Getting to know the people appearing on the EDGE of EXTINCTION Human cards.
Anthony found the girls on Facebook and liked their page back in its infancy. He labels himself as a game designer, but he is truly an educational game guru.
Athia and Maia were looking for more experience in game development a few years ago and Anthony found out about it and invited us down as guests to see the Harrisburg University of Science and Tech’s Game Development Studio. It was quite a fun time for us. The girls were invited to a lunch with some of the schools’ leadership and professors. They were asked questions about their games and their goals as a company. Then Anthony’s students learned to play EDGE of EXTINCTION while the girls fielded questions.
I think the coolest part for us what the invitation itself, but Maia and Athia said it was their Virtual Reality Simulator … They may be right.
So without further ado, here is Anthony Ortega’s questions and answers.
What is your full name and title?
Anthony Ortega. Production Coordinator for the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies as well as Corporate Faculty for the Interactive Media Program, both for Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
Where do you work and reside?
I work live and work in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
What is your educational background?
I have a BFA in Illustration from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and an MET in Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center.
What was your life like growing up?
It’s kind of hard to encapsulate what I was like growing up without devoting an entire essay to it. The biggest interests that have persisted throughout my life are horror / supernatural themed entertainment, games, martial arts, the visual arts, music, and a huge love for animals.
Did you have a nickname? If so, how did it come about?
I’ve had quite a few, some less appealing than others. It all depended on who was communicating with me but it was usually a silly variation on my name: Tony tone, Toner, Tony Toenail, Tony Roma, Tone Bone, Tony Bologna, Tony Tone Toni, Aunt Tony, and Antny being the most common.
What are you currently reading? Why?
You can generally find me reading the rulebook to a tabletop game. Otherwise, I’m currently working through Homer’s Iliad and an anthology of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.
What are you curious about or exploring in your field of expertise at the moment?
My passion is game design, so I design tabletop games in my spare time. Currently I have a design being considered for publication by two different publishers. I currently also have about five designs I’m actively working on.
What is your favorite Movie? Why?
If I judge by how often I went to the theater to watch it, it would have to be The Matrix (6 times total). Otherwise, I’m drawn to movies that have unique and surreal stories and an amazing soundtrack to complement it, and the top two movies that always stand out in that respect are Donnie Darko and Being John Malkovich. They just harmonize with me no other movie has and I think a lot of it has to do with the struggles I was going through (and in some ways still am going through) at the time that I saw them.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your profession?
Patience and perseverance are key when it comes to game development. If you care about an engaging experience, you need to give your designs time to evolve and grow. With that comes the necessary discipline to see a design through to the end.
What is your least favorite subject? Why?
My eyes glaze over whenever it comes to historical wars and politics. I grew up not caring, even though I should have, but that indifference has spilled into my adult life where it’s very helpful to understand these things.
What advise you to offer to parents who want to help their children get involved with the natural world?
What’s nice about the natural world is that it always finds its way into everyday life. From the plants that grow in between cracks, to the bugs that live in the dark, damp nooks and crannies of your yard, to the stars in the night sky; there is always an opportunity to learn a little more. You just need to want to be curious. Sometimes it’s just watching a bird for a few minutes, or staring at the bark of a tree until you start seeing the different kinds of insects on its surface. I think encouraging natural curiosity is the first step to being more involved with the natural world, especially since science has everything to do with the natural world, such as robots being modeled after insects.
To what teams and/or clubs did you encourage students to join?
I think students should join clubs that speak to their inner passions, whether that’s gaming, exercising, music, survival, rock climbing, religion, or whatever. When you’re allowed to explore your passions, it makes it more rewarding to connect it to the world around you.
Is there a daily routine you enjoy?
There is a routine, although it’s more out of necessity right now. I know the ideal routine that I want, but I don’t have the discipline to get me there yet.
How do you integrate technology in your profession?
Technology is kind of a subjective term. A six sided die is technology, as well as a pen. As a teacher and employee of a science and technology school, I’m using modern technology every day to communicate information to students, colleagues, and clients, but I challenge a student’s critical thinking by using older technology (dice and playing cards) to create engaging games.
How do you disconnect from technology?
First and foremost, tabletop games. I used to be a hardcore video gamer but I feel I’ve become saturated by what digital has to offer. I’ve found a richness and comforting variance in the tactical nature of tabletop games that has actually triggered my interest in designing them. Outside of that, nothing beats standing outside on a windy day in autumn, watching the sun fall in the sky and tinting the autumn colored leaves with its fading light while thick clouds stroll in the sky.
What advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in large cities?
Life lives everywhere and can adapt to live anywhere. Be curious about the microsystems around you, like the bugs and the birds. Plant a small herb garden on your window sill or get a bird feeder. Even having a variety of plants in your house is enough to change the air quality, and the Zen that comes with taking care of plants can instill a sense of nature in a concrete jungle.
What advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in rural areas?
My sense is that people in rural areas already enjoy nature to some degree. You have greater access to the results of natural systems following through with their methods, so it’s just a matter of taking the time to seek them out and appreciate them.
What advice would you give to adults who are interested in supporting their local wildlife ecosystems?
The biggest support we can offer our local ecosystems is keeping our own influence in check. We are reducing habitable wildlife zones at an increasing rate, so reducing our litter, using less plastic and other synthetic non-biodegradable substances, and quietly observing from a distance are some of the best things we can do to give our natural neighbors some respite from a world that is constantly encroaching on their territory. We all share this planet, so doing what we can to educate ourselves, reduce our carbon emissions, and slow the pace of climate change is the greatest support we can give, especially if we want future generations to be able to appreciate when we’re gone.
Are there specific wildlife or science clubs you find interesting? Why?
The ocean holds a deep place in my heart for its mystery and frailty. We’ve recently discovered that not a single animal living in the deepest part of the ocean is without plastic in its digestive system, yet there are still species we’ve yet to discover. The way animals of the ocean have evolved continues to astound me and it would be an absolute shame for vast species of creatures to disappear due to our inability to adapt our wants with the planet’s needs.
What could a visitor expect to see when they come to visit you at work?
We are a young university working very hard to become a world class science and technology school. We are focused on turning students into responsible world citizens and ambitious innovators who want to make a difference in their communities. You would also see a lot of cool technology in our Interactive Media program.
What are your thoughts about our national park and preserve systems?
Our national parks and preserve systems are great treasures that should remain intact and should grow too much larger footprints in order to help sustain our natural wildlife.
Is there anything else you want to share or say?
What future do you want for the next generations of global citizens?