STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Games maintain old ties, fuel ambition for future

Sean Park. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)Sean Park. (Rebecca Isenhart/Gazette Reporter)

By REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Sean Park is a senior at Niskayuna High School, but when he reminisces at graduation his memories at the school will only go back two years.

Park moved to Niskayuna from Phoenix, Arizona, in August 2013, just before his junior year began. Before Phoenix, he had lived in the Netherlands for a year when he was about 6; his family originally came from South Korea.

But his mid-high school move was the one that worried him most. It was the exact moment when colleges were beginning to accept letters of recommendation and transcripts for admission, and Park was starting from scratch in a place no one knew him.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” said Park, who lives with his parents and his brother, Henry, who is a freshman at the high school.

Park has made friends and put down roots in Niskayuna, but soon he’ll move again, when he begins his freshman year at New York University, where he hopes to study journalism.

“I enjoy it, too; lots of new things,” he said of his frequent relocation.

Because his environment changes so often, Park has found a unique way to keep in touch with his friends: They hang out in a virtual space.

“With video games, you’re doing something with them,” he said. To connect with friends, Park plays long-term games like “Counter-Strike,” a first-person shooter game that’s set in different locations all over the globe.

“That’s the kind of game where you pour in hundreds of hours,” Park said.

But he also appreciates a very different type of game: shorter, independent games that can sometimes be finished in a few hours. They’re like a novella, rather than a trilogy, and Park is fascinated with them as a form of art and media.

In fact, those unique, low-budget games were the gateway to Park’s interest in writing and journalism. He likens writing about the emerging video game scene to critiquing music or film, but says because the medium is so new it’s both easier and more exciting to become a critic.

“There’s unbroken ground and stuff to figure out,” he said.

He began to develop an interest in writing about games when he realized he wasn’t satisfied with the reviews he found online.

“There needs to be more in-depth digging instead of just looking at the surface,” he said.

He began freelancing, at first for free, and then for $15 or $20 per article writing for a website called macgamecast.com. He’s even developed contacts with independent developers who are often willing to send him a review copy of a game before it’s released to the public.

“Since the game industry is so new, it’s so easy to get in contact with them. You can just email them or send them a tweet,” he said.

Park said he knows that game journalism isn’t yet a respected form of critique or reporting, but he wants to change that. He hopes, armed with his NYU education, that he’ll be one of the journalists leading the charge.

“My friends are usually very supportive,” he said. But older people, in his parent’s generation, sometimes don’t understand why he’d want to write about games.

For those people, he often says his interest extends to news journalism — which it does, just not in a traditional sense.

He likes the kind of gritty, in-your-face journalism that pops up on websites like Vice News, the kind that sometimes offends the classic news junkie with its reporters’ extensive creative license.

Park said though he’ll miss his still-new home in Niskayuna, especially his family and friends, he’s had some practice keeping in touch. “I learned how to cope with that stuff already,” he said.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.