Gamer Spotlight: Will Smith


Will Smith (Founder of FOO VR, Podcast Host)

Will Smith has been in the tech industry for over 2 decades, having started his career as an editor for sites such as Ars Technica, Maximum PC & In 2015 he founded FOO VR where they create animation in real time using virtual reality and machine learning. They’ve worked on projects for Adult Swim, Gamestop, and created the world’s first 3D rendered talk show, The FOO Show. Will is also the co-host of two podcasts, Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project and Brad & Will Made a Tech Pod, and he can often be found on his Twitch channel where he streams the latest games.

What is the first video game that you remember playing?

“When I was 5 or 6, I went to a friends birthday party, and he’d just gotten an Atari 2600. I was terrible at the multiplayer games, and was interested by The Empire Strikes Back (even though I don’t think I’d seen the movie at that point), but Pitfall grabbed me hard. The idea of an open, virtual world to explore was fascinating. Over the next few years, as the 2600 crashed, I’d dip back into games occasionally–either with the TI-99/4A that my parents bought as an educational tool, or on the 2600 my grandfather picked up at a flea market (with a surprisingly complete selection of games), but games didn’t really grab me until I saw a NES at another friend’s house in the mid-80s. Super Mario Bros and then Zelda, Metroid, and Dragon Warrior all grabbed me hard.”

wsmith1What are your favorite games of all time?

“This is an impossible question. I’ve loved so many different games that it’s hard to quantify which ones are my all-time favorites.
I love Quake because it introduced me to online multiplayer. I played thousands of hours of Rocket Arena, Clan Arena, and CTF in college, and can still do the loop traversal jump in DM3.
X-Wing and TIE Fighter are the first games I upgraded a PC for. I ate ramen for a month in college so I could afford a soundcard for my 386. I love Everquest because it showed me the power of community in games, there was nothing like taking on a boss dungeon with 40 or 50 people working together to defeat overwhelming odds. I loved running a servers for Team Fortress Classic,
HLDM, and Tribes back in the day.
In the more modern age, Spelunky and PUBG are my most played titles. Spelunky is infinite, and I’m still terrible at it, even after hundreds of hours played. I’m really excited about Spelunky 2 coming next year. Hopefully I’ll beat Yama before it’s out. PUBG reinvigorated my love of online shooters. I think Austin Walker at Waypoint said this first, but the idea that PUBG is a different genre whether you’re playing as a solo, a duo, or a squad is fascinating to me. Battle Royale games create a kind of tension that I didn’t think I was capable of feeling in games anymore.”

Which hobbies or pastimes do you enjoy besides gaming?

“I love to garden, which is something I typically do with my daughter and wife. We live in northern California, so bike rides, hikes, and camping also happen 10 months a year.”

photo by Norman Chan

Do you and your children play video games together?

“Yes! I’ve been gradually introducing her to games for the last few years. She’s six now, but I started making simple Mario Maker levels for her when she was 3 or 4. We moved from there to some of the co-op friendly Mario games, like Super Mario 3D World and New Super Mario. We play Spelunky with each other regularly now, and typically play one or two LEGO games a year. Now she’s interested in playing more single-player games, so I’ll often sit with her while she does and cheer her on. The biggest challenge of that is learning to not backseat drive, so she can learn to figure things out for herself. I dug out my old Vita for her to practice Spelunky on, and she’s also really enjoying Super Meat Boy and Fez as a result.
Now that she’s becoming a more proficient reader, it opens up a world of other games for her, including stuff like Animal Crossing and Zelda. One of the big surprises for me of playing games with a child who can’t read yet is how many games that are ostensibly designed for kids include a ton of reading.”

How do you make time for gaming with a busy family life and career?

“My wife is an early-to-bed type, while I’m more of a night owl, so I usually play games in the evening after my daughter goes to bed. It was never particularly codified until I started streaming, so now I have a pretty regular schedule where I’m usually live by 8:30 PM PDT and play until midnight or so.I miss playing games on weekends during the day, but with only the one kid, I do get an occasional day game in.”

What is your proudest moment as a parent?

“This is impossible to pick! I’ve been the keeper of the bedtime rituals in our house for a long time, so one of the books I read a thousand times when my daughter was little was Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex. A few weeks ago, she read it to me for the first time! Like a lot of parenting, it’s a mix of excitement, pride, happiness, and a little wistfulness, because learning to read means that there’s a time in the future when she won’t want me to read to her anymore.”

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