There were a contingent of people who really liked it, and there was a relatively balanced number of those who really didn’t.

What’s interesting to me is examining w​hy ​the endings of L​ife Is Strange ​didn’t work for so many people. Let’s put aside the people who they mostly did work for, right now; that’s certainly a viewpoint shared by a notable portion of the fanbase, and I do hold those players as equally valid audiences with a crucial opinion underscoring this discussion. They were also the majority until the release of “Polarized.”

So why did audiences react with such a huge, noticeable divide to Episode 5? There are a lot of reasons for that, actually, which all come from different components of what makes up the game itself. One is as simple as the fact that episodic gameplay lends itself to huge, gigantic gaps between installments, which leaves fans with plenty of time to speculate about future episodes or meanings of things glimpsed and referenced in already ­released ones. People also assume future credence or space will be given to plot points that have been brought up but not fully addressed, and are willing to wave away shorter ­term narrative problems with the assumption that it’ll be a longer ­term narrative device.

[Warning: Spoilers for Life Is Strange all the way through “Polarized.”]

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Hella Talk: An Interview With Ashly Burch on Chloe Price, Queerness, & ‘Life Is Strange’

Ashly Burch

[Trigger warning: brief mention of bullying, suicide, & sexual assault.]

Life Is Strange means a lot to me with the topics it has covered and the characters it has brought forth. After the release of “Polarized,” the final episode of the season, I was lucky enough to get into contact with the wonderful Ashly Burch who plays everyone’s hella favorite punk: Chloe Price. I got to ask Ashly numerous questions about Life Is Strange, Chloe Price, queerness, and the darker themes of the game, as well as some lighter topics at the end to break things up a bit more.

Ashly can be found on Twitter at @ashly_burch and on PatreonWithout further ado, here is my interview with Ashly Burch!

Sloane: How did you first find out about Life Is Strange and what about it pushed you to audition?

Ashly: Haha, this isn’t as exciting a story as one would probably hope—I received an audition notice from my agency! But I could tell it was going to be a special game even just from the audition sides.

Sloane: If I remember reading correctly, you ended up auditioning for both Chloe Price and Max Caulfield. I’m really curious—after hearing you so much as Chloe, what did you know about the two before the audition?

Ashly: It’s been a long time, so it’s hard for me to remember what was provided on the audition sides—I remember I saw concept art for both characters, and I really loved Chloe’s look. Typically, audition sides will have some background on the character, a brief synopsis of their personality, sometimes an image of what they look like, and then of course the dialogue the devs would like you to perform. I remember reading Chloe’s background and personality and immediately knowing what voice I wanted to give her.

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‘Life Is Strange’ Sparks Crucial Discussion on Cyberbullying

Life Is Strange

[Tw: Discussions of suicide and bullying. There will also be spoilers.]

For those of us who have finished the four available episodes of Life Is Strange, we know that the game touches on a lot of heavy issues. From dealing with loss, coping with depression, and struggling to fit in, the game captures the hardship that a lot of adolescents and young adults face on a daily basis. While playing through Episode 1 and 2 within hours of receiving the game from a friend, I found that bullying (both on and offline) and suicide were major plot points within those episodes.

Kate Marsh was bullied for her religious beliefs and for being an abstinence advocate. After allegedly getting intoxicated at a Vortex Club party, footage of her actions from that night were released without her consent to YouTube and spread through Blackwell Academy (we find out later that she was drugged). There are little warning signs throughout the first two games that give hints as to what Kate is planning. She stopped playing the violin and hanging out with her friends. Victoria and Kate throw crumpled up paper balls at her during class, and the whiteboard outside of her room is defaced. She has a strained relationship with her mother, and feels a tremendous amount of shame and guilt.

For me, I saw a lot of myself in Max Caulfield for a number of reasons. Back when I was 18 and still in high school, I was into my third year of photography. I frequented thrift stores so that I could dress myself differently than my peers and sought out old, vintage cameras to drool over. I even received an instant camera and some film at one point during the school year. There’s a wall dedicated to all of the photos that I’ve taken of my friends and I—very similar to the “Max Caulfield Photo Memorial Wall.” I wasn’t confident in my photographs, and I wasn’t exactly “popular.” I was incredibly shy and doubted myself constantly. Max’s inner dialogue and own insecurities mirrored my own. I sympathized a lot with Kate, but found more of myself in Max.

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Episodic Worldbuilding Part 3: Objects in ‘Life Is Strange’

Life Is Strange

[PART 1] [PART 2] [Part 3]

The last two times we talked about the worldbuilding in Telltales’ The Walking Dead Season One and SWERY’s D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. This time, we’re looking at Dontnod’s Life Is Strange.

Now, you all know how I feel about Life Is Strange. If you’ve ever read my first article or seen my Twitter, you’d know I love Life Is Strange. It’s a very special game to me, and I think a big part of that has been the worldbuilding that takes place in the environment. Life Is Strange is a game that centers around a young adult woman, Max Caulfield, who recently comes back to her hometown after a five-year stay in Seattle to attend prestigious Blackwell Academy and become a better photographer thanks to one of her idols, Mark Jefferson.

Unlike Dontnod’s last game, Remember MeLife Is Strange is very much grounded in comparison. Set in the sleepy (and fictional) Oregon town of Arcadia Bay, things are calm (relatively, at least—not to get into the story) compared to Remember Me’s bustling Neo Paris. And while I did love Neo Paris, there’s something about Arcadia Bay that I can’t help but enjoy. Even as someone who lives in a suburb themselves, Arcadia Bay feels so serene, quiet, and idyllic—a homey place that I wouldn’t mind spending my days writing, making games, and occasionally visiting the local diner for a Belgian waffle.

Also interesting to note: of the three games I looked at, Life Is Strange is the only game that has a fictional setting. The Walking Dead takes place in Georgia, primarily in and around Macon in Episode 1, while D4 takes place in Boston (though, granted, you don’t explore Boston, and Episode 1’s focus is on an airplane).

Continue reading “Episodic Worldbuilding Part 3: Objects in ‘Life Is Strange’”

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