Probably not. But they might steal your job. That’s what I’ve surmised after speaking with our guests for this episode. The game we’re talking about is classic first-person puzzler Portal, in which a crazed A.I called GLaDOS puts you through increasingly dangerous tests. To find out if the robo-apocalypse is even a remote possibility, I spoke to A.I. researcher and builder of artificial intelligences Michael Cook. His coded creatures are mostly harmless, unlike the A.I of popular media who always speak with a vaguely threatening air. But why do they talk like that? Enter stage left, special guest number two: it’s actor Sarah Elmaleh! Sarah has done the voice of a few A.I characters in games like Halo Infinite and Exapunks. She tells us exactly what it is that makes a voice sound authentically robotic. Because if bots can pretend to be people, why not the other way around?
I don’t know Kung Fu. But I can find you someone who does. Carrie Ogawa Wong is a martial arts instructor based in California and has been practicing the skill for 48 years, earning the title of Sigung in the White Lotus system of Kung Fu. In this episode, she speaks to us about what it’s like to teach the fighting techniques we see in action games like Sifu, and whether this latest brawler set in China’s streets and nightclubs has the right moves. We’re also joined by games journalist Khee Hoon Chan to talk about the game in-depth, and if the setting and revenge theme works for them (as well as other worries such as the game’s, uh, questionable promotional tactics).
Oh, you’re seeking the Calcified Veil are you? [dry laugh] Well, you won’t find it here, among the Earfolk… get out while you can, chosen one. There are only podcasts here. [creepy chuckle]
Hello. What I’ve just done is called worldbuilding. Did you like it? Oh, well, never mind. I’ve got someone here who’s much better at it. In this episode of Hey Lesson, we talk to games writer Jon Ingold of Inkle Studios about the process of worldbuilding. What exactly is it? How important is it? And how do the scribblers of games, TV and film use it without falling into a deep cavern of useless lore? We’re interested because fantasy RPG Elden Ring has just come out, with author George R R Martin contributing to the game. How much exactly, we don’t know. But we can ask games journalist Ed Thorn what he felt about this latest game from creators of notoriously difficult Soulsbornes.
The printer is broken, your manager wants those reports by 5pm, and the guy in the cubicle next to you is humming Baby Shark again. It’s enough to make you want to walk out of this office, take a long bus ride out of the city, and go live on a farm. Well, damn, maybe you can. Stardew Valley is a farming simulator beloved by many precisely because it lets you live out this fantasy. But we know somebody who’s done it in real life. We brought farm worker and lapsed city boy Nader Kaddour on to Hey Lesson to ask: is farm work as calming and rejuvenating as it is in Pelican Town? The answer, as always, is not straightforward. Also joining us for this episode is writer Paul Dean, who has his own opinions about the residents of such a seemingly idyllic village.
Well, more like a year plus three months. But podcasts don’t get a birth certificate, so who cares?
It’s been a great first year. I’ve had a ton of brilliant guests, from scientists to historians to game developers, not to mention the great co-hosts I’ve convinced to come on to talk about sharp swords and lost languages. We’ve covered so many topics on the show so far – time travel, gravity, vampires, cheetahs – it’s hard to know what to cover next, and what experts I could ask to join in.
But here’s the thing… there are always more games. There is frankly an obscene amount of weird and wonderful creations just waiting to be picked apart by perplexed boffins. With that in mind, I’m ready for more episodes. Hopefully, you’ll come along for the ride.
You’re the reason I can afford to make this show. So, a massive thank you to everyone who has supported Hey Lesson, past and present. I don’t know what the future holds. But I’m pretty sure I could find an expert who does…
Hope you’re not prone to dizziness. Halo Infinite is set on a giant ring in space and we wanted to know: how does gravity work on something like that? So we spoke to Scott Manley, astronomer and celebrated YouTube rocket man, about how the centrifugal force of spinning would keep Master Chief’s boots planted on the ground, and how the human body can adapt to such weirdness. Also joining us is Natalie Clayton of PC Gamer, who has been gung-ho-ing through the shooter’s campaign as well as its multiplayer. Is Halo good again? Well, she says, it’s complicated.
We’ve all got one. Mine is to loot a pharmacy for pills, the delicious currency of our future. But there are better people than I in the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Dr Emily Zarka is a professor and expert on monsters and the undead. You might have seen her show, Monstrum. Well, she’s here to tell us all about the zombie’s origins in Haiti, how it has mutated over time, and her own zombie preparedness kit. Also joining us is returning bullet-mate Matt Cox! Matt has been playing Back 4 Blood with me, and you can really tell because his zombie plan is a bit, well, shooty.
Physics says no, time is real. But that doesn’t mean strange things can’t happen to the human brain when it tries to understand the passage of time. We speak to philosopher of time Professor Craig Callender about the nature of the universe’s big ticking clock, why physicists disagree about it, and how you can categorise time travel stories as “consistent” or “inconsistent”. Deathloop is… well, it’s surprisingly simple next to Einstein’s theories. We’ve got games journalist Nic Reuben to talk about the game and what makes its Groundhog Day styled time loop (not to mention its shooting) so compelling.
The pen is mightier than the sword. But what about this giant mace? What about this halberd? In this episode of Hey Lesson, we speak to medieval history buff Jason Kingsley about what it took to become a knight of medieval Europe. It helps that he is a modern day knight, but mostly his expertise comes from swinging actual swords. Yikes. Also joining us to talk about multiplayer sword-fighting game Chivalry II – it’s the ever-stabby Matt Cox! He’s very good with a longsword, but also quite good at describing the joy of the make-believe battlefield.
Look outside at earth’s life. Trees, birds, flowers, buses. Truly, it is a bounty of the universe. But could other planets host life? And if so, what would it look like? I don’t know, I’m just a podcast man. But one person who might know is Laura Rodriguez, astrobiologist at NASA. This episode we talk to her about the possibility of organic matter on other worlds, and how far it’ll probably be from the alien spacefriends of the Mass Effect trilogy. Also joining us to talk about said spacefriends is Imogen Beckhelling, noted Krogan liker and lore knower of the Mass Effect galaxy. So much knowledge this month! Come on in.