Microsoft, Sony recognize Himrod gamer
HIMROD—With the holiday season at hand, it is an important time for video game industry giants Sony and Microsoft, each of whom has recently launched their next generation of consoles. Recently, Arion (Ari) Smith, 22, of Himrod garnered enough attention from each of these companies to be flown out and featured during several top gaming events throughout the world. Smith is also currently ranked No. 1 worldwide for the PS4 game Killzone: Shadow Fall.
“In the last five months, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend three huge gaming events,” Smith said. “The first was being invited out to E3 (a massive annual gaming industry expo which isn’t open to the public) by Sony. The second was the Xbox One event called ‘Battlefield 4 Showdown,’ which was a promotional match between 32 Americans and 32 Europeans showcasing BF4 on the then-still-to-be-released Xbox One. The last was the PlayStation 4’s launch event in New York City just a few weeks ago.”
Smith said before E3, he had never been to one of these big events. Smith described them as “tremendous experiences,” as he has followed gaming as a fan and a spectator for years. “Plus, what’s there bad to say about being flown around the world, all-expenses paid for gaming-related anything?” Smith said.
Smith said he is an official PlayStation MVP (an elite ambassador program), where one of his primary responsibilities is providing feedback to Sony on a variety of topics, along with helping to bridge the gap between the larger community and those running the PlayStation platform. He said at E3, he and the other MVPs “spent a good deal of time meeting with various developers and Sony to provide input on games to hardware and everything in between.”
Smith also attended the official launch of The Last of Us—which he claims is “arguably one of the best games of the PS3/Xbox era”—in Hollywood. While there, Smith met many of the game developers and actors and received signatures from them. Smith also attended and competed in the “Battlefield 4 Showdown” in London, England, in early November.
“[It] was set up like a live-competitive event, almost Olympic style as it was country-vs-country,” Smith said. “And though it was all for fun, the whole thing was intense to play and amazing to be a part of. Luckily, our team had some top-class talent from the Battlefield community and we went on to sweep the EU 3-0, but win or lose everyone there had a blast and the sportsmanship was great across the board.”
Smith said the PlayStation 4 launch event in New York City “topped everything.” Smith said he and the two other MVPs who were selected spent the afternoon of Nov. 14 (the day before launch) playing the PS4 games still months away from release at a pre-launch event.
“Then, each of us were given a console, an extra controller, five games, and a custom bag for free,” Smith said. “And this was all still a good nine hours before the console officially launched, so we were probably some of the first non-press to get PS4s.”
Smith said he met nearly all of PlayStation’s presidents, VPs, and CEOs, and got their signatures on our PS4s—making them “the only three in the world and ultra rare collector’s items.”
Smith said he first started gaming when he was “around 5 or 6,” with his first games being of the educational variety on the computer, titles like Reader Rabbit, Thinkin’ Things, and the JumpStart series.
“If you remember these, you had a good childhood,” Smith said.
As far as gaming in a professional manner, Smith said “it was never something I consciously decided to do. It was more of a hobby that gradually grew into something more serious thanks to various opportunities along the way.” He said he generally does not game for less than a few hours at a time, and has also completed 24-hour marathons on his twitch.tv livestream. He said his main platform has been PlayStation for many years, though he also has select games he plays on the Xbox and PC. When it comes to his No. 1 ranking in Killzone: Shadow Fall, he said it can be difficult to maintain due to the competition.
“If you don’t play every day the next guy or girl is going to take your spot because they’re hungry for it,” Smith said. “But it’s not always about staying at the top of the leaderboard. Sometimes just getting there at all is a huge thing. Also, depending on your goals and tastes that may not be a priority for you. For example, I’m now moving into the competitive scene for Killzone: Shadow Fall and I’ll be playing less public games and more clan matches in preparations for upcoming tournaments, etc.”
Smith said some of his other gaming accolades include “helping develop Uncharted 3 into one of the most active competitive games on PlayStation 3 from the ground up, winning multiple Uncharted 3 tournaments, reaching No. 1 in the world on The Last of Us, organizing the recent Apocalypse The Last of Us tournament with Sony and its developer Naughty Dog, creating some of the most successful Uncharted videos on YouTube, and especially making some life-long friends through gaming.” Smith also writes news and select product/game reviews at www.EvilSourceGaming.com. He also works at his family winery, Four Chimneys in Himrod, though he says his work schedule is flexible.
“In some ways, my experience with event organization, etc. has helped me bring new stuff to the table at my ‘real life’ job,” Smith said.
As far as his future in gaming, Smith said he is already has projects on the horizon.
“Currently I’ve been given the opportunity to work with Killzone’s developer Guerrilla Games along with one of my fellow PlayStation MVPs to grow Shadow Fall into the premier competitive shooter on PS4 throughout 2014,” Smith said. “It’s a very exciting thing as I want a career in game design and this is an invaluable experience I hope to add to my résumé and take where I go next. I’m also focusing my attention on expanding my livestream, as I love the unique live-format and interactivity it offers as opposed to pre-edited YouTube videos, which I’ve done for years.”