‘The Underlying Lessons of Valorant” Reflection

A couple weeks ago, I took a passive role as the line producer for my group. This time around, I took initiation as the Executive Producer. When I was thinking of which game to study on, I looked at the gaming categories on the largest gaming platform, Twitch, as the viewer counts give an idea on which mainstream games are the most played. As expected, the most concurrently viewed game was League of Legends. Scanning through the other games, I saw a game called Valorant. I had heard of Valorant before; I knew that it was released only 6 months ago and that it was a blend of Overwatch and Counter-Strike:Global Offensive, both games that I had previously played before. I downloaded the conveniently free game and tried it out. It had the same mechanics as CS:GO and the different agents had unique abilities like Overwatch. I played a couple games and got hooked. Transferring my knowledge from Overwatch and CS:GO, I was able to adapt to Valorant pretty quickly.

My primary goal for the podcast episode was to explain Valorant in a way that would be easy to understand for the typical non-gamer. Valorant isn’t a complex game; it doesn’t have a steep learning curve unlike League of Legends. Valorant, however, has several components to the game which made it slightly difficult to explain the game in just a short explanatory paragraph. The biggest challenge our group faced was analyzing the game. After all, Valorant is just an FPS game. When our group met up with Professor Morgen for a progress check, we were able to write about Valorant that was more than just describing the game. In the end, I was extremely satisfied with the final product. I don’t think we would have done anything differently with a time extension or under different circumstances. Our group performed well together; I am thankful to my group that they were responsive whenever I needed feedback or when it was time to record. Making the podcast was a unique and fun experience. I was able to achieve the learning outcome “summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others as you undertake scholarly inquiry in order produce your own arguments”. By connecting ideas to novels like Jane McGonical’s Superbetter, my group was able to talk more than the basics; we were able to scrutinize the game and find The Underlying Lessons in Valorant (episode title). Overall, I am super proud with the outcome of the episode. Also, I am happy that I thought of recording the podcast via individual home recordings rather than a Zoom group meeting recording because the quality also turned out pretty great.

KIDS Podcast Reflection

Image taken from game KIDS and edited by Wendy Sun

Our podcast episode in the Longest Rainy Sunday is about the game KIDS. We had a late start to this episode, meeting with Mr. Morgen on Thursday night to discuss about the content of our episode with it being due on Sunday. That being the case, there was effectively 3 days to complete and turn in this episode. Looking back at how we have worked, I have to say the efficiency and quality of our collaboration exceeded my expectations, creating an episode I am overall content with.

            I was the producer, Wendy was the assistant producer, and Roy was the line producer. As a producer, I set up the time schedule for our meetings and job assigned, as well as leading the discussion/conversation we had in meetings. The assistant producer Wendy served a role similar to a manager in the group. She would take notes of conversations we had in meetings and organize work we have done. She edited the image we used for our thumbnail as well as putting together and submitting our final product. Roy was the line producer, but he really did much more than that. Since he has experiences producing music, he voluntarily took up the role of putting together and editing our audios and inserting the background music. The background music used was actual one produced by Roy himself! All members in this group contributed equally to the content of the episode as we pulled what we were going to say from previously written ideas and conversations we had about the game.

            Our primary goals of this episode were to introduce the audience to the game KIDS and analyze how the simple form of this “interactive animation” is success full as a game, looking into some of the themes of the game, as well as sharing our own perspectives. I would say we achieved these goals in general, though not as in depth as we would like to. We first laid out points in our collaborative document, then each of us put down and elaborating ideas under them. This was done in the form of comments, since it would them be easier to make into a conversation. This form of brainstorming and script writing is very different from the usual essay writing I am accustomed to. When we “met up” to talk about our episode, lots of new ideas and more in-depth analysis came up that couldn’t be included in the episode due to the time limitation and the speaking format the podcast episode is in.

            Comparing our episode to the first episode in the series that talked about Minecraft, the main difference seems to be tone of the speakers. While the first episode sounded more like a conversation, our episode seems more directed towards the audience due to the way our script written. My recommendation for later groups producing episodes would be to set up a general framework and communicate frequently.

Podcast Reflection

As the main producer of Episode 3 titled “Unity in Among Us and Quarantine,” I took responsibility leading the entire group in planning, making concrete schedule, writing a script, and audio editing. I enjoyed that as a group leader I got to work on something that I felt passionate about and be generous with my time. I shaped the majority of how this project looked and I also felt grateful that my teammates inspired and supported me when I needed them. I want to thank Elaine for helping me finalize a overall plan and Andy for bringing out some really interesting ideas. Most importantly, even though I announced a very urgent meeting in slack without any notes in advance, my dear group members always tried their best to come. They wanted this to be good. And I’m proud of the work that we’ve done.

