Growing up on the sunny island of Guam wasn’t easy for someone who would rather catch Pokémon than waves. While most people spent their time outside, Cherisse Datu, SOC/MA ’16, explored alternative adventures and expanded her world beyond the ocean’s edge—through gaming.
Now a video producer at Bethesda Softworks in Rockville, Maryland, the publishing arm of ZeniMax Media, Datu works with studios to create games that others can get lost in, like Doom, Fallout, and Skyrim.
As a JoLT fellow in AU’s Game Lab, Datu studied the intersection of journalism and game design and helped develop Factitious, which challenges players to spot fake news. “The rules you learn in games become part of a vernacular you use to understand the world around you.”
Datu got her start working at ESPN’s Undefeated, a race, sports, and culture website. She then used her background in film and her experience at AU to break into the gaming industry, which is projected to be worth nearly $138 billion by the end of 2018.
From the moment her parents gave her a Game Boy in 1994 to keep her occupied during car rides, she’s been a gamer. Now, with more than 250 titles in her collection, she plays all kinds–narratives, puzzles, shooters, role-playing, adventure. So long as there’s a good story, Datu’s game.
“I love the different approaches to storytelling. It’s like a narrative you can interact with, a book you can play.”
DATU’S 10 FAVORITE GAMES FOR THE WIN
Horizon Zero Dawn: You play as Aloy, a woman who fights with a bow and spear against dinosaur-like machines that have taken over the world. The game is beautiful and explores fascinating themes like the dangers of a society too reliant on technology.
Never Alone: Based on an Iñupiaq tale and created by indigenous developers in Alaska, this is a co-op game about a girl and her Arctic fox friend who have to restore balance to nature by identifying the source of a blizzard ravaging her village. Not only is it a beautiful game, it also raises important questions about whose stories get told and who has access to the tools needed to tell them.
Superhot: Ever dreamt of being James Bond in the Matrix? Then this is the shooter for you. Time only moves when you do in this fractal world.
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand This was a great game to play growing up on Guam because it encouraged me to go outside. You play a vampire hunter and your weapon is a solar gun that charges up via the solar panel on the Game Boy’s cartridge.
Pokémon Blue: The best part of Pokémon occurred outside the game. Before the Internet, you had to get tips and tricks from other players. It was like a zeitgeist of knowledge. It took me a while to find a classmate who had Pokémon Red, but I did. We still talk.
The Stanley Parable: You play as Stanley as a narrator dictates your action—which you can choose to follow or disregard. It’s a very funny game that encourages you to play rebelliously and do things your way.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town: Before FarmVille, there was Harvest Moon. The premise of the game is simple: After moving to a new town you must rebuild an old farm. It’s a fun game that’s more about relationship-building than raising livestock. You can tell a lot about a person by whom they choose to marry in the game.
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX: This game combines all the classic Zelda components—dungeons, quests, pot breaking—with fun mini-games and surreal elements, like huge wrecking balls with teeth that are kept as pets. It’s an accessible, pocket-sized world you can dive into, and it taught me how to cram a lot of fun into one game.
Kingdom Hearts: Ever wonder what happened to your favorite Disney characters after their stories ended? Play Kingdom Hearts and explore Disney franchises with Goofy and Donald Duck as your sidekicks. In eighth grade I became friends with a girl just to play this at her house.
Thomas Was Alone: Anthropomorphic shapes go on quests of self-discovery. Think of it as Tetris, but with sentient shapes that have personalities.