I’m fresh off playing an awesome web game, FATAL FLIGHT. I won’t tell you about it in detail, but there were a few keyboard smashes involved, courtesy of one Ethan Redd. He touts an impressive resume, complete with games, website development, and graphic design. “KiddRadical” boasts a variety of influences, and games like FATAL FLIGHT and Rad Road Rally reflect them. He draws from 90s arcade games, comics, kung-fu, music, anime, and self-professed “weird stuff”. I like to say it’s probably not weird if you like it, readers.
Bold colors, loud music, fast tempo; things that are ALIVE. I want my games to SCREAM; I want to give people a reason to smile, or laugh out loud, or throw their controller, or whatever! Just feel something.
Boy, does he deliver. Rad Road Rally is all of that and more: bright, shiny and flashing. Redd is currently working on an update to FATAL FLIGHT, named FATAL FLIGHT: ADVENT, and offers teasers each day on his twitter feed, @EthanRedd. He counts these games as his major accomplishments, along with his first public game, 8BitNinjas (which he advised us not to play. However, I took a look at it, and I appreciate it).
I made [8bitNinjas] with my bare hands. I had no experience, no team, at times no computer, and STILL I made it happen. The game itself didn’t match up to its original vision however and I mainly am proud of little Ethan for his spirit.
He has a definite pride in his work, and it’s not without reason. The games live up to his “bold, loud, fast” standard, and are incredibly engaging to boot. Redd cites Sonic 3 & Knuckles as a major influence. He loves it so much, he actually wrote his university admissions essay on the game. In fact, six-year-old Ethan thought he would become CEO of Sega Japan because of it. He quickly grew out of that notion, but still maintains that Sonic 3 and Knuckles is the best video game ever made, and a “fade request” (formal invitation to a lively round of fisticuffs) follows any disagreement.
Ethan has big plans for major projects, in the future. He describes his Holy Grail as a game with a 3D linear/open discreet level design, inspired, again by SEGA, similar to Super Mario 64. Which, we may or may not get, as he may or may not be working on a prototype. I hope he is, just as I hope someone at SEGA glances at this article and offers him the chance to do something he would put everything on hold for: make them the best 3D Sonic video game since Sonic X-treme.
Young, Black, and Gifted: Redd runs the gamut of being under-25 and talented. As a minority in the gaming world, he definitely feels a responsibility to others like him. He’s overcome so much to get to the point where he’s developing games that people like, and he feels an obligation to show other young black men that it’s possible.
Being one of the few black men in the games industry isn’t a handicap, it’s a chance for me to show the world what we’re capable of despite the odds against us. I won’t rest until I do just that. I’m proud to be a black man, and I’m proud of my work; anybody who has a problem with either can take a flying leap.
It seems because of this philosophy, Redd takes pleasure in meeting other black men and women in gaming. In a world where meeting someone like himself is few and far between, he calls it a “sight for sore eyes”. The idea that minorities in gaming have a hard time is not lost on him. Personally, his family was there to support him, and he had the tools and education to continue in this field. Yet, he keeps in mind that across the board, black developers often start way behind the line.
I feel for others who do feel stifled however. As black people, we face unique struggles that make it much harder to get to the point where you can compete. Systemic poverty and incarceration, the digital divide, failing schools, and a whole bunch of other issues stack the chips against folks who may have what it takes internally but lack external resource.
Ethan takes issue with minority representation in actual games themselves, citing some of the images we see as stereotypical or caricatures of token minorities (none of which I plan on offering clicks to). It’s easy to see what he’s referencing with a cursory glance at the AAA titles. There are little to no minority characters in a lead capacity. He’s dedicated himself to correction in his own work, giving himself the charge of creating more well-written, fleshed-out, bad-assed characters of all persuasions. But that’s not all.
Also, I think it’s impossible to talk about the state of the black experience in the field without talking about the state of black involvement in the field. Real talk, there’s just not enough of us out there, and it reflects in the output of the community as a whole. There’s a real void of content that speaks uniquely to/about black people/issues/culture/whatever and I totally believe that it’s because there’s just not enough black people exploring the medium. Luckily, this is getting better as tools and education become more ubiquitous.
The more I interact with him, the more I find that he’s not just a developer, he’s a lover of the culture itself. From anime, music, and games, on to design, development, and programming; he’s avant-garde with an 16-bit tether. Nouveau-riche, where the wealth implied is talent. If the Kidd keeps up this pace, we just might have to pay homage to a blue hedgehog and a red echidna.
You can find Ethan and his crew on twitter: @EthanRedd, @spacetreasured, @folmerkelly . For some good KiddRadical approved audio, check out soundcloud.com/paganthapriest and soundcloud.com/stuthefool.