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Annie Leibovitz, who has been photographing the world’s most influential figures for the past 49 years, revealed last week a new campaign called “Face Forward” shot exclusively on the Google Pixel smartphone. The new series done in partnership with Google features portraits of James Turrell, Megan Rapino, Chase Strangio, and others. “Face Forward” has been in the works for over a year as a project to document the stories of some of the most prominent changemakers today. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to celebrate people in the present who are doing things to create a better future,” journalist and activist Noor Tagouri, who was photographed for the campaign, tells TIME.
Leibovitz, who helped in the development phases of the camera in the new Google Pixel, is far from new in working with high-profile figures and successfully capturing their stories, but “Face Forward” is her first series shot entirely on smartphone. The photographer says she was “suspicious” when working with an older version of the smartphone at first but felt impressed by it this time.
Here’s what Leibovitz had to say about her new campaign and what the democratization of photography means today.
How did you choose the subjects for this campaign?
Originally I thought I was just going to drive across the country and meet people, like Robert Frank. We got more realistic about time and zeroed in on people who are taking things very head-on and were important in their worlds, giving us hope in our world. I went back to some original sources, like Gloria Steinem, and asked her for lists. Some of the Native American subjects came from Gloria Steinem, and then we just did our due diligence, looking at every list of people who mattered and were doing things.
What do you hope sharing these portraits will accomplish or what feelings do you want them to spark in a viewer?
I think what we’re trying to do is recognize these people as people who are setting a tone and setting standards. I remember going out to photograph Bobbi Jean Three Legs at Standing Rock Reservation where she has worked so hard to protest the pipeline, and you get out to her land and you’re really brought to your knees when you see the beauty of this country. In that photograph, we’re standing on the edge of the Missouri River, and you realize her love for her land and her reservation.
How do you think this project fits into your work?
It fits in perfectly. I don’t get a chance to always do this kind of work. Vogue has always been politically conscious. We just did Congresswoman McBath, whose son was killed through gun violence, and I just did Nancy Pelosi for Vanity Fair. At this point in my life, I try to direct my work a little better, but I think this is really the time for this type of work.
The campaign is meant “to find a new way to document individuals making change in the world today.” Why is it important document change today?
I feel I am not unique in this respect; we all want to care and know about people who are doing the right things so we can have a sense of hope. The state of this country and our government today has brought out in every which way the most extraordinary, incredible people who care about who we are, what we’re doing, and what matters.
What is the role of photographs in making change today?
Photographs have never been better. I admire The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Time. Photojournalism has never been better. We’ve been relentless, and we have to be relentless to get things moved along. I find the portrait very powerful when it’s done well. In this particular set of pictures, there are two pictures that create the person–there’s a portrait of the person and then there’s something else that is in their life. With Bryan Stevenson, his great, great grandparents were slaves, and this other photo alongside his portrait is in a plantation outside of Montgomery, Alabama. You can see the slave quarters, and there’s this tree, which you can draw your own conclusions on. It’s a brief photo story.
Did any recent events, in particular, prompt you to work on a series centered around social changemakers?
I’ve always been interested in politics, from my early years at Rolling Stone and being on the road with Hunter S. Thompson. I’ve always been interested in social commentary, being on the road with Tom Wolfe. Today, it’s not one event, since this president has been in office, every single day something terrible, horrible comes up. I was trying to do this interview without having to bring him up.
How do you avoid glamour in your photos, making them more personal and intimate rather?
I like people to look like themselves. I do do work for Vogue, and sometimes I get a little frustrated, but they kind of know they’re not going to get the normal fashion picture. I started off as a fine art photographer, and I went to the San Francisco Art Institute. The photographers I admired were Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson and personalized reportage. When I first started working for Rolling Stone, I wondered if it was possible to work in a commercial landscape and take good pictures. I found that most of the really good photographers at school weren’t interested in something like Rolling Stone, but I found that in the commercial landscape of magazine work or doing something like this for Google, you can make something of it. You shouldn’t be shy to step into it to try to do something that is meaningful and goes to another place. You’re being given a space in a landscape to use and not abuse. Use it! When Google gave it to me they basically said ‘what do you want to do,’ and I thought of what I don’t get to do, and that’s what I did.
This campaign was shot exclusively on smartphone. How do you think the increased accessibility of the medium of photography is a positive thing?
