March 12, 2003: Class Notes
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Many people play video games for fun. Ted Price 90 does, too, but
he also makes them for a living as president and CEO of Insomniac Games,
where he and his colleagues dream up space-age plots and create funny-looking
characters. Since he founded the company in 1994, he has developed three
of the most popular games for the console PlayStation.
In his latest game, Ratchet & Clank, released by Sony last November
for PlayStation 2, players assume the role of a cat-like alien mechanic,
Ratchet, whose partner, Clank, is a robot that doubles as a utility backpack.
Ratchet and Clank set out to defeat evil Chairman Drek, who, with an army
of robots, has plans for universal domination.
An English major who dropped his computer programming course freshman
year, Price says he spent many hours playing video games at college: I
was forgoing my studies and even worse, skipping parties. After
Princeton he started Insomniac Games while working as a database consultant
for his uncle in San Diego to cover startup costs. He rented a small office,
bought a couple of computers, and went to work on his first game, Disruptor.
But I realized very quickly that I was never going to make it as
a programmer and I really needed some help, he says.
Enter Al Hastings 94, a computer science major at the time. After
graduation, Hastings, today vice president of technology, joined Price
in California, and within a month they produced a demo and then landed
a contract with Universal Studios interactive division, which published
and distributed the game.
Since then their staff has grown to 50, and theyve moved into a
high-rise with a view of Burbank. We have a lot of cool, curved,
weird-looking walls, and lots of colors, says Price. Adds Hastings,
Its a pretty fun place to be. Their next game is in
Insomniacs business philosophy: Keep bureaucracy to a minimum and make one quality game at a time, says Price, who, with Hastings, continues to be involved in the creative aspects of making games. The moment that Al and I dont have time for that, says Price, will signal a death knell for the company.
John Wetmore 80 pounds the pavement for walkers safety
John Z. Wetmore 80 uses his camera to project a perspective fewer and fewer Americans are experiencing the view from the side of the road. Over the past six years, his acclaimed monthly public access television program, Perils for Pedestrians, has featured elderly residents in San Diego scurrying to their synagogue across a busy intersection, major shopping thoroughfares with no sidewalk whatsoever, and other suburban traffic horrors.
At work on his 73rd episode from his Bethesda, Maryland, home, Wetmore is far from running out of material. Beyond the lack of safe crosswalks and walking paths, he explains, contemporary suburban development and highway construction have made it difficult to walk to work, to stores, or even to neighbors houses, because those destinations often are miles from peoples homes.
For that reason, the half-hour show also covers zoning issues, transit projects, cycling concerns, plus pedestrian aids. These include higher and wider medians on which walkers can wait safely between traffic lanes, and squared-off sidewalk corners that force vehicles to slow down when turning.
An economics major at Princeton, Wetmore spent two years as a photographer for the Daily Princetonian developing his documentary skills. Since then, he says, I never really stopped doing photography. Now he produces video for public television and corporate and private clients. In addition, Wetmore serves on bicycle and pedestrian safety advisory panels for both Montgomery County and the state of Maryland, and manages a Web site (www.pedestrians.org).
Perils for Pedestrians is basically a one-man band, says Wetmore, who serves as host, cameraman, production manager, and financer.
Spreading the word about walking might lead to progress on many other fronts, Wetmore says. Having a walkable community affects so many areas of life, from physical health, mental health, and development in children, to the environment, resource use, and social equity for low-income people or people with disabilities.
By Kristen Fountain 96
Kristen Fountain is a freelance writer in New York City.