By Theresa Afful
Greetings to all. Theresa Afful here, and I’m happy to introduce myself to all of The Critics Circle’s readers and members. Let me start by briefly describing my background. I am a 14-year-old who enjoys writing and video games. I have always had a strong desire to venture into the enormous realm of video games and examine them critically because I am an enthusiastic gamer myself.
My involvement with The Critics Circle started in the eighth grade when I had the pleasure of having Mr. O’Callaghan as my ELA teacher. He introduced us to the Critics Circle’s after-school Playing With Purpose program which specializes in writing about video games. I was intrigued by this concept, so I decided to go to the after-school sessions. The conversations and learning that took place immediately captured my attention. I had no idea how this choice would affect the rest of my life.
By the last day of the video-gaming after-school class, we were asked to pick a game and write a review, create our own game based on real-life problems, and write a social justice poem based on a game we have played.
Given this task, I decided to first pick my game, and the game I played was Cuphead. I chose Cuphead because it was a game that I had been wanting to try out for quite a long time. I also chose it because I would be able to play and enjoy the game with my brother in cooperative mode. After a few days of playing, I was only able to beat 3 levels; I’m currently stuck on Cagney Carnation. It wasn’t easy. At first, I had difficulty writing my review since it was my first time writing about a game. But with the help of my friend Khloe Wilkerson and some examples of reviews of different games, I was able to grasp what I needed. I was able to complete the first task.
Next, I had to worry about what kind of game I was going to create. After a while of thinking, I decided to use previous games that I’ve played as inspiration. I ended up writing about two brothers from Greece whose parents were suddenly killed by the god of the underworld, Hades. As the brothers go on a journey with each character, they both change for the worst and the better through their grief. Lastly for the poem, I decided to base it on a game featuring a teen journalist called A Space For the Unbound.
I have had a long history of playing video games and gaming since I was a little child. The vivid worlds, captivating narratives, and varied experiences that awaited me captured my attention the moment I grasped my first phone. I have experimented with various game genres as a gamer, including action-adventure, role-playing, and puzzle games. Every game I played offered me a distinct experience and helped me learn essential lessons about tenacity, problem-solving, and the power of narrative.
The very first games that introduced me to the gaming community were Temple Run and Subway Surfers, which I would often play with my dad using his phone. He was also into gaming but not as much as I am; he only played classic games like Tetris. Just like my dad, my mom was also a part of the gaming community even though she often likes to deny the fact, but her level 200 in Candy Crush Saga says otherwise; besides Candy Crush Saga, she also enjoys playing Free Flow which is a puzzle game that involves connecting pairing colored pipes to create a flow.
As I grew up, the types of games that I started to play also changed. I became more interested in action and open-world games that gave me the ability to move freely and explore the map without being bound to one specific area. Minecraft was my first open-world game. I enjoyed the challenge that Minecraft gave through the monsters and animals. The creepers are challenging monsters who randomly spawn into the map just to ruin your builds or even kill you causing you to lose your stuff. I found that to be very irritating since I worked hard to get the tools that were in my inventory and you spawn at a different place in the map every time you died. You have to either try to remember where you died or just give up and start over. I believe that the game is truly fun because of the freedom that it gives its players to build and create maps or even mods for other players to enjoy and increase the popularity of the game. After Minecraft, I became interested in games with amazing graphics, and I often watch YouTubers play games like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman, and Cyber Punk 2077.
The game Journey, created by Thatgamecompany, is one in particular that has stayed with me. Players embark on an emotional journey through a mysterious universe in this captivating and emotionally stirring game. Journey not only gave me hours of relaxing gameplay, but it also left me thinking about deep topics of solitude, connection, and the human experience. This was thanks to its brief storytelling and gorgeous appearance. This game, along with several others, has stoked my interest in gaming as a form of creative expression and narrative storytelling.
Apart from playing games, I have also dedicated myself to understanding the different writing techniques used to critique games and the aspects that have to be focused on such as storytelling, the music, and the visuals that create an immersive and engaging experience.
During the time that I spent at the after-school program, I got to meet great people like Harold Goldberg, Isaac Espinosa, and Ronald Gordon who each share the same interest in gaming as I do. Each time they came to class, they would liven the place up with their stories about game history, humor, and overall positive energy. But I most enjoyed the after school when we were able to interview Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and chief operating officer of Nintendo. I found the interview to be interesting because I got to learn a lot about Mr. Fils-Aimé’s past and how even he struggled as a child and had to work for his dreams to come true. This taught me that to make your dreams become a reality you must make an effort through hard work or a dream will stay a dream and nothing more.
Being a part of The Critics Circle has been a transformative experience for me. It has allowed me to combine my passion for gaming with my love for writing and critical analysis, providing me with a platform to express my thoughts and insights about this captivating form of entertainment. Through my journey as an intern with The Critics Circle, I hope to continue expanding my knowledge and understanding of this important art form, while also contributing to the vibrant community of gamers and critics. I am thrilled to be a part of this community and look forward to sharing my perspectives with all of you. Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself, and I am excited to embark on this journey together.