Anything that makes photography easier is a good thing. The first photographers had to be scientists and chemists. I was brought up with going to the dark room and seeing the image show up in the pan. It was so romantic and magic, pure magic. It’s a new time now. There’s new technology, which is exciting too! I was very, very interested in trying to do a project with the camera phone because I really do believe in it, and I wanted to talk to the people who make them to maybe make them more useful for photographers. Quite honestly, using it as itself, rather than trying to make it a regular camera, I really did feel like I was gliding with it. You take pictures with your heart, your eyes, how you look, how you see and how you perceive in your mind; the equipment has very little to do with it in a way.
How much do you research or learn about a subject prior to a shoot or do you mostly learn their story along the way?
Of course you find out everything you can. I wouldn’t have found about Sarah Zorn’s boots if I didn’t learn when she was three years old she walked in her grandfather’s boots. You have to do your research.
Source: Tech – TIME | 23 Oct 2019 | 10:01 am
It’s a modern day ritual practiced by some of the most passionate fans on the planet: gathering to observe the reveal of new video games. In June, some of the devoted assembled to pay tribute at Nintendo’s Rockefeller Center store. Many wore Nintendo t-shirts, hats and other swag. The most hardcore dressed as their favorite characters, including one devotee in full-blown Luigi garb. They were there to watch a livestream of the company’s latest “Nintendo Direct,” a slickly-produced video announcing upcoming games and more, and get hands-on time with just-announced titles like Link’s Awakening, a remake of a 1993 classic.
These Nintendo diehards in part explain how the Kyoto-based company is thriving despite the naysayers who were forecasting doom just a few short years ago. Ostensibly a video game company, Nintendo is really an intellectual property company, converting people’s seemingly endless love of its characters into profit. Its rebound is also thanks to the Switch, a hybrid console and mobile device that has resurrected Nintendo’s hardware business, and, by extension, the rest of the company. The Switch is the exclusive home of some of today’s most well-reviewed games, and fans love that they can carry it around with them on their commutes or vacations. Nintendo, arguably stronger than ever and with a stock price flirting with its five-year high, is now looking for yet more ways to tap its deep bench of intellectual property (IP), from a theme park to a feature-length film.
At the helm during this transformative period is Shuntaro Furukawa, who in 2018 became Nintendo’s sixth president. At 47 years old, he brings a different generational perspective than his predecessor, Tatsumi Kimishima, who was 68 when he stepped aside and became an executive advisor. Having grown up with Nintendo’s earliest video games, Furukawa shares the nostalgia that many middle-aged gamers feel for the company’s creations. Furukawa, who joined Nintendo in 1994 in the accounting department and later worked at Nintendo of Europe in Germany, tells TIME that he’s committed to a strategy that has both helped and hurt the company in the past: A steadfast commitment to experimentation.
“Above all else, I base my decisions on the development leader’s way of thinking,” says Furukawa in a rare interview with Western media, and who spoke with TIME mostly through a translator provided by the company. “Nintendo is Nintendo because of our games, characters and IP. So giving our teams the freedom to experiment with new ideas is something I strongly agree with. Expansion can’t happen without the freedom to try something new, and the courage to step into unfamiliar territory.”
Back in the mid-2010s, Nintendo was in dire straights as it became clear the company’s flagship console at the time, the Wii U, was failing. With a “second screen” embedded in the controller, the system was a curious experiment, but a lack of compelling third-party games and confusion about the product dampened sales. But the surprise success of 2016’s Pokémon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game made in collaboration with Niantic, injected new life into the company. That set the stage for October of that year, when Nintendo unveiled its latest big release: the Nintendo Switch, essentially a tablet that players can drop in a dock to play games on the TV, or take with them on the go.
If the Wii U showed how Nintendo’s experimentation can go very wrong, the Switch is showing how it can go very right. Bolstered by game of the decade contender The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the console was an instant hit. Nintendo has sold nearly 37 million Switch units; by the end of 2018 it was the fastest-selling console in the United States. “They’re having a fantastic year,” says NPD analyst Mat Piscatella. Looking at the Switch and its built-in screen, you can see what Nintendo was trying to do with the Wii U, which, if you were feeling generous, you might call ahead of its time.
Nintendo is well-poised headed into this holiday quarter. While the Switch is nearly three years old, next-generation consoles from rival companies like Microsoft and Sony won’t hit store shelves until next year at the earliest. The new Switch Lite, a slimmed-down mobile-only version of the console, plus hotly anticipated games like Pokémon Sword/Pokémon Shield and Luigi’s Mansion 3, should help. “They do try to be innovative on the hardware front, but at the end of the day, it really is their software and their IP that makes them successful,” says Blake J. Harris, author of Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation. But what happens when those new competitors arrive, with their superior graphics and other high-end specs? And what about games-streaming platforms like Google Stadia, which could obviate the need for consoles entirely?
