Interview first part C.J. Kershner (Polyhedron Productions)

Hi C.J., is it possible to introduce you ?

Bonjour and hi. My name is C.J. Kershner, and I’m the head of Polyhedron Productions. We’re a small independent studio and narrative consultancy located in the wilds of New York. I’ve been involved in the games industry, in one form or another, since 2001 — I got my start writing for a gaming news website and later worked as a staff scriptwriter at Kaos Studios and Ubisoft Montreal on titles like Homefront, Far Cry 4, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. More recently, I’ve had the chance to contribute to a wide range of projects, like Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Forgotton Anne, and NBA Live 2019. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I think the future’s going to be even more exciting!

 

What is the importance of narration in your life ?

How do you mean?

Or, rather, could you clarify if you mean narration as in « a written or spoken commentary that describes a story » or narration as in the story itself?

 

Narration like the matter who creates a story, a narrative world. So narration not just a story but a creation of an organic matter made of words, malleable.

I’d argue it’s not just words, even though writing is my craft. It can involve visual art, music, architecture… You phrased it perfectly when you called it « a narrative world. » Storytelling is how we make sense of our surroundings. Stories are how we pass along information, how we entertain each other, and how we inspire future generations. I have a presentation I give that attempts to fit our latest medium, video games, into a historical tradition alongside early-20th century cinema, Indian and Scandinavian epics, ancient Greek theatre, all the way back to cave paintings from the Neolithic era. To be human is to strive for meaning and connection in our lives.

 

For you, the build of all this world, all these connections, this meaning, even these meanings, is a battle ? I read in the blog of Polyhedron Productions a text on NBA Live 19.   « Individuals who rise from obscurity, train hard to become the best they can be, and build a personal brand that potentially benefits the community at large. »   Battle in creation is necessary ?

You could call it a battle, though that word in particular evokes images of soldiers and death and chaos in my mind. But yes, it is necessary for creation. Someone once summed it up succinctly by saying, « Conflict is the fuel that powers the engine of drama. » It’s a philosophy many writers share. Our characters want something and must face and overcome challenges, physical or emotional, that obstruct them from getting it. In the process, they typically learn and change; they evolve into better people or compromise their values and become worse as a result.

In the case of NBA Live 19, I tried to view the narrative through the lens of a heroic journey. Which might seem absurd, but consider it… isn’t a sports simulation where you create a character, maybe even one that resembles yourself, a fantasy? Isn’t it role-playing game? Someone previously unknown becomes a powerful force in the world. They push themselves to grow stronger and smarter. They go into battle. Their choice jersey and shoes are analogous to armor, their skill on offense is a sword and their ability to defend their team’s side of the court a shield.The dragons to be slain may be more figurative than literal — like doubt, temptation, the pain of a high-stakes loss — but they’re there.

And they do all of this with millions of people watching them, judging them, commenting on their successes and their failures. Beowulf never had to worry about social media, but Jeanne d’Arc sure did.

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