We’re still early in the entire series, but we did draw some inspiration from episode 1. We found their conservational format to be very interesting, and initially we did not have any elements of back-and-forth conversations in our plan. We adapted to a reasonable amount of discussions and started asking questions to each other so that audiences would feel engaged throughout. We also added carefully chosen music pieces. And these music pieces were lined up in a designed order of keys (key signatures) that would offer a smooth transition to one’s hearing experience. Again, this was just a nice addition that hopefully would add a nice complement to our original voice.

Our primary goal is to: 1). declare our critical play 2). present how Among Us has become a successful game 3). answer what message the game teaches. Since the schedule is limited, we were not able to draw references from a lot of places. For example, there was no time for us to plan an interview, go do it with someone, then gather results, and write about them. I’d like to work on that as strong references would effectively add credibility to our own episode.

I found the making of this podcast series to be a very similar process than any other project that we do in our outside this class. It required planning, researching, gathering ideas, collaborating, encouraging each other, confronting new difficulties, and finding ways to solve problems. There was a similar pattern. Also, I’ve learned that as a group leader I was vocal and positive all the time. I enjoyed surrounding ourselves with positivity and encouraging teamwork. Love it! I learned a lot from both Elaine and Andy. And I couldn’t be more happy about what we did!

Games Podcast: Further Details

Overview

This post contains lots of additional information that will be useful to you as you work on your podcast episodes, mostly focused on nuts and bolts issues like equipment, editing, and so on.

Check out the assignment prompt for conceptual guidelines and roles and for information about what I am expecting from you.

Equipment

If you are on campus, there is equipment that you can use to record your podcast episodes, including Student Digital Life’s Music and Audio Recording Studio.

The Writing Program has purchased 4 Yeti microphones and placed them on reserve with the Music and Media Library. If you check out one of the Yeti mics, you might want to skim over the manual here. There are a number of other microphones available for checkout as well, so if the Yeti mics are not available check out something else.

Because so many of us are separated from campus and from each other, however, it will be fine for you to record yourselves via Zoom. Make sure that you launch the call using your Emory Zoom account and record the call to the cloud. Whoever is hosting the call will get an email once the recording has finished compiling and from there can download the files from the call — there will be a text file with the contents of your chat, an mp4 with the video from the call, and an mp3 of the audio of your call. You can just download the mp3 and then edit it in Audacity to produce your episode. A short time later, Zoom should also add an additional text file with a transcript of the call. Download that file too and edit it into a transcript of your episode.

 

Audacity

Audacity is a good, free, open-source audio editor (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux). It’s pretty standard software for mixing podcasts, so I recommend you give it a shot.

There is a very good tutorial wiki for Audacity online — this basic page on mixing voice narration with music probably covers 90% of what you’ll need to do for your podcast. It’s not terribly difficult, but there is a learning curve to it and you should definitely make an extra copy of your raw audio files before you start mixing and editing them. Expect for it to take longer than you think it should to do the sound editing and build time for mixing into your plans. There are some students in the class who have a fair amount of experience working with Audacity — make friends with them and ask them for help (make sure to give thanks for their help in your episode credits!).

 

Other Software

If you’re already very comfortable with using GarageBand or another sound editing software, you can use that instead.

Student Digital Life also has lots of resources that should be of use to you with this project. If you want to use more advanced software, the Media Lab has the full Adobe Creative Suite, including Adobe Audition, available and student assistants who can help you in using it. The Tech Lab is also a great space for you to go to get ideas about how to approach these projects. There are also gaming consoles available in Cox Computing, so if you want to explore games as new media you might stop by SDL and see what you can do.

Recording & mixing guidelines

As I say above, Audacity has a very good tutorial wiki. There is tons of information included there, but this single basic page on mixing voice narration with music probably covers 90% of what you’ll need to do for your podcast.

Transom is “a performance space, an open editorial session, an audition stage, a library, and a hangout” that seeks to spread good ideas and practices for public media, especially focused on audio. There’s lots of good stuff there and I encourage you to check them out.

Of special note: “Using Music: Jonathan Menjivar For This American Life.” Menjivar is a producer and music supervisor at This American Life and his essay is a fantastic breakdown of different methods for incorporating music into a podcast episode.

See also, the other pieces in the Transom “Using Music” series.

Podcast hoster Buzzsprout has a pretty good “Podcasting 101 Guide” with some useful tips, including about where to position yourself with regard to the microphone.

Music

You need to be careful when using music to not violate copyright law. Here are 4 really good sites to find Creative Commons licensed music that you are allowed to use (with attribution):

  • Free Music Archive. Mostly more contemporary music types, searchable by genre or by other methods.
  • Musopen. Public domain and creative commons licensed classical music.
  • Incompetech (Film music from Kevin Macleod)
  • ccMixter