(This is the 18th installment in a weekly series with people who don’t work in journalism commenting on the news. Photography by Kevin Fiscus. If you’d like to participate, message or tweet me.)
Meet Gabriel Gutierrez.
He’s 38, a New Brunswick, New Jersey, native, lives in Rancho Cordova, works as a corporate recruiter, founded the International Game Developers Association of Sacramento, co-hosts the Sacramento Gamers Unite podcast and launched Nascent Games.
Gabriel relocated to Sacramento nearly three years ago after he was let go in a fourth round of layoffs at a human resources firm. A friend told him about a job opening and he decided to come to California. In three-and-a-half weeks, he packed up his stuff, donated what he couldn’t bring and made his first cross-country road trip along Interstate 80.
He quickly introduced himself to the community. After living in Sacramento for a couple months, with the framework of a game he wanted to make, he attended a voice acting panel at the winter SacAnime. While the three panelists talked about opportunities in the Bay Area, the audience wanted to know about local work. Gabriel raised his hand and said he was looking to build a team. He met two concept artists and one voice actor.
“I was the guy who knew nobody but needed a team,” he says. “It was exciting and awkward.”
A couple months later, in April 2013, he founded IGDA Sacramento to connect local game developers. The chapter hosts three or four sessions a month with networking events, game jams and the annual Indie Arcade Gaming Expo.
“We’re one of the most active chapters in the world,” he says.
Honorable mention to @NascentGames for sharing his story w/parents on the importance of encouraging kids in #gamedev pic.twitter.com/IOCg0w9zdH
— IGDA Sacramento (@IGDA_Sacramento) September 14, 2015
When we met in September at Coin-Op Game Room, we talked about his studio’s upcoming projects, his passion for strengthening the local video game community in Sacramento and his thoughts on working with local media.
Nascent Games is hard at work on its first two games: Crumple, a 2D platformer made in Flash, and Kinship, a 2.5D side-scrolling sci-fi shooter made in Unity 5.
Crumple stars Enve, an envelope brought to life in a burning paper factory. You must use a variety of moves — including slides, double jumps and crumpling into a ball of paper — to navigate environmental puzzles, escape and figure out what’s going on.
Crumple will be told in three or four chapters with the first installment scheduled for release in October on PC and Wii U. A demo can be found here.
The game was inspired by a previous job at an envelope manufacturing plant. Gabriel recalls walking into a terminal buzzing with the sound of large, noisy machines and daydreaming about what he could do with the freight racks piled high with product.
“You see these huge signs that say, ‘Don’t play on these racks,'” he explained to Johnny Flores in a 2014 episode of the Serious Talk. Seriously podcast. “Don’t jump or crawl under or climb, and all I could think was ‘I would love to climb, jump, crawl under and cause complete havoc on these’ because they look so much fun.’ And I said, ‘Well, damn, what if I could do a game like that in this type of an environment?'”
Kinship introduces you to Alexander, an ex-fighter pilot for the space defense firm Armada struggling with the loss of his wife and the execution of his daughter. He is soon thrust back into battle to fend off an attack by enemy thought to have been eradicated.
Kinship will be available on PC and Wii U. A release date has not been set. A compilation of songs from Kinship, and other Nascent Games projects, can be found here.
The game is inspired by classic Konami shooters — think Lifeforce, Gradius and Axelay — and the narrative style of Ninja Gaiden.
“It’s going to be very action-heavy, but story-heavy as well,” he says.
He hopes the games are not only well-received but start a larger conversation about the local video game community. He would like to see regional leaders nurture the creators and business leaders that often leave for the Silicon Valley.
“Let’s give these guys a reason to take us seriously,” he says.
Part of that involves working with local media. The Sacramento News & Review was the first publication he picked up when he moved here and was thrilled when Anthony Siino interviewed him for a 15 minutes piece published in April.
“I got to be me,” he says.
Good Day Sacramento. Access Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee. Sactown magazine. Local podcasts. All have reached out and given him a platform to speak about what he loves.
“We have the opportunity to finish what we started,” he says. “Support our stuff. If you support it, we can do more.”
Gabriel answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Text submitted August 28.
How do you get your news?
I mainly read The Huffington Post, the Sacramento News & Review, Yahoo and The Sacramento Bee online.
What’s the first news event you remember?
The Challenger space shuttle disaster back in 1986 absolutely comes to mind. I was home sick from school that morning, watching TV and that was the first time I had witnessed an explosion like that. It frightened me.
What content do you pay for?
Video games, game production software, music and movies — the necessities in life.
What’s the last great thing you ate?
Sirloin burger with fried egg, over-medium, on a sesame seed bun and fries at Café Colonial. The owner (Matthew Marrujo) and his fantastic team named that concoction the “Crumple”, which is named after my first video game that’s releasing in October. My soul joyously skipped for days when I learned of this!
Who’s doing it right in news?
Most, if not all, Sacramento news outlets have something that helps them standout in some sort of positive, informative and/or entertaining way. But, I have to say SN&R shines the most for me. They’re one of the last bastions of direct, bold (though occasionally a bit too opinionated), commentary on the inner workings of the Sacramento community and government. We need that more than ever today.
Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
(1) Homelessness — More expensive homes and condos that simply hurt those who are legitimately trying to make ends meet and have a roof over there head. Raising rents creates a wider gap within our community and, potentially, more families on the streets. Period! I can respect and understand the need for better neighborhoods but, even good intentions can still pave the road to hell.
(2) Social and governmental complacency — What’s worse? Not being aware of an issue in our city until it’s too late? Or being aware and doing nothing about it? Without going into a potentially lengthy answer, I will simply say that this is an ongoing issue and it feels little is being done about it.
(3) Bloated costs for small businesses — A great example is the California LLC Tax for LLCs, which include those who haven’t made money yet! For real?! Could we earn our dollar before we give it to the Franchise Tax Board, at least for the first one to two years? That would allow us pay for other costs including: office supplies, equipment, and you know, hiring people.
I apologize for applying thought processes here. And I understand that we’re paying for the “privilege” to do business here in California. But, lets face it, it should be a privilege for California that we chose to do business here in the first place, rather than Nevada.
What do you absolutely hate about the news?
There is an alarming lack of transparency and accountability. I don’t like how information seems to be very filtered and politically correct. When did we forget to be educated adults about our communication and tact? More so, there is a lack of solutions to many lingering, continued issues within our city and beyond that those who need to be made aware of don’t seem to care. There is a theatrical oversensitivity within many today, which baffles and scares me to no end. We need to take heed and empower each other within our collective crafts. I’d love and dare to see those kinds of conversations and articles occurring more often, so that it can become something that the Sacramento community, as a whole, can celebrate and take pride in.
What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
Diversity in the tech/gaming space: Not the verbal mention of it, the demonstration and action of it. More specifically, why “diversity” is being highlighted like some newly discovered trend. It’s painfully disappointing. It’s easy to talk about promoting “diversity”, but we rarely see how. We rarely see proof! I’ve seen diversity-focused events where the picture on the flyer shows three men and one woman. Equal? I don’t think so.
If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
Sacramento International Airport, so I could hop on a plane back home to see my family.
Follow Gabriel (@nascentgames) and his projects (@CrumpleGame and @KinshipGame) on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.