VP Studio GM & Creative Director - Ames Kirshen

Tell us about what got you into gaming and some of your favorite gaming memories?

I was fortunate enough to grow up during the entertainment and media centric pop-culture explosion in the 1970's and 1980's. Part of this movement was the birth of the video game medium and video games hitting the mass market for the first time. My earliest memories were playing arcade games such as Space Invaders and Asteroids in the lobby of pretty much every diner or restaurant that my family and I went out to eat at. Around that same time, I got my first home console which was the Atari 2600. I recall playing many of the early Atari 2600 games, but the game that made the biggest impression on me was the Superman game that released shortly after the infamous 1978 Superman live action movie. As rudimentary as the gameplay and graphics were, I was totally mesmerized with the idea that I was able to control and fly around as Superman, as opposed to being a passive reader or watcher of the various Superman comic books, cartoons and live action movie I had experienced previously. I think that particular game really changed my life and was ultimately what drove me to aspire to make video games based on beloved IP characters from my youth as my career focus.

Can you share with us your journey as a game developer?

I started in the game business in the Summer of 2000 working as an Associate Producer for Warner Bros. Interactive. The first games I helped produce were Batman: Vengeance and Superman: Shadow of Apokolips, both of which were (respectively) based on the beloved Batman and Superman Animated series from the 1990's. After a few years at WB, I ultimately left to head up the video game business for Marvel where I had the pleasure of working on some amazing games with some incredible studios, such as, Treyarch on Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 and Ultimate Spider-Man, Raven Software on X-Men Legends I and II, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Volition on The Punisher and Radical Entertainment on The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction.

From there, I moved on to become an Executive Producer at a new publisher named Brash, who unfortunately didn't last long thanks to the financial crisis of 2008. However, Brash was partnered with Warner Bros. Interactive, and I was overseeing development of a Superman and Flash game and was working closely with the team at WB, who had just taken most of their video game development in-house and became their own publisher. So a month after Brash shut it's doors at the tail end of 2008, WB brought me back to oversee production and creative development on the entire DC slate of games they were intending to publish as part of their overall game portfolio.

I came in and helped Rocksteady close out Batman: Arkham Asylum and worked with them to roadmap a long-term franchise plan for the Batman: Arkham series which between Rocksteady (as well as WB Montreal who we also brought on board to develop Batman : Arkham Origins), saw us develop and ship five major Batman: Arkham console titles in a 6-year period. During that time, I also worked closely with Ed Boon and the team at NetherRealm Studios on developing the Injustice series of DC focused fighting games, as well as, TT Games on Lego Batman 2 & 3 and Lego DC Supervillains. I left WB at the end of 2020 and joined Wizards Of The Coast/Hasbro where I ultimately founded Atomic Arcade as an internal Wizards Of The Coast/Hasbro studio to develop the Snake Eyes game.

As Creative Director where have you and the Atomic team drawn inspiration from for your GI Joe Snake Eyes game?

There are many points of inspiration for the edgier and more mature take on the GI JOE Universe we are developing with this new Snake Eyes led game. Inspirations that span every major form of entertainment.

The original G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero comic by Larry Hama and the associated animated series and toy line from the early 1980's were my introduction to the IP, so it all starts with the initial impression they made on me.

In terms of more recent versions of G.I. JOE, I really like what Devil's Due and IDW have done with their more contemporary characterizations and storylines in the G.I. Joe comics they respectively published over the past 20 + years, and we have drawn inspiration from both lines.

With that said, the biggest G.I. JOE specific influence on our game is the 2009 Animated Movie G.I. Joe Resolute, and I encourage anyone who hasn't heard of it or seen it to check it out. It's available to view for free on Hasbro's Official G.I. Joe YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9iSDGvA4UNBMvSlzkB1IPyMA3yuqVeKu

Live Action wise, the Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. based movies and TV series are my favorite parts of the MCU and I feel there are a lot of parallels there with the G.I. Joe IP. Also, I love what Lucasfilm has done with the Mandalorian series and how they do such a great job in making a masked, lone wolf character (who is also a man of few words) relatable in addition to being a bad ass anti-hero.

On the video game front, the team and I look to modern military/paramilitary-based game franchises that have made a lasting impression on our team as well as core and mass gamers. Such as the Metal Gear Solid franchise, The Call Of Duty Modern Warfare and Ghosts titles, and the Tom Clancy Ghost Recon and The Division games, to name just a few. Additionally, we are also inspired by recent sword focused, melee combat games such as Sekiro, Ghost Of Tsushima and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order.

It goes without saying that I draw a lot of inspiration from the Marvel and DC games I've previously worked on. More specifically, in how to strike the balance of incorporating the most salient established elements of a legacy IP’s characters and lore/canon (that matters the most to us as creators as well as the fanbase) and contemporizing and complimenting them with our own ideas. That very nuanced alchemy is then shaped and molded as part of the overall creative process (across art, game design and narrative) with the output goal of delivering an amazing new, video game specific expression of the G.I. Joe IP that (fingers crossed) resonates with both existing fans and the mass audience. That framework is very much at the heart of how we are approaching the overall creative execution on the Snake Eyes game at Atomic Arcade.

Joe or Cobra?


Following that up, what GI Joe character would you be if you could be anyone?

Shocker response here... It would be Snake Eyes, but minus the physical trauma. 😉

Tell us about founding Atomic Arcade and starting development on GI Joe Snake Eyes?

They say it's about the journey not the destination and while building a new studio and a new AAA game from scratch simultaneously has been a lot of hard work, it's been a super fun journey thus far. For all intents and purposes, while I was doing initial concept work on the high-level game design, story as well as some visual development during my first year with Wizards/Hasbro, the development clock didn't officially start on Snake Eyes until the core Atomic Arcade leadership nucleus joined me at the studio in January of 2022. Over the course of 15 months, we've staffed up to over 25 amazingly talented developers and have made tremendous progress in further defining the lower-level game design and story, as well as, prototyping our core gameplay mechanics and establishing our processes and pipelines. We are on target to enter Pre-Production this summer and I couldn't be prouder of the progress the team has made in a relatively short amount of time.

What are some of the things (no spoilers) in the new GI Joe Snake Eyes game you are most excited about?

Well, I can't go into detail on a majority of the elements of our game that I am most excited about as they would spoil too much. But what I will say is one of the main reasons we choose to lead with Snake Eyes for the first game is that if you strip away all of the G.I. JOE IP specific elements, at his core Snake Eyes is half deadly Ninja and half elite Spec Ops Military Commando. We believe the combination of those abilities and associated tools that Snake has in his tool chest make for a very compelling and unique video game protagonist for anyone who enjoys AAA action/adventure games.

They say it's about the journey not the destination and while building a new studio and a new AAA game from scratch simultaneously has been a lot of hard work, it's been a super fun journey thus far.