Furukawa’s plan can be summed up in a single word: Entertainment. While other game companies have focused on pushing the underlying technology as far as it can possibly go, Nintendo is content to produce or promote games that are just plain fun. Furukawa says this thinking dates back through the company’s considerable ages. (Nintendo was founded as a playing card company in 1889, the same year Benjamin Harrison was sworn in as the 23rd President of the United States.) “Not just streaming, but any kind of new technology, whether that is going to be appealing to the consumer or not really depends on the quality of the experience that we can provide,” says Furukawa. “Nintendo continues to search for new ways to enhance the fun that people can have through their gaming experience.”
The best case in point here is the ridiculous, and ridiculously fun, Untitled Goose Game. While the game was created by Melbourne-based developer House House, Nintendo has promoted it heavily, and it’s only available for Switch and PC. Set in a countryside village with delightfully cartoonish graphics, players take control of a mischievous goose whose raison d’etre is to cause as much chaos as possible. Says House House’s Jacob Strasser of the Switch: “It’s the nice, friendly console. Its whole aura is one of friendliness, and it feels more inviting to non-gamers, or non-traditional gamers or players. When it came down to the decision of where we would launch, it felt like the right emotional fit.”
Speaking of whimsy: The unsung hero of the Switch system are the controllers, which, Nintendo being Nintendo, are called “Joy-Cons.” While they can be used like typical gaming controllers, their internal components — accelerometers, gyroscopes, infrared sensors — allow them to be used in all manner of bizarre, fun applications. Nintendo Labo, for instance, allows gamers to build their own controllers out of cardboard — yes, cardboard — using the Joy-Con as the “smarts.” And with the company’s new fitness-focused Ring Fit Adventure, gamers put the Joy-Con in a ring-shaped workout accessory to break a sweat while playing.
Nintendo has also fully embraced smartphone gaming, with offerings like Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Mario Run. Nintendo is still figuring out the best way to make money this way — its games have different pricing structures, and some have been more successful, both critically and financially, than others. “In terms of monetization, that’s something that we decided on an app basis,” says Furukawa. “It’s something we decide looking at the game content of each app, as well as the IP used and the player that we’re targeting. We also look at how we can best have the players enjoy the game, as well as how they would be comfortable in spending money.” Nintendo made $92 million from smartphone games in the most recent quarter, below some outsiders’ expectations but up 10% year-over-year.
For the foreseeable future, video games will lie at the core of what Nintendo does. But under Furukawa’s watch, Nintendo is seeking other, intriguing ways to make money. Construction at Super Mario World, a Nintendo-themed area of Universal Studios Japan, is set to be completed before the 2020 Summer Olympics get underway in Japan; a new Mario movie is in the works (Nintendo must be careful to avoid repeating the disaster that was 1993’s Super Mario Bros., which made $20.9 million at the box office on a budget of more than double that); and a new Nintendo megastore is scheduled to open in November. “For me, Mr. Furukawa is a bridge creating the connection from the past to our future,” says Doug Bowser, President of Nintendo of America (and a very good sport about all those jokes). “Always keeping us focused on our north star to be a company deeply devoted to originality while constantly exploring new opportunities to share our iconic characters and our deeply immersive worlds with everyone around the world.”
A company built around adored intellectual property that’s in the theme parks, movies and merch businesses? That sounds a whole lot like Disney, the M&A-obsessed pop culture behemoth that, under CEO Bob Iger, has gobbled up everything from Star Wars to Marvel. Asked if the Mouse House is a model for Nintendo’s future, Furukawa doesn’t bite. “We’ve never tried to imitate any other company,” he says, later adding that “the idea of using our IP in things like theme parks or movies is simply an extension of the philosophy we’ve had all along.” And to be sure, Nintendo’s strategy is less about acquisitions and more about in-house creations. But, wandering around Nintendo World, with its shelves upon shelves of Mario t-shirts, stuffed Yoshi dolls and other Nintendo paraphernalia, the comparison to an Orlando gift shop is unavoidable. Nintendo may never become quite as dominant as the house that Walt built, but for many of its fans, it has at least the same power to inspire nostalgia and joy — and convert those emotions into big dollars.
