Gamer Spotlight: Sam Barlow

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Sam Barlow

Writer & Game Director (Her Story)

Twitter: @mrsambarlow


What is the first video game you ever played?

It would have been something at school — I remember Granny’s Garden and a text adventure about escaping from a plane crash on a mysterious desert island (Lost before Lost!) We’d only get a short go on the computer once a week so we’d spend the time inbetween planning our next move and playing out the games in our heads đŸ™‚

After that we got an Amstrad CPC at home and so that was when I started playing a lot of games and enjoying the varied delights of the wild west that was the 8-bit market. I loved games like Turrican, Ranarama, Karnov, New Zealand Story, Head over Heels, Driller, Prince of Persia, Aliens, etc. alongside as many text adventures as I could get my hands on.

What is your favorite game of all time?

This is a tricky one. I struggle to narrow it down to one and decide between personal significance, nostalgia, individual merit, etc. But when I force myself I usually end up passing by Metroid Prime, Thief, Silent Hill 2 and going for Infocom’s A Mind Forever Voyaging — still one of the most innovative and ambitious games out there. It felt completely different on release, and still feels fresh today. You can see some level of influence from that game on most of what I’ve made myself. It plays with the idea of the main character and the player and uses a game-within-a-game to blur those lines. It is free and open and explorable in a way that is very player-empowering. It foregrounds the idea of ‘observing’ as a mechanic. It tells a story which — for its often cited heavy-handedness — deals with scenarios and ideas that uncommon within videogames. A stone cold classic.

Which hobbies or pastimes do you enjoy besides gaming?

Most of the activities that involve sedentary enjoyment of a story — books, films, art. And also food. I should probably find a hobby that involves some kind of physical activity before it’s too late!

How do you balance gaming and family life?

I don’t, is probably the answer! Far too little time. I struggle more and more to balance the limited time I have to myself with the huge pile of games, movies and books that grows with every passing day. And to be honest, more and more I find the books and movies winning out over certain games. I wish the industry would get behind the idea of shorter, less padded experiences! If a game comes out and is, say, 2 hours long, I get excited! That said, over the years I’ve been introducing my son and daughter to the pleasures of Nintendo games and so I do get to enjoy — vicariously — a lot of Wii U and 3DS games. I’ve loved watching my kids get to grips with Splatoon, or playing through Mario 3D World with them. The most fun I’ve had in years was playing through Earthbound with my kids (a first time for all of us). Such a wonderful game. There will come a day when my son realizes that there are other games out there — and they’re not all as amazing as Nintendo games — a true loss of innocence!


 

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Sam Barlow has been in the gaming industry since 1999 and served as lead designer and writer on Silent Hill: Shattered Memories & Silent Hill: Origins. His latest title, Her Story (winner of 2 awards at the 2015 The Game Awards) is available right now on PC, Mac and iOS.

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