We had a chance to talk with Jason Alejandre, President and Creative Director of Game Mechanic Studios, about music, movies, the multi-billion-dollar industry of games, and the remaster of the legendary “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2,” set for release September 4, 2020.
The gaming industry is a multi-billion-dollar business grossing more than the movie and music industry combined. Why do you think that is?
I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s the youngest form of these three entertainment mediums, and that it has elements from both music and movies but allows the viewer/user/player to become an active participant in a way those others can’t. Look what happens when technology allows the user to become a part of the music experience like TikTok has done. It explodes! I also believe that a lot of people didn’t realize, especially females, that they were gamers until they had a gaming device in their pocket everywhere they went (mobile phone).
You’ve worked on “Call of Duty,” “Medal of Honor,” and “Mortal Kombat.” What makes a good video game in your eyes?
Point blank period: VISION. I’ll use COD here because it is a great example. COD Modern Warfare was pretty much a perfect game. I didn’t work on MW1&2, since I was working on a competing game at that time—Medal of Honor—but for Modern Warfare the vision seemed pretty straight forward: We are going to take the best levels from all the best 1st person shooters and make them better. Now, think about that goal for a second. Those games had maybe one great level in the entire campaign, but not every level was at the same quality bar—not every level was great from start to finish. So this is a lot easier said than done. But if anyone was going to be able to do it, it was Infinity Ward. Which game has the best sniper mission? Okay, got it. We’ll do it better. Moving onto Modern Warfare 2 we’re going to take the best action movie scenes and make them into the best playable game sequences. Okay, what’s our favorite action movie sequences? Now let’s recreate those. It takes a lot to make a great video game, but the seed that sprouts the tree and breathes life into it is the vision, and ultimately the execution against that goal.
You were involved with “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2” (to be released September 2020). What was it like to work on such an iconic title?
It was special. I’ve been talking with Activision forever about it, so they finally decided to let my studio help out. The Warehouse Demo comes out August 14th, so be sure to check that out until the full game is released.
When it comes to your creative process, what gets you really excited?
For me it’s living and breathing the creative and trying to push it forward, but not accepting everything that came before it just because that was the way it was done in the past. I like to see the excitement in the team and feed off an idea that goes from speaking to paper, to visual greybox, and then finally playing and iterating on it as the idea develops. My studio is in Los Angeles so I’m always also thinking of ways to incorporate people we’ve worked with in the film and music industries. I believe that’s what will take games into the future and allow us to build masterpieces like film and music.
Lauded actors from Samuel L. Jackson to Ben Kingsley have lent their voices to video games. What do you think the attraction is?
I think you’ve answered this question for me with your first question [laughs]. I really believe it’s smart to be a part of what is next and pretty much an extension of film in full interactive 3D. Will.I.Am said it best: Would you still want to record on tape if CDs were available and sounded better? He was referring to music and VR, but it’s kind of related to what I’m saying. The technology just keeps getting better and the capabilities are infinite, so sky’s the limit.
There’s certainly a connection between video games and music. Do you work with the composer/music supervisor to get the right feel?
I’ve always worked with the composer/music team to get the right feel, probably more than most, because I know how important music and SFX are to the game. I’m working with the music director right now on some groundbreaking stuff that’s really hard to keep a secret. To understand just how much music, score, and SFX are a part of the experience, check out John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl. The show is absolutely amazing.
Is being a video game creator “living the dream” or can get it monotonous?
I’ll check the box “living the dream” with some caveats. It’s extremely hard work and it’s technology and entertainment, so keeping up with both is a must. But I love it so it’s worth it.
Is there a video game you’re currently addicted to/obsessed with?
Hearthstone. It’s the perfect short and strategic card game to play with the limited amount of time I have. Even though I know the game is designed to the tune of a 50% win rate, it still sucks me in. But soon I’ll be playing the Tony Hawk Remaster like it’s 1999.