Source: Tech – TIME | 23 Oct 2019 | 7:54 am
I’m in a secret corporate lab dodging dinosaurs and hunting for the formula to toothpaste — not just any toothpaste, mind you, but diet toothpaste. A cream that could suppress the hunger of workers across the colony, driving down the costs of feeding them. But there are complications. The key ingredient is the stomach acid of a raptid — a monstrous lion-sized dinosaur. The raptids have escaped their pens, slaughtering dozens. Also, some of the test subjects have gone blind. But never mind that — my main concern is getting the formula. I’ll worry about the ethical implications of its creation and use after I take care of the raptids. That’s my job, as a freelancer in The Outer Worlds.
The Outer Worlds is a first-person RPG from Obsidian Entertainment out Oct. 25 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. In the distant future, humans are a space-faring species, and a cabal of corporations have exclusive rights to colonize a system of planets called Halcyon. The Hope was a colony ship, originally part of the first wave of settlers, that was lost along the way. I played as a character from that vessel, awoken after 70 years of cryo-sleep by a mad scientist who wanted my help taking down the corporations and waking up the other survivors.
I created a smooth-talking character who snuck around most combat situations and persuaded other folks into his way of thinking. Shortly after waking, I took control of a ship and put together a crew of ruffians and miscreants, including an adorkable mechanic, a morally conflicted vicar, a lethal cleaning robot, and frontier doctor as quick with a gun as she was with a scalpel. The Outer Worlds lets players craft their own character and handle situations the way they’d like. There’s room to be a gunslinger, a brawler, and ghost and everything in between. Hell, you can even turn the mad scientist into the authorities if you want.
Developer Obsidian Entertainment, the studio behind such weighty games as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, and Pillars of Eternity, knows how to create morally complicated narratives, and that shines through in The Outer Worlds. The game builds on everything that’s good about Obsidian’s work while falling prey to its typical problems, including gameplay and design that sometimes feels half-baked.
You can’t talk about The Outer Worlds without talking about Bethesda’s Fallout. Obsidian’s founders worked on the original Fallout games before Bethesda purchased the license and launched the series into mainstream success with Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. The Outer Worlds initially feels like another Bethesda Fallout game — it’s a first-person RPG with a combat system that lets the player slow down time, it satirizes a specific moment in American culture, and it gives players a variety of methods for tackling any problem.
But The Outer Worlds is defined in the ways it deviates from Bethesda’s formula. Where Fallout satirized mid-century American culture while exploring anxiety about nuclear weapons in a post-apocalyptic hellscape, The Outer Worlds is a space-western telling a story about class struggles. It’s art nouveau where Fallout was art deco and Gilded Age where Fallout was Cold War. Instead of an open world, The Outer Worlds delivers a streamlined and well-designed series of explorable planets. It feels smaller, yes, but cultivated. Fallout 4 was massive, but much of the content was simply another empty building full of loot. In The Outer Worlds, everything feels deliberate and placed. Every building is dripping with lore, every open door has something compelling behind it.
Many of the features in The Outer Worlds feel like direct responses to the persistent problems and complaints players have about Fallout. Here, companions never block a doorway so you can’t leave a room, while their weight simply adds to a big pool, making inventory management easier. There’s a ton of loot, but there are also vending machines everywhere, so I never felt compelled to make lengthy trips back to town to offload my spoils. There’s even a perk that lets players fast-travel if they’re encumbered, a persistent problem in the Fallout franchise.
The Outer Worlds’ combat isn’t great, especially for characters focused on stealth and conversation. I could slow down time, a side-effect of the cryo-sleep, to briefly pause combat and adjust my aim, but fighting never felt quite as good as it did in Fallout. I’d sneak through as many combat encounters as possible, but eventually someone would see me and force me into a fight, which never felt fun.
The story is where The Outer Worlds really shines. This is a space western — think Firefly — set in a world where corporations run everything. The frontier is managed, and people who try to live outside the system don’t live long. If you’ve read a western or seen Deadwood, you know what to expect: corporate interests bad, working folk and cowboys good. But the narrative is never that simple. An early quest forced me to choose between diverting a power station’s juice to a budding independent colony or an existing company town. The people of the company town weren’t evil, and the game made sure I understood that cutting off its power would probably kill some of them. The town’s manager was bad at his job, but not evil. And the longer the game goes on, the more complicated things get.
The Outer Worlds doesn’t tell a simple good-versus-evil story that substitutes corporations for the evil. It’s more complicated than that. There are no binaries, just competing interests. The game reflects that by letting the player build their reputation with each faction, both good and bad simultaneously. As I played and I did something that angered or frightened a faction I’d done a lot of work for, it didn’t tarnish my good reputation, but increased that faction’s fear of me instead. They’re separate meters, allowing factions to hold complicated feelings about my character.
After I found the diet toothpaste formula, I gave it to the scientist who created it and had a stern talk about the emptiness of his life and the need to stand up to his corporate overlords. He seemed to listen. I could have kept the toothpaste for myself and sold it to a data broker I knew. A colleague of mine accidentally shamed the scientist into committing suicide, but reloaded the game because he felt bad about it. That’s the joy of The Outer Worlds: the diversity of outcome and the complicated nature of the choices it gives you. I always tried to do good, but I wasn’t always sure that I had. Often, I let my feelings lead, and sometimes they’d get me into trouble.
That never happened with Fallout.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.
Source: Tech – TIME | 23 Oct 2019 | 7:44 am
It’s nighttime in London, and you’re with a group of counter-terrorism agents advancing on a house. Intelligence reports suggest there’s a cell of assailants inside who carried out an attack against the city. Your team breaks down the door and moves from room to room, killing anybody who poses a threat. But it’s not just armed men you find. There are children here too, scattering in the crossfire. Upstairs, you open the last door to find a woman who begs you not to shoot. When you pause for a moment, she lunges for a gun. It’s her or you.
This is a scenario in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the latest installment in one of video gaming’s most successful franchises. When the game’s millions of fans fire up this version, they’re going to find something very different from past games: a single-player campaign that’s a gripping and emotionally difficult depiction of life on the front lines of the global war on terrorism. It’s a major departure for the franchise and, for publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward, a big risk too. Will players who look to video games for escapism want to grapple with the moral and ethical quandaries posed by real conflict? Or will they prefer to stick with cartoonish shooters like Fortnite and Overwatch, which ask only that players sit back and have a good time lobbing digital rockets and grenades at one another?
Modern Warfare’s creators are betting that adult gamers are ready for a more mature take. “No one who is 18 these days believes that war is easily won,” says Jacob Minkoff, who led the story design at studio Infinity Ward. “They want a war story that represents their experience living in a world that has been at war their entire lives.”
Activision has plenty riding on whether Minkoff is right. Call of Duty has been among the world’s best–selling video games since the original title, set in World War II, came out in 2003; it’s now a multibillion-dollar franchise. The games have rarely asked players to think too hard about the ramifications of never-ending global warfare. They’re more like action movies: characters inexplicably survive sniper attacks, airplane crashes and even entire buildings falling on top of them.
But in Modern Warfare, out Oct. 25 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, the story takes center stage, tackling heady themes like the question of terrorist vs. freedom fighter, the gray area in which modern Special Forces operate and the idea of national sovereignty.
In a step forward for the male-dominated world of first-person shooters, one of the story’s protagonists, Farah Karim, is the female leader of a group of fighters seeking to protect their homeland. While Karim lives in the fictional country of Urzikstan, she evokes the all–female Kurdish Women’s Protection Units active in northern Syria. In a flashback to her childhood, we watch through her eyes as her town suffers a chemical-weapons attack, forcing her family to flee. The first-person view— with the camera low to the ground to simulate a child’s perspective—makes it all the more powerful.
“You have people who never chose to be soldiers but who are forced into the role of soldier to fight for their homes,” says Minkoff. “Very early on, we decided that we wanted to tell the story both from the perspective of professional soldiers and civilian soldiers—what they fight for and the challenges they face.”
While other Call of Duty games take players from the invasion of Normandy straight through the fall of Berlin, Modern Warfare players won’t come away with a sense that they have “cleaned up the whole global war on terror,” says Minkoff. Rather, the point is to say something meaningful about the complexities of modern war. “No villain sees themselves as the bad guy,” says Taylor Kurosaki, studio narrative director at Infinity Ward.
How Call of Duty players respond to this year’s incarnation, with its ambitious, decidedly more adult approach to its subject matter, could show a path forward for this lucrative business as it comes under the cultural microscope once again. The game has been a favorite topic of concerned parents and pundits alike as debates continue to rage about the connection, or lack thereof, between video games and real-world shootings. A game this realistic and gruesome could bolster the case for those who have criticized the influence of violent games. But by tackling these themes, Modern Warfare might be doing more to illuminate the true horror of terrorism and gun violence than to glorify it.
Source: Tech – TIME | 22 Oct 2019 | 1:21